It’s 6.5 metres long, weighs 95 tonnes unloaded and has been built to withstand drops, missiles and airstrikes from a fully-laden fighter jet.
Fortunately, the forged steel container carrying Australia’s first incoming shipment of nuclear waste didn’t have any of its more extreme design claims put to the test during what was described as an uneventful end to its seven-week journey at sea on Saturday night.
“In the Australian nuclear industry we don’t do surprises and we don’t take chances.”
Port Kembla dock workers used cranes to unload the 7.7 tonne container onto a waiting truck before it was driven in convoy, along closed roads and under heavy police guard, to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) facility at Lucas Heights.
The waste is what remains of shipments of spent nuclear fuel that were sent to France for reprocessing in the 1990s and due to be returned to Australia by the end of 2015.
The return operation, code-named ‘Cormorant’, was both a feat of rigorous precision and cutting-edge engineering, according to ANSTO’s head of nuclear services, Hef Griffiths.
“In the Australian nuclear industry we don’t do surprises and we don’t take chances,” Mr Griffiths said.
“This repatriation project was the culmination of years of planning by State and Federal agencies to ensure Australia safely met its international obligations [to deal with the byproducts of its nuclear program].”
Mr Griffiths said the container itself was a “feat of engineering” and the last line of defence in terms of transporting and storing the waste, having been designed to withstand drops, penetrating spikes, an 800 degree fire, a crash at 160km/hr and an impact with a F16 jet without releasing the contents inside.
He said similar containers had been used to successfully ship and store nuclear waster around the world for more than 30 years.
When asked if any incidents occurred during the 60km journey from Port Kembla to Lucas Heights, Mr Griffiths said the only matter he’d been made aware of was a couple of deer running across the roadway as the convoy was passing through the Royal National Park.
The waste will remain at Lucas Heights on an interim basis while the Federal Government searches for a permanent site to dump the nuclear material.
Saturday night’s road closures caught some Wollongong residents by surprise as they tried to make their way home, with drivers leaving the university after the Hy-Fest Music Festival struggling to find a way across the Princes Motorway.
One officer was hit by a car at Gwynneville when a driver apparently failed to stop at a road block on Gipps Road around 12.15am on Sunday.
Police allege the officer was hit in the left knee, causing minor bruising.
The driver, a Keiraville man, is expected to be charged over the incident.