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Australian shipment arrives in Cherbourg

Press release

January 18, 2000

A shipment of spent fuel that left the Port of Botany (South Sydney), Australia, on November 26 will arrive in Port of Cherbourg, France, on the afternoon of January 18. The spent fuel shipment falls under an agreement between COGEMA and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO).

The Australian and French governments validated the agreement through an exchange of letters dated August 27, 1999 (appearing in the Journal Officiel on January 7, 2000). The shipment consists of 308 spent fuel elements from a test reactor, the HIFAR (High Flux Australian Reactor). COGEMA is providing shipment of the spent fuel from Australia to France, reprocessing in the COGEMA La Hague plant, conditioning of the final waste into a stable form and, in accordance with French law of December 30, 1991, return of the waste to Australia for storage and final disposal.

It is expected that three sea shipments will be needed to transport the 1,300 fuel elements.

  • The Australian spent fuel elements are shipped in special cylindrical casks weighing about 20 metric tons each. The casks, which comply with stringent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations, were subjected to a series of rigorous safety tests to verify their load carrying strength and integrity. The casks used for this first shipment have been licensed by the French and Australian regulatory authorities.
  • The shipment is part of a program of regular shipments between France and COGEMA's client countries. In 1999, for example, two sea shipments of vitrified residues and a shipment of MOX fuel left the Port of Cherbourg for Japan. The fuel from Australia will be unloaded later this afternoon and can be watched live here at via the Port of Cherbourg webcam. SPECIFICATIONS SHEET "Le Bouguenais" The chartered ship "Le Bouguenais" complies with International Maritime Organization requirements for shipments of this type of nuclear material.

  • TRANSNUCLEAIRE routinely uses the ship for this type of shipment between Europe, the United States and Asia. The ship owner is the Compagnie Morbihannaise et Nantaise de Navigation (CMN). The ship flies the French flag and is registered in the Kerguelen Islands (French Southern and Antarctic Lands). Measuring 90 meters long by 16 meters wide, it carries enough fuel to make its crossing without calling into port. Commissioned in 1984, "Le Bouguenais" received INF 2 certification for nuclear materials shipments in 1995 and is re-certified every year.
  • The ship is registered with Lloyds of London.
  • The twelve-man crew of "Le Bouguenais" – five Frenchmen, including the captain, the chief mate, the chief engineer and the engineer, and seven Filipinos – is assigned virtually full-time to "Le Bouguenais" and is therefore fully familiar with the ship. The officer in charge of radiation safety is specifically trained for this purpose.