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Currently in the United Kingdom, BAE Systems’ Barrow-in-Furness shipyard builds and fuels new submarines, while Devonport Management Limited (DML) refuels existing submarines-once their initial fuel load is depleted-and defuels them at retirement. Cost increases in maintaining regulating licenses at both facilities have led the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) to consider the possibility of consolidating its nuclear fuel-handling capabilities at the existing refuelling site at DML. Consolidation would, however, have complex implications for cost and scheduling of the Astute programme, which is already under way. The authors of this report compare various aspects of the two shipyards, including facility conflicts, workload, nuclear regulation, and contractual issues, in regard to three cases hypothesized for distributing the share of Astute’s fuelling between the yards. As a result of this analysis, it is recommended that the MOD not consider refuelling the Astute first of class at DML. The authors also look briefly at BAE Systems’ recent proposal to fuel the submarines at Barrow in a way that reduces the risks of nuclear accidents and recommend that the MOD take immediate action in reviewing this proposal. They also suggest that the MOD promptly examine the transportation challenges associated with moving the Astute submarines from the Barrow docks to the open sea.

The research described in this report was prepared for the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence. The research was conducted jointly in RAND Europe and the RAND National Security Research Division.

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