Building reliable and safe transport

27 July 2023

As close to one thousand industry experts gathered in France last month for PATRAM – the International Symposium on the Packaging and Transportation of Radioactive Materials – Nuclear Engineering International caught up with Seth Kybird, Chief Executive of Nuclear Transport Solutions, at what is undoubtedly an exciting time for nuclear transport and logistics.

Above: Pacific Egret is a specialist nuclear transport vessel

“It's quite simple, without transport and logistics there is no nuclear industry.” That’s the key message from Seth Kybird, CEO of Nuclear Transport Solutions (NTS), who adds: “Clearly, it’s an exciting time for the global nuclear market as we continue our mission to create low-carbon energy for society, deal with our legacy plants and materials, and help solve big challenges around carbon net zero, energy security, defence and medicine.”

He continues: “But transport and logistics are a vital enabler for the success of the sector, and we won’t be able to meet our ambitions without an effective, reliable and safe nuclear transport and logistics industry.”

Just over two years ago in April, 2021, the UK’s major nuclear transport companies came together into a single organisation – Nuclear Transport Solutions – with a bold ambition to use their collective nuclear transport expertise to make the world a safer and more sustainable place.

The UK has long been a global leader at transporting nuclear materials, benefiting for many years from the expertise of International Nuclear Services, Direct Rail Services, and Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd.

In 2021 NTS brought these specialist capabilities together into a single organisation responsible for providing safe, secure and reliable nuclear transport and logistics solutions in the UK and beyond.

Seth explains: “Our ambition is for NTS to be a centre of excellence for nuclear transport and cement our position as a vital international capability. The UK is already a leader in nuclear transport but by coming together to create NTS we’re now greater than the sum of our parts.”

As part of the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), NTS provides the transport solutions needed to support the NDA’s mission to clean-up the UK’s earliest nuclear sites in what is the largest environmental restoration programme in Europe. Its work includes transporting spent fuel from UK power stations to Sellafield, the return of reprocessing products to customers overseas, and packaging and licensing solutions to the NDA group.

It also has responsibility for developing a strategic overview of all nuclear movements across NDA’s 17 sites with a view to making transport operations more efficient and sustainable.

Moving more

As well as safely transporting materials to, from and between NDA sites, NTS has increasingly found a market for its specialist nuclear transport capabilities amongst a range of international customers.

In recent years it has provided complex end-to-end transport solutions for materials including plutonium, highly-enriched uranium, MOX fuel, high-level waste and spent fuel to a number of customers around the world. And, through Direct Rail Services, it has expanded its offering to customers outside the nuclear sector. NTS now operates a number of intermodal rail freight services in consumer goods and general freight markets. Despite building a reputation over 50 years for safe, secure and reliable nuclear transport operations, Seth is keen to point out that NTS is about more than ships and trains.

“We’re incredibly proud of our record for safe and secure transport operations, but arguably our greatest assets aren’t necessarily our specialist ships or fleet of locomotives, it’s our people and the knowledge and expertise they have,” says Seth, adding: “We’re problem solvers, and increasingly we’re using our know-how to advise and support customers around the world on their own transport and logistics challenges. Whether that’s supporting the implementation of new nuclear technology, dealing with difficult materials, or supporting threat reduction activities, we’re able to provide standalone or end-to-end transport and logistics solutions, transport package design and licencing, regulatory advice, and much more.”

This approach has seen NTS expand its offering to include transport and logistics solutions for front-end materials as well as it’s more traditional work transporting back-end materials including waste and spent fuel. As Seth points out, a recent NTS shipment of fresh fuel to one European country represented a third of that nation’s energy supply.

“Our focus will always be on supporting nuclear clean-up in the UK and serving our longstanding customers like the Japanese utility companies” he continues. “But, as the nuclear market grows, and the need for reliable transport and logistics solutions increases, we will use our skills and expertise to expand our work with overseas governments and customers.”

Overall, Seth is upbeat about NTS’s growth ambitions: “Delivering for customers outside of our core mission ensures our capabilities and assets are enhanced and generates additional revenue to support the long-term mission of our owner, the NDA.”

But he’s also passionate about the wider benefits of what NTS does, adding: “Commercial success and delivering our clean-up mission are not mutually exclusive.”

“We’re proud of how we use our expertise to make the world safer and more sustainable. Whether that’s by supporting the clean-up of the UK’s nuclear legacy, using our high security shipping capabilities to support global security goals, or providing low-carbon rail freight solutions that takes more lorries off our roads.”

With thousands of consignments of radioactive materials transported by rail, road, sea or air each day for many decades, the companies that make up NTS have travelled millions of miles, moving thousands of flasks of material while maintaining a flawless nuclear safety and security record.

According to Seth, that means NTS has a responsibility to use its experience to advance the quality, technology and expertise of nuclear transport for the benefit of the UK and global nuclear community. It already works closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS), the World Nuclear Transport Institute (WNTI) and other international partners to further this aim.

As Seth explains: “This is something we’re passionate about. As an industry we have a duty to be excellent at what we do – so if NTS can help others increase the capacity for safe, secure and sustainable nuclear transport, then we will.”

Today NTS is about more than ships and trains

Privacy Policy
We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.