Sellafield decommissioning plans still need work

8th November 2012


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Conventional ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • Waste ,
  • Disposal

Author

IEMA

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's plan to clean up Sellafield by 2120 is more realistic than the previous schedule, but projects are still underperforming says National Audit Office (NAO)

In an assessment of how decommissioning efforts are progressing at the UK’s largest nuclear site, the NAO reveals that 12 of the 14 major projects running between May 2011 and March 2012 did not deliver as planned.

According to the NAO, six of seven construction projects were delayed by between two and 19 months, and five of the completed projects achieved less than 90% of their overall goals,.

The public auditing body acknowledges that some of the difficulties faced by the National Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the company that operates Sellafield are the result of decades of poor planning and neglect at the site, which first opened in the 1940s.

The NAO confirms that the new “lifetime plan” to decommission the site that was adopted in May 2011 is superior to the previous 2007 plan, which the NDA deemed undeliverable. It warns, however, that “poor project design and delivery by Sellafield Limited and weaknesses in the authority’s oversight” were also to blame for delays and increasing costs.

It highlights in particular that Sellafield Limited has failed to allow for uncertainties, with the costs of building one plant to deal with waste from silos increasing 92% because the company’s estimates were prepared before it had understood the full costs of the design.

According to the NAO, despite taking over responsibility for the site in 2005, it wasn’t until mid-2011 that the NDA began collecting robust enough information from Sellafield Limited on major projects to enable early intervention if there were problems. In further moves to address underperformance by the company, the NDA set up a project and programme review group in September 2011 and has seconded more of its staff to the firm.

The NAO concludes that the NDA is making progress, particularly with the adoption of the lifetime plan, but warns that uncertainties remain in project timetables and costs. It urges the authority to take steps to clarify how Sellafield Limited estimates costs and schedules, benchmarking its working externally whenever possible.

"It is good that the authority now has a more robust lifetime plan in place, but it cannot say with certainty how long it will take to deal with hazardous radioactive waste at Sellafield or how much it will cost,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.

"Securing future value for money will depend on the authority’s ability to act as an intelligent client, to benchmark proposed levels of performance and to provide better contractual incentives for making faster progress towards risk and hazard reduction."

Responding to the report, a DECC spokesperson said: “Substantial progress is being made in tackling the unique and complex challenges at Sellafield. Last year was the site’s best year for reprocessing operations in seven years and real progress is being seen in tackling a number of high-hazard facilities.”

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

IEMA supports call for more ambitious Future Homes Standard

A consortium including IEMA and the Good Homes Alliