The fourth sea shipment of vitrified HLW from Sellafield to Japan left Barrow docks at 10am today Friday 14th February 2013 on the ship Pacific Grebe, heading into the teeth of the next major storm to lash the Irish Sea. High winds had prevented the ship from meeting its original departure scheduled for the previous night’s high tide. The 65 tonnes of HLW, under unusually light security, was contained in five nuclear transport flasks which had been dispatched by rail under two separate transports from Sellafield on Wednesdeay 12th and Thursday 13th February 2013 to Barrow’s Ramsden Dock nuclear terminal, using the public railway line running down the West Cumbria’s coastline.
Depending on the sea route to be taken, the 132 canisters of HLW (up to 28 per TN28 VT transport flask) will take up to six weeks to reach their destination in Japan where they will be placed in an interim store at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s (JNFL) Rokkasho plant at Aomori in the north of Honschu Island. Like the UK, Japan has no final disposal facility for the waste. Around 900 canisters in total are scheduled to be returned to Japan from Sellafield under the reprocessing contracts signed up to by a number of Japanese utilities several decades ago.
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood said today:
“We remain vehemently opposed to these shipments of dangerously radioactive wastes which are wholly unnecessary today and pose risks to the marine environment and en-route communities. The original contracts have been so manipulated that the requirement to return reprocessed materials to overseas customers – who have no use for them and nowhere to dispose of them – no longer holds good”. (see note below).
Today’s shipment has also lead to observers questioning the wisdom of dispatching the first of the two rail transports (three transport flasks of HLW) on Wednesday 12th February from Sellafield to Barrow docks along the coastal railway line at a time when the region was under a rare ‘red alert’ from the Met Office which saw 100mph winds from the Irish Sea battering the West Cumbrian coast.
Martin Forwood added:
“Given the well-trailed weather conditions likely to hit on the day, it was highly of irresponsible to have sent this transport down a railway line that is well documented as being prone to weather damage. Common sense should have prevailed but operational requirements clearly took priority over safety considerations”.
The Pacific Grebe is owned by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL) with International Nuclear Services (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) – as major shareholder. The newest of the three-strong PNTL fleet, all built in Japan, the Pacific Grebe entered serviced in 2011.and is specifically dedicated to the transport of HLW.
Note for Editors: The powers that be maintain that the ancient reprocessing contracts – which required all nuclear waste and other reprocessed materials (plutonium and uranium) to be returned to customers are ‘sacrosanct’ and must be fulfilled. Yet manipulation of those contracts in recent years, sanctioned by Government, Industry and Customer, has resulted in HLW only being returned – the much larger volumes of Intermediate and Low Level wastes being retained in the UK for disposal. Similarly, behind the scenes discussions have already resulted in some overseas plutonium not being returned to customers and more is likely to be taken into UK ownership and added to the Sellafield 120 tonne stockpile in the coming years.
See photos on Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment Facebook page.