Environmentalists: All of Andalucia at risk from British nuclear submarine in docked Gibraltar

The arrival of a British nuclear submarine in Gibraltar has put all of Andalucia at risk of nuclear catastrophe, according to a Spanish environmental group.

The ongoing repairs on HMS Audacious, an Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine provoked the warning from Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción, an NGO umbrella organisation made up of more than 300 environmental groups across the Campo de Gibraltar.

“Gibraltar is putting all of Andalucia at nuclear risk by allowing the entry of submarines into the military base,” the group wrote on their Facebook page.

Submarine credit:
A picture taken on Monday March 8 appearing to show a submarine in Gibraltar port. Credit: Verdemar Ecologistas en Acción

Astute-class submarines are regular visitors to the Bay of Algeciras, with Audacious’ sister ships undergoing repairs there in June and July 2021, when the group labelled them ‘floating bombs’.

Antonio Muñoz, the conservationist spokesperson, claimed that work on the auxiliary engines continued yesterday afternoon of Audacious, the Royal Navy’s newest and most advanced submarine which was launched in 2017. 

And, according to academics at the University of Cadiz, while Gibraltar has plans in place in the event of a nuclear emergency triggered by one of the submarines, no such plan exists on the Spanish side of the fence. 

Gibraltar currently has two ‘Z berths’ in its military base, which are able to cater for the occasional operational or recreational visits by nuclear powered vessels.

Audacious has stopped off in Gibraltar after exercises in the Mediterranean, being joined by patrol vessels HMS Trent and HMS Forth, and survey ship HMS Scott. 

Royal Navy Submarine Hms Astute Returns To Hmnb Clyde
HMS Astute returned home on Thursday, March 1 after a 142 day deployment to America. It was also a voyage of discovery. HMS Astute was tried and tested as never before ñ and she came through with flying colours. She spent 77 days at sea, 65 alongside, and was inspected by 18 stars worth of American and British naval authority including the First Sea Lord and Americaís naval equivalent, the Chief of Naval Operations. She ‘battled’ against USS New Mexico, America’s newest and best Virginia class hunter attack submarine. She deep dived, fired her Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles and navigated through a course of 16,400 miles.

The Rota base, just 100km away, has also hosted nuclear submarines in the past from the US Navy. 

Despite the protests from environmental groups, the Spanish government actually protested itself last April – when the nuclear submarine USS Georgia chose to dock in the port of Gibraltar over Rota.

But the Spanish base had previously been the port of choice for America’s nuclear submarines the previous time one passed through the Strait of Gibraltar in August 2020.

The USS Georgia, a nuclear submarine carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles with a range of over two thousand kilometres, while the Audacious can carry up to 38 Spearfish torpedoes.

Although there have been occasional incidents involving nuclear submarines over the years, these have never involved flaws with the reactors and there has been never a nuclear leak.


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