The Japanese-built 3865-tonne vessel was certified to the International Maritime Organisation's highest level, INF3, allowing it to carry used nuclear fuel, high-level waste and plutonium with no limit on the maximum aggregate radioactivity of the materials carried. Launched in 1987, the Oceanic Pintail has served customers from across the world with bespoke solutions to all specialist nuclear transport challenges and was the first vessel to ship mixed-oxide fuel from Europe to Japan in 1999.
Dales Marine was informed in October 2020 that it had won the bidding process to dismantle the ship. The following month, Oceanic Pintail made its final journey from Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, England, to Dales Marine's dry dock facilities in Leith, Scotland.
"Applying a number of innovative techniques, the Scottish firm exceeded expectations, and recycled every part of the NDA-owned Oceanic Pintail," said NTS, part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Dales Marine achieved this by: separating different oils from water, and using the oil as furnace fuel; converting insulation into electrical energy; and crushing concrete and tiles to create material used in the construction industry.
Reusing 100% of a nuclear vessel is a UK first, and supports both the NDA group and government's carbon net-zero ambitions, NTS noted.
"NTS takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, so we're delighted that 100% of Oceanic Pintail has been recycled," said NTS Shipping Director Peter Buchan. "We set our contractors, Dales Marine, an incredibly ambitious recycling target. They took that challenge and set the standard for others to follow when it comes to decommissioning vessels."
He added: "It's a fantastic achievement, especially considering the work was completed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so a lot of thanks must go to everyone who has played a role in ensuring this project has been a huge success. Oceanic Pintail served the UK with distinction and this is a fitting end to its life."
NDA CEO David Peattie said: "The NDA group is committed to supporting government goals to be carbon net-zero by 2050. This fantastic achievement in recycling 100% of Oceanic Pintail supports our ambitions to reduce our carbon impact."
NTS operates a fleet of over 100 rail locomotives, three specialist nuclear vessels - the Pacific Grebe, Pacific Egret and Pacific Heron - and a 700-strong workforce.