MH370: UK submarine joins search for missing plane
HMS Tireless has “advanced underwater search capabilities”, the MoD said
British submarine HMS Tireless has joined the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Ministry of Defence said the Trafalgar class submarine had arrived in the southern Indian Ocean and would help search for the plane’s black box recorder.
It will soon by joined by Royal Navy coastal survey ship HMS Echo.
The aircraft disappeared with 239 people on board on 8 March while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Earlier on Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston – the man co-ordinating the search from Australia – said the hunt was the “most challenging” ever seen and could take weeks.
Several floating objects have been found in recent days, but none is believed to belong to the missing plane.
Search for debris
Nuclear-powered submarine HMS Tireless was launched on 17 March 1984 and holds a crew of 130, plus 18 officers.
HMS Echo will help search for debris from the plane on the water surface
An MoD source told the BBC the vessel had “advanced underwater search capabilities, but the task in hand remains a tall order and the search area immense”.
“Her deployment is being co-ordinated closely with our Australian and US colleagues.”
The submarine will listen for ultrasonic “pings” from the plane’s black box, which continue to be broadcast for about 30 days after take-off.
The MoD source said the submarine was ordered to move from an operational tasking to the search area about a week ago and arrived on Monday.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond informed his Malaysian counterpart of the additional British contribution during a phone call on Tuesday evening.
• launched on 17 March 1984
• holds a crew of 130, and 18 officers
• top speed of 32 knots or 36.8 mph
• in 2000, a fault was discovered on board which forced 12 UK nuclear submarines to undergo intensive inspections. Tireless became stranded in Gibraltar in May of the same year due to leaking pipe work
• in 2003, the vessel collided with an object at sea prompting an MoD inquiry
• in 2007, two mechanics died on board when a self-contained oxygen generator exploded while the vessel was at the North Pole
• in 2012, HMS Tireless returned to Plymouth after a leak in its nuclear reactor
HMS Echo is expected to begin its work on Wednesday, and the MoD said it would “play an important role in the search for debris on the sea’s surface and her advanced environmental assessment capability will help to optimise search operations”.
Four RAF personnel on secondment to the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force are also actively involved in the search.
Meanwhile the personal jet of Oscar-winning film director Peter Jackson has been reported by Radio New Zealand to have joined the search for the missing Malaysian airliner.
Radio New Zealand said that Sir Peter, the director of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, personally approved the use of his Gulfstream G650 in the search.
On Monday, Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the search area was 254,000 sq km (98,000 sq miles), according to the Australian authorities.
Malaysian authorities have released the full transcript of communications between flight MH370 and Kuala Lumpur’s air traffic control.
They said there was no indication of anything abnormal in the transcript, although the last words received by ground controllers are different from those previously stated.
They were “good night Malaysian three seven zero”, but authorities had previously said that they were “all right, good night”.
It is not clear why the account has changed.
Officials say that based on satellite data they have concluded that flight MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, but many relatives of those on board have demanded proof and expressed anger at what they perceive as a lack of information.
Various theories about what went wrong have been suggested – including the captain hijacking his own plane.
The speculation was fuelled by reports that files had been deleted on the pilot’s home flight simulator.
However, on Saturday Mr Hussein said investigators had found “nothing sinister” from the simulator.
Source: BBC News
Rolls-Royce designer wins lifetime achievement award
Sigmund Borgundvaag, a ship designer at Rolls-Royce, has won a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the design of offshore support vessels for more than 40 years.
Sigmund designed the very first Rolls-Royce UT Design vessel, back in 1974, a design that has influenced the industry standard for oil and gas exploration ever since.
Receiving the prestigious Offshore Support Journal award, at a ceremony in London last night, Sigmund said: “I am honoured to receive this award and I’m extremely proud to have played a part in developing a type of ship that has gone on to play such an important role in the oil and gas industry. It has been thrilling to have been involved in fulfilling the demanding requirements of an industry, where as one design challenge is met there is always a new and exciting one to tackle.”
Originally designed to handle the rough conditions of the North Sea, the UT has been continually adapted for a range of demanding duties where crew safety, stability, and capability are as important today as they were 40 years ago.
Sigmund added: “In those early days of North Sea oil, there simply wasn’t a ship robust enough to handle the harsh conditions and heavy seas. We drew on generations of experience from fishing these waters, and matched it with the technology needed to operate in a new type of deep-water oil field, always considering the safety of the crew and the demanding job these ships had to do. The result was a ship that pioneered the development of offshore oil and gas.”
