MCA scoping regulations for nuclear shipping

SAN DIEGO (Sept. 2, 2020) The Midway Museum welcomes Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) home to San Diego. Carl Vinson arrived in San Diego after conducting a homeport change from Bremerton, Washington. Carl Vinson recently completed a 17-month scheduled docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) and successful sea trials to test the recently upgraded ship’s systems. The DPIA included a system retrofit to accommodate Joint Strike Fighter mission capabilities to support F-35C Lightning II joint fighter squadrons. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erin Zorich)

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has launched a consultation on proposed regulations for nuclear-powered ships.

“The UK is committed to enabling the adoption of new technologies that manufacturers and ship owners may choose to meet legal requirements relating to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore will establish a regulatory framework that will support nuclear-powered ships as an alternative fuel option,” says the MCA.

MCA wants to create national legislation that mirrors provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Code of Safety for Nuclear Merchant Ships – also known as the Nuclear Code – that the convention refers to. Signatories to SOLAS are obligated to do this, but the UK has lagged behind by some 40 years by not matching the 1981 Nuclear Code, according to World Nuclear News.

Filling this ‘regulatory gap’, as the MCA calls it, would install a ready-made suite of regulation providing for the construction and operation of UK ships using nuclear power, as well as for nuclear powered ships with flags of other countries visiting UK ports.

The proposed regulations would introduce a dedicated nuclear pre-commissioning test programme as well as surveys during the construction and trial phases for quality assurance and to verify a ship is built in line with requirements. There would also be regular surveys of the nuclear portion of a ship during its operational life.

The cost of the change would be very small, the MCA says, given there are no nuclear ships on the UK flag at present, and there are no published plans for any with the next ten years. It therefore will not affect any ongoing operation or project.

MCA plans to review consultation responses in November and introduce the new legislation in December.

Read more in World Nuclear News. Main image: Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arriving at San Diego, courtesy of US Navy.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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