The MOX fuel on board the specially designed Pacific Pintail nuclear freighter had been dogged by a flotilla of protest ships led by the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior as it completed the last leg of its 18,000-mile journey up the Irish Sea.
The MOX fuel was delivered to a nuclear power plant in Fukui in Japan in 1999 but was rejected after British Nuclear Fuels admitted data related to safety checks had been falsified.
On Monday, the ship slipped through a flotilla of protest boats in the South Irish Sea and met another gauntlet of protest vessels as it approached Barrow-in-Furness harbor on Tuesday, where the cargo was to be landed.
One of those involved in the protest flotilla was Jim Corr of the rock band The Corrs.
However, BNFL dismissed “scare-mongering” claims about the shipments and said there had been “doomsday” allegations surrounding every nuclear voyage in the past.
While it wholly appreciated the concerns of Irish people, BNFL said there had never been an incident involving the release of radioactivity in 4.5 million miles of shipments over the last 30 years.
It said “outlandish” claims by Greenpeace were designed to alarm and mislead the public. “Their consistent repetition does not make them any less false.”
Environment Minister Martin Cullen welcomed the controversial vessels’ safe arrival but said transportation of this kind had to end.
“The world would agree that we stop this kind of transportation,” he said. “The consequences of something going wrong for all of us on this planet are enormous. I think that public opinion throughout the world is gathering a huge momentum in this regard and I think we are going to be successful, ultimately.”
He told RTE that the government would be continuing with two international lawsuits against Sellafield.
“The objective from an Irish perspective is that Sellafield is an old plant and we would ultimately like to see it closed down,” he said.
He said one suit is being taken under the OSPAR Convention. The OSPAR (Oslo/Paris) Convention is a 14-nation agreement on marine pollution and discharges, signed in July 1998 by North Atlantic countries.
“It is based on a economic analysis, the point being that there is no economic sustainability with regard to the use of nuclear power,” he said. “It is indeed not economically sustainable at all.
“It is quite clear from the enormous difficulties that BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels Ltd) are having, and indeed British Energy, that the British government have major difficulties with regard to the cost of this industry.”
Cullen said the second legal action was being taken under the UN Conference for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and was an environmental case.
“That’s clearly based on the damage that nuclear energy is doing in terms of what’s left over and what we see happening with the MOX plant in the UK and how you dispose of the waste from the nuclear industry,” Cullen said, adding that it has been clearly demonstrated that environmentally, the nuclear industry was the “most disastrous energy source in the world.”