Today there are almost 800 Rolls-Royce UT Design vessels in service or on order. They operate in all the world’s major oil and gas fields, carrying out a wide range of duties including transporting cargo to and from rigs, and handling and positioning the anchors that keep floating rigs in position. The UT design also extends to subsea construction vessels, seismic survey ships and ocean-going tugs, used by a number of coast guards for emergency towing and coastal protection.
John Knudsen, Rolls-Royce, President – Offshore, said: “Sigmund has made a hugely significant impact on the oil and gas industry as we know it today. Look out to sea at any major oil city in the world, whether it’s Bergen, Aberdeen or in the Gulf of Mexico, and that familiar shape of vessel you see on the horizon can trace its origin back to Sigmund’s work of more than 40 years ago. Today he is still a valued part of our ship design team, inspiring the next generation of naval architects. We congratulate him on this award, and thank him for his contribution to our industry.”
The first Rolls-Royce UT Design ship to enter service, in 1974, is still operating today. The UT 704 originally named Stad Scotsman, is currently chartered to work in the oil fields off the coast of Nigeria, under the name Reliance Star 1.
Source: Rolls Royce
Rolls-Royce backs NuScale SMR
UK-based engineering company Rolls-Royce is adding its support to NuScale Power’s submission for US federal funds to help build and commercialize its small modular reactor (SMR).
Rolls-Royce has now said that it will support NuScale in its submission to the DoE’s funding opportunity.The US Department of Energy (DoE) intends to fund up to two designs for SMRs through a cost-shared partnership which will support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing. While the first round of funding was allocated to B&W in late 2012, the DoE is now reviewing applications under a second round. NuScale Power is one of several SMR developers that have applied for the second round of funding.
President of Rolls-Royce’s nuclear business Jason Smith said, “Rolls-Royce has a large US manufacturing footprint and a rich 50-year nuclear heritage spanning reactor and component design and manufacture through to operational support, obsolescence management and plant life extension.”
Involved in the UK’s naval nuclear program since 1959, Rolls-Royce boasts a significant nuclear skills base with a large existing nuclear-certified supply chain. The company lists fuel handling, reactor maintenance, re-fuelling processes, non-destructive examination techniques and what it says are “unique decommissioning and waste handling capabilities” amongst its offerings to the nuclear industry.
NuScale CEO John Hopkins noted, “With the addition of Rolls-Royce’s world class manufacturing capability to the NuScale team, we bring a wealth of experience to the development, production and maintenance of advanced nuclear technologies across global markets.”
NuScale is developing a 45 MWe self-contained pressurized water reactor and generator set, which would be factory made and shipped for deployment in sets of up to 12. These could result in scalable nuclear power plants with capacities from 45 MWe to 540 MWe. Using conventional fuel assemblies, the core would be cooled by natural circulation, requiring fewer components and safety systems than conventional reactors.
In November 2012, the Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) mPower reactor was selected as the winner of the first round of funding, receiving access to $79 million to commercially demonstrate the design by 2022. A second round of funding was announced in March 2013, with the deadline for proposals being 1 July.
Other SMR developers to submit proposals under the second round of federal funds include Westinghouse, Holtec International and Hybrid Power Technologies.
Source: World Nuclear News
Scottish independence: Downing Street dismisses MoD’s ‘keep Faslane’ idea
Downing Street said designating Trident’s Faslane base as sovereign British territory in the event of a yes to independence was “not credible”.
The prime minister’s office reacted to reports that the Ministry of Defence had been looking at the idea.
The Scottish government’s SNP administration has always said that if independence happened it would remove nuclear weapons from the Clyde base.
The people of Scotland are going to be voting in an independence referendum.
On 18 September, 2014, the electorate will be asked the yes/no question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Reports in the Guardian newspaper on Thursday suggested the UK government could give Faslane – where 6,000 people are employed – a status similar to that of British military bases in Cyprus, designated as sovereign territory.
The newspaper suggested the move would be designed to maintain access for the Trident fleet to the open seas via the Firth of Clyde.
A Downing Street spokesman said such a plan was not “credible or sensible”.
He added that no such idea had come to the defence secretary or the prime minister and would not be supported by them if they did.
An MoD spokesman said it was confident Scotland would remain part of the UK and that the scale and cost of relocating the base in the event of a yes vote would be “enormous”.
Reacting to the Guardian story, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the UK government of making an “outrageous attempt at bullying”.
In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, she said: “I cannot see how they could do this without the agreement of the Scottish government – and speaking for my party that is not an agreement which would be forthcoming.
“We want to see Trident gone from Scotland because these weapons are immoral, they are also not needed.”
Ms Sturgeon also reiterated the SNP’s “principled policy” of getting rid of Trident if Scotland was to become an independent country.
She insisted that removing nuclear weapons from Clyde waters would not be used as a bargaining chip in post-independence discussions with the UK government.
However, she urged ministers at Westminster to engage in “sensible discussions” about Scotland’s Future ahead of next year’s historic vote.
Source: BBC News
Trident: Lib Dems consider end to continuous at sea nuclear deterrent
(The future of Britain’s Trident nuclear programme has split the coalition)
The Liberal Democrats are considering calling for Britain to give up its permanent at-sea nuclear deterrent within the next few years.
They are expected to use a review of Trident to say some of the UK’s four nuclear submarines should not be replaced after they are decommissioned.
But senior figures are now pushing to end Britain’s continuous at-sea deterrent even earlier, from 2016.
A decision about the future of Trident has to be made by that point.
This would mean that some of the existing Vanguard submarines would be confined to port with skeleton crews and used for spare parts to keep the remaining boats operational.
The hope among Lib Dems is that this would not just save billions of pounds but would also send a signal that it is possible for a nuclear state to reduce its arsenal while keeping some kind of a deterrent.
‘Kept in port’
This was hinted at last week when Lib Dem Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander said it was time “to move on from the Cold War postures of the past” with a credible deterrent that “can play a role in supporting disarmament in future”.
One senior Lib Dem MP said: “We are looking at ending continuous at-sea deterrent even earlier. We don’t have to wait until the subs need replacing. We could just keep them in port now.”
Another Lib Dem MP said: “If you thought that you could sustain a meaningful deterrent with two boats, then nothing would prevent you using the existing boats on the same principle.
“It would be reckless to scrap them but you could cannibalise them for parts.
The proposal is contained in an internal party policy paper on defence which is said to be at a “pretty late stage of development” and will be put to the Lib Dem conference in September.
Mr Alexander has chaired the government’s review of Trident which is sitting on David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s desks and will be published shortly.
It is expected to say that some of the potential alternative ways of delivering nuclear weapons – from land or from air – are either too expensive or too impractical. But the review is expected to consider the option of scaling back the current submarine-launched system.
Most military experts agree that it would be impossible to provide a continuous, around-the-clock nuclear deterrent with less than four Vanguard submarines. With training and repairs, there is frequently only one submarine on duty at sea.
The Conservatives are committed to a like-for-like replacement of Trident which is estimated to cost as much as £20bn. But many Lib Dems believe that Trident is too expensive and distorts the defence budget.
They hope to argue that it would be better to spend the money on troops and kit.
Last week Mr Alexander told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that the review was seeking to answer whether like-for-like replacement was “the only way to protect our country in future”.
“And while the review doesn’t come to any conclusions, I think when we publish the results in a few weeks time people will see that there are choices available to this country, there are alternatives where we can move on from the Cold War postures of the past and try and set out a new future for this country with a deterrent that is credible but where this country can play a role in supporting disarmament in future.”
A Lib Dem spokesman said: “The Cabinet Office-led review into alternatives to Trident has now been submitted to the prime minister and deputy prime minister.
“The review’s findings will now be considered and an unclassified version will be published in due course.”
A senior Conservative source said: “Abandoning our continuous at sea deterrence, which has been the ultimate safeguard of our national security for more than 45 years, would be a reckless gamble.
“And leaving our nuclear-armed submarines rusting in port, and then seeking to deploy them at a time of crisis would not only put Britain’s security at risk, but would also risk escalating global tensions.
“Conservative policy is clear: we will safeguard Britain’s national security and maintain our continuous at sea deterrent.”
John Woodcock, Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “Unilaterally ending the commitment to keeping at least one nuclear submarine operational at all times will make no meaningful contribution to global non-proliferation, in fact it could have the opposite result by unsettling other countries who are currently under NATO’s umbrella of protection.
“The Liberal Democrats are finally admitting there is no alternative mini-deterrent that could save billions, but few will be taken in by their latest fallacy that a part-time deterrent could save lots of money and protect Britain adequately in the event of a threat in future decades.”
Source: BBC News
Nuclear subs temporarily banned from two Scottish lochs
Royal Navy nuclear submarines have been temporarily banned from two Scots lochs after failing training assessments.
Problems with safety procedures were identified during simulated submarine accident exercises in March and April.
The Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator has banned submarines from Loch Goil, near Faslane, and Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, while the issues are addressed.
The Ministry of Defence said there was no risk during the recent exercises and the subs continued to operate safely.
An MoD spokesman said: “The MoD takes its nuclear safety responsibilities seriously and conducts regular training to maintain high standards.
“We are taking steps to address the issues raised by regulators following recent exercises but there is no risk of harm to the public or to the environment.
“The Royal Navy continues to operate submarines safely out of Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde.”
Source: BBC News