Nuclear cargo sailed along the coast of Norway

The cargo vessel MCL Trader.

Last month the commercial cargo ship MCL Trader once again sailed all along the coast of Norway towards Murmansk loaded with highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods from Poland.


MCL Trader left Gdynia in Poland on March 2nd and sailed northbound outside Norway’s 12 nm zone. The vessel entered the Barents Sea outside the western coast of Finnmark on the evening on March 6th and sailed out of Norwegian economical zone east of the Varanger fjord the day after, according to information obtained by BarentsObserver from the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s Vardø Vessel Traffic Service (VTS).

Vardø VTS informed the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities about the route of the MCL Trader.

The nuclear cargo vessel entered the Kola bay late evening on March 7th and made port call to Atomflot, some few kilometers north of Murmansk city. Atomflot is the service base for Russia’s civilian fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers.

At Atomflot, the spent nuclear fuel was loaded onshore. From Atomflot, the spent nuclear fuel containers are loaded onto rail wagons bringing the highly radioactive uranium fuel first through the city of Murmansk before it is goes all the way to Russia’s central storage and reprocessing plant in Mayak, just north of Chelyabinsk in the Urals.

Second time
This is the second time MCL Trader sail around the coast of Norway to Murmansk with nuclear waste. First time, in September last year, Norwegian authorities did not get any notice about the potentially tremendously dangerous cargo onboard.

The Norwegian Radiation authorities then requested Polish nuclear authorities to inform Norway if such cargo again would sail along the coast of Norway towards Murmansk.

MCL Trader has deadweight of 4236 tons, while the Norwegian regulations say that vessels larger than 5000 gross tons should report to Vardø VTS when entering the coverage area. Therefor, Norway needs special information agreements in order to be aware of smaller cargo vessels sailing outside the coast with potentially hazardous cargo.

Special survilance
The duty officer in Vardø VTS says to BarentsObserver they made special attention to MCL Trader this time due to last autumn’s nuclear cargo onboard.  

The vessel MCL Trader is infamous for an incident in May 2008, when, while on a voyage from Sweden’s Halmstad to Russia’s St. Petersburg, it ran aground near the Danish island of Bornholm. Danish authorities arrested the vessels captain and chief engineer for having been drunk. Danish authorities were especially concerned with the fact that the Russian vessel had a special license to transport radioactive cargoes. However, an inspection showed that no cargo was on board MCL Trader when it ran aground.

EWA research reactor
The spent nuclear fuel onboard MCL Trader comes from Poland’s closed down EWA research reactor in Otwock near Warsaw. The reactor was of Soviet design and originally received its uranium fuel from the Soviet Union. The reactor was closed down in 1995 and is today partly dismantled.