Environmental groups have reacted angrily to plans for a new radioactive waste disposal facility at Faslane.

The Ministry of Defence plans to build and operate a replacement waste treatment and disposal hub at the north end of the site, near Helensburgh, due to a planned increase in the number of submarines being berthed there.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has launched a consultation on the proposals, which include a reduction in the levels of radioactive waste allowed to be disposed of in Gare Loch.

However, Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer described the plans as “absurd”.

He said: “Many, the Greens included, already feel the very existence of a nuclear arsenal so close to major population centres is abhorrent. 

“I’ll be objecting to this plan in the most vociferous of terms, as I’m sure thousands of others will too.”

The application to Sepa from Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde has been prompted by plans to move all submarine support activities to Faslane.

The current waste disposal system is also coming to the end of its life, while legislative changes were also cited as reasons for the change.

The document states: “All of these developments have resulted in HMNB Clyde concluding that a new combined solid and liquid waste disposal facility should be built and operated at the north end of the base. 

“In addition to including waste handling, processing and disposal capabilities, the nuclear support hub will also house related supporting services including: radiochemistry laboratories; nuclear repair workshops; and offices for health physics personnel and dosimetry management.”

Four nuclear-powered Vanguard submarines armed with Trident missiles are based at Faslane, as well as an ageing nuclear-powered Trafalgar submarine and three new nuclear-powered Astute submarines.

A further four Astute submarines are due to come to the Clyde, as well as a further Trafalgar model.

In the 2030s, the UK Government also wants to station a fleet of new Dreadnought submarines armed with upgraded Trident missiles there.

Environmental groups had raised some concerns the changes would lead to an increase in the level of radioactive waste being disposed of, but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that it expects there to be less.

Sepa claims cobalt-60 – one of the main radioactive wastes from submarine reactors – will see a 21- fold reduction in total permissible maximum discharges under the plans.

While Maximum discharges of tritium, a radioactive waste from reactors and bombs, will also reduce five-fold, according to the environmental body.

In response to the Sepa consultation, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator said it was “content” with the proposals.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation added the plans “will reduce the risks associated with the processing of radioactive materials and radioactive waste on the sites”.

In its response, the Scottish Government said it had “no specific comments” on the technicalities of the proposals and that Sepa was best placed to assess the plans.

Paul Dale, Sepa’s radioactive unit substances manager, said the body would give careful consideration to all responses to the consultation, which closes on March 13.

He said: “Having received an application from Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde to modify liquid waste discharge limits aligned with investment in new effluent treatment infrastructure, Sepa is now consulting on the proposal. Current and proposed site discharge levels fall within agreed limits.

“Sepa’s public consultation is open until March 13 and we welcome all responses. 

“All responses will be reviewed in detail to ensure we continue to safeguard the environment and human health.

“The consultation can be found at https://consultation.sepa.org.uk/radioactive-substances-unit/hmnb-clyde-application-consultation/consult_view/.”

An MoD spokeswoman disputed claims waste levels would increase.

She said: “Nuclear safety is our top priority at HMNB Clyde and will always remain so.

“The previous limits in the extant Letters of Agreement between the MoD and Sepa were set more than 10 years ago. 

“Since then reactor technology and practices have advanced, meaning that, even with more nuclear vessels, we expect less radioactive waste.”

Faslane, which was constructed during the Second World War, is one of three operating bases for the Royal Navy.