The programme of returning solid highly active waste (HAW) from the UK to Japan reached another successful milestone today with the arrival of the purpose-built vessel, Pacific Grebe, carrying the transport of the second consignment of HAW from Sellafield.

The vessel arrived at 07:00 hrs (JST) on Thursday 15th September at its destination port and discharged its cargo of 76 canisters of HAW in three transport flasks.

Pacific Grebe, which was on its maiden operational voyage, departed Barrow-in-Furness on August 3rd 2011 bound for Japan via the Panama Canal. The vessel is owned by Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd (PNTL), a subsidiary of International Nuclear Services (INS).

Matt Fox, head of marine operations at INS, said: “This important step in the decade-long programme of returning waste to Japan has been completed safely and securely. It maintains our world-class safety record, as well as our position as the world’s leading transporter of nuclear material, something which is a credit to the ships and the team that operates them.”

Will Watson, Sellafield Ltd’s programme manager for Vitrified Residue Returns, said: “The programme of returns reduces the amount of foreign owned waste in the UK, fulfils government policy and also contractual commitments on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

“It’s the latest milestone in Sellafield Ltd’s mission to make the site cleaner, safer and more productive. We are already planning for future returns as the repatriation of all foreign-owned highly active waste from Sellafield continues.”

The waste arises from the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel at Sellafield for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s Japanese customers. HAW is therefore being returned to customers in accordance with contractual obligations and UK government policy. Current UK policy states that waste arising from contracts for reprocessing signed with overseas customers since 1976 is to be returned to the customer of origin.

The transport flasks in which the HAW is contained are extremely robust and are designed, tested and modelled to exceed the very robust standards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency. They weigh approximately 130 tonnes when loaded, about 90% of which is dedicated to ensuring safety, with the remainder being waste.


For more details, please contact Ben Todd at INS:

T: 01925 832655
M: 07738 039640
E: [email protected]

Editor’s notes
INS is the world’s leading global transporter of nuclear materials and has a world class safety record with more than 40 years and five million miles travelled without any incident involving the release of radioactivity

INS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the UK Government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)

INS has three roles:


  • it is the NDA’s commercial agent tasked with managing existing fuel cycle contracts that the NDA has with customers as well as developing new business to gain maximum value from the NDA’s assets
  • it provides transport solutions for customers around the world, from joining together the different parts of the nuclear fuel cycle to providing a vital secure transport link in global non-proliferation efforts
  • it provides nuclear fuel cycle, licensing, transport package and logistics consultancy services to customers

INS is the majority shareholder in Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd, whose other shareholders include Areva NC and Japanese electric power companies and trading companies.

INS employs around 145 people and has offices in Warrington and West Cumbria in the UK, as well as in Germany, France and Japan. Barrow Marine Terminal has been the home port of PNTL since 1969

The PNTL fleet currently consists of the Pacific Heron, Pacific Egret, and Pacific Grebe, all of which are classed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as INF3 vessels

INS also operates an NDA vessel called Oceanic Pintail, an INF3 vessel. It also operates the Atlantic Osprey, which is a multi-purpose cargo carrier and is classed as an INF2 vessel, which means it is licensed to carry smaller quantities of nuclear materials

The INF code is the international code for the safe carriage of packaged Irradiated Nuclear Fuel, plutonium, and high-level radioactive waste on board ships. It defines three classes of ships, depending on the total radioactivity of cargo which is carried on board:

  • INF 1 ship: Ships which are certified to carry INF cargo with an aggregate activity less than 4×103 TBq (TeraBecquerel = measurement of radioactivity).
  • INF 2 ship: Ships which are certified to carry irradiated nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes with an aggregate activity less than 2×106 TBq and ,ships which are certified to carry plutonium with an aggregate activity less than 2×105 TBq.
  • INF 3 ship: Ships which are certified to carry irradiated nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive wastes and ships which are certified to carry plutonium with no restriction of the maximum aggregate activity of the materials.