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Spain checks for radioactivity after sub incident

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A specialist section of the Spanish Navy has taken water samples at different points of the path followed by HMS Ambush after its collision with a merchant ship, according to Europa Press news agency.

The samples were taken by the Grupo Operative de Vigilancia Radiológica, which is based in Rota, and “no alarming indicators” were found, the news agency reported.

The collision occurred 3.3 nautical miles from the Rock, just outside British Gibraltar territorial waters. Britain regards that location as international waters, whereas Spain views them as Spanish.      But the submarine sailed through British waters before docking in Gibraltar and British officials will now want to establish exactly where the samples were collected by the Spanish Navy.

If they were collected inside British Gibraltar territorial waters, the UK will almost certainly protest.

Britain has given Spain and other NATO allies assurances that there is no risk from the submarine’s nuclear reactor as a result of the incident.

Spain had sought “urgent explanations” about the collision earlier this week.

Spanish officials complained that while they were aware of the submarine’s presence off Gibraltar, they were not told about the accident until after hours later.

On Thursday at a meeting in Washington, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon spoke to his Spanish counterpart, Pedro Morenés, and told him that the incident was regrettable – this was reported by Spanish media as the British minister ‘apologising’ for the collision – but that the damage was external.

“We are not obliged to inform the Spanish Government about the movements of our Royal Navy vessels in international or UK territorial waters,” a Whitehall source told the Chronicle.