New Zealand has been renowned since the 1980s for its status as a nuclear-free nation, and since then no nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessel has been welcomed in any of the country’s ports. However, at the end of November 2012 the Japanese oceanographic research ship Mirai made a three-day stopover at Auckland.To most she was just another research ship arriving to take on bunkers, and few knew she was, up until 1995, the nuclear-powered freighter Mutsu. Built for the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, the 8,240gt Mutsu was launched in 1970. Her nuclear fuel was loaded in 1972 and she became Japan’s first and only nuclear-powered ship.

Mutsu never carried commercial cargo but, following modifications to her reactor, completed 82,000km in testing before being decommissioned in 1992, and then rebuilt as Mirai.

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