The United States navy is closing its submarine base off the island of Sardinia, one of only two stations in the world outside the United States that services nuclear submarines, the Italian Defense Ministry said.
A Defense Ministry statement released Nov. 22 said the timetable for the closure would be agreed at a later date. The decision was part of a broader U.S. plan to revise its military deployment across Europe, it added. The U.S. support operation at La Maddalena was commissioned on Jan. 1 1973, but has faced calls for its closure in recent years from local authorities because of environmental concerns.
Conservationist group Legambiente said last year it had conducted tests that showed increased levels of radiation in the waters that could be traced to the submarines. Local leaders hailed the U.S. decision. "It’s the best news
we’ve had in a long while," said Sardinia’s regional president, computer tycoon Renato Soru.
Some 1,800 U.S. personnel work at La Maddalena, built on a tiny island off the north eastern tip of Sardinia.
Submarines use the facilities for repairs and none is based there. The only known accident occurred in 2003, when the nuclear-powered Hartford submarine ran aground near the base causing substantial damage to the vessel. The captain and another top officer were later relieved of their command. Sardinia is famed for its sandy beaches and sunny climate, but locals complain that the presence of the U.S. base has hindered tourism development on the island.
DAILY COLLECTION OF MARITIME PRESS CLIPPINGS 2005 – 250
PSi-Daily maritime clippings Page 9 11/25/2005