Friday, February 04, 2005

British nuclear submarine in Gibraltar

For the second time in less than a year a damaged British nuclear submarine has docked at Gibraltar's naval dock for repairs. HMS Sceptre arrived at Gibraltar docks yesterday. The British Embassy informed the submarine's "routine visit" is expected to last for one week.

In 2000 another British nuclear submarine, the Tireless, made an emergency stop in Gibraltar when it became clear that its nuclear reacter system was leaking. The submarine ended up staying in Gibraltar for a whole year, and the incident drew heavy protest from the Spanish government and Spanish public opinion. Tireless returned for another short visit last year, drawing a sharp response from the Socialist government.

Spanish ecologists claim that HMS Spectre needs repairs on the cooling system of the nuclear area of the submarine, but yesterday a spokesman from the British Ministry of Defence denied that this was the case.

The Spanish foreign affairs minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, amidst media speculation that this might be a repeat performance of last years' incident, was forced to call a press conference in which he assured the Spanish media that he had spoken to Jack Straw who had explained that the HMS Sceptre needs repairal work doing on the cooling system of its diesel engine and that there is nothing wrong with its nuclear system.

However Moratinos also said that the Spanish government has formally asked the UK government not to send any more nuclear submarines to the Gibraltan coast.

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