• May 19, 2015


The possible threat posed by nuclear submarines operating around our shores to motor fishing vessels has once again been in focus following the incidents earlier this year off Western Scotland and in the Irish Sea .

However, another threat posed by these extremely large submersibles (a typical SSBN can be 9000 tonnes) is from accident and resultant pollution.

At the height of the Cold War there were at least two serious accidents in the Irish Sea about 25 miles South of the Isle of Man. In the first the USS ballistic missile submarine Nathanial Greene lost its propeller and was uncontrollable for several days (eventually surfaced and towed back to Holy Loch) and in the second a year later (again involving the Nathanial Greene) the submarine travelling submerged at top speed struck a rock outcrop on the seabed and was so severely damaged that it was eventually when recovered towed to the United States and decommissioned.

The Celtic League monitored and recorded the incidents within days of them happening particularly due to our good contacts at the FASLANE PEACE CAMP who monitored all movements in and out of the two bases (RN & USN) on the Clyde for decades.

The world of submariners is notoriously secret, but even they have difficulty hiding a 5000 – 9000 tonne damaged nuclear submarine!

There were of course denials as to the dangers the incidents posed, but ‘chatter’, some years later, on a US submariners internet bulletin board revealed that the incident was extremely serious and pollution did occur. This prompted questions in the Irish parliament but the issue was never fully resolved (see link).

As indicated the world of submariners and the risks they pose is something of ‘a closed book’, but all that has changed following staggering revelations of safety lapses on British nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

The whistle-blower (William McNeilly) is on the run and being sought by the Military Police after he released a 30 page dossier of safety failings to campaigning Sunday Herald journalist Rob Edwards. (Full report from Scottish CND at this link).

The report makes sobering reading and should cause general concern, but is particular concern to communities around the Irish and Celtic Seas as a well worn path for trident submarines exiting Faslane is via the Irish Sea.

The deep water channel down the east coast of Ireland from the Beaufort Dyke – between the IOM and Down coast and on through the Pembroke Strait is favoured by submariners because the comparatively noisy seas (shipping traffic, seismic disturbances coastal wave pattern, etc.) is conducive to losing any potential sonar contacts from shadowing adversarial submariners.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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