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Environment Minister seeks reassurance on safety of Nuclear Cargo Ship 28 November 2005

    Isle of Man Government Environment Minister, John Rimington MHK, is seeking reassurance regarding the safety of a nuclear cargo ship, the ‘Atlantic Osprey’, which has only recently entered service to transport nuclear material between Sellafield and several European ports. The vessel operates out of the port of Workington and, in May 2005, was used to deliver Mixed Oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel, manufactured at Sellafield, to a Swiss nuclear power company.

    Although the safety and security arrangements surrounding the use of the ‘Atlantic Osprey’ have been approved by the UK Government’s Office of Civil Nuclear Security, the vessel has been the subject of some severe criticism by opponents of the nuclear industry. The Atlantic Osprey is operated by the International Transport Division of British Nuclear Group, but the vessel is actually owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The Environment Minister, John Rimington MHK, has recently written to the NDA seeking their assurance that the ‘Atlantic Osprey’ is entirely fit for purpose on the short trips between Sellafield and the European ports.

    One feature of the ‘Atlantic Osprey’ which has alarmed some nuclear opponents is that, in International Maritime Organisation classification terms, the Atlantic Osprey is an INF Class 2 vessel, which is different from the larger INF Class 3 vessel in having fewer safety features incorporated into the design of the ship. The operational requirements of British Nuclear Group’s European customers mean that the smaller INF Class 2 vessels are preferred on these short voyages.

    Environment Minister, John Rimington, commenting on the recent introduction of the ‘Atlantic Osprey’ to carry nuclear materials said,

    “I am naturally concerned that a great deal of foreign nuclear material is being transported back and forth through the Irish Sea and, of course, the Isle of Man Government has always been opposed to these Sellafield shipments. Naturally, safety is always our major concern. I realise a great deal of organisation and safety infrastructure must be in place to minimize the risk of any accident with these nuclear cargoes but any new development such as the introduction of a different type of ship on these routes does give me cause for concern. I have now written to ask for the ‘official’ view of the owner of the ‘Atlantic Osprey’ who, I believe, is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, on the appropriateness of this ship for carrying nuclear materials to and from Sellafield. I hope that the NDA will provide me with reassurance that these matters have been given very detailed consideration by the relevant authorities, especially those responsible for licensing and safety, and that the very highest degree of safety is assured.”

    28th November 2005

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