• December 17, 2015

What’s the difference between a ‘Pacific Pintail’ and an ‘Oceanic Pintail’? Answer nothing.

It’s just when you need to carry nuclear waste around by sea and you can’t afford £44 million for a new purpose built transport you recommission one that was due for scrapping (in this case the Pacific Pintail) and rename in Oceanic Pintail. That’s exactly what the UK nuclear industry did three years ago.

The Pacific Pintail (pictured in 2002) was laid up at Barrow in Cumbria inn 2010 for decommissioning, but was then recommissioned in 2012 after a £44m plan to build a new nuclear cargo ship was abandoned as too expensive. A report publicised at the time by the UK Guardian newspaper admitted that the continued use of the old ship would ‘present some PR difficulties”.

But the problems could be managed, the report said, by preparing a “stakeholder communications plan” (they’re full of buzz words the nuclear industry) and by giving the boat a new name. It has subsequently been renamed the ‘Oceanic Pintail’.

A report drawn up in November 2010 by International Nuclear Services a company owned by the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said that British nuclear cargo vessels “have traditionally been retired from service before their 25th birthdays”. However it proposed extending the life of the Pintail, which was 25 years old in 2012 until at least 2015 as an “interim solution” and “a low-cost opportunity”.

The ship has since carried multiple cargoes of radioactive waste from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria through the Irish Sea and around Scotland to countries in Europe and elsewhere although details of shipments are generally confidential for security reasons.

About 17 years ago I visited Barrow where the nuclear transports are based as a guest of PNTL and was given a guided tour (for all I know it could have been of the Pacific Pintail) the ships were extremely impressive with multiple safety systems and double-hulls in fact every safety feature possible was built it – they certainly could be described as purpose built (unlike the MV Parida which broke down carrying nuclear waste in the North sea last November – see earlier post).

However they are only ships and even when in pristine condition can fail. In any case they all have a sell-by date and the Pacific (sorry Oceanic) Pintail reached hers in terms of nuclear waste transport three years ago.

So after her three year extension will they now send her to the breakers yard? We’ll be making enquiries. Watch this space!

Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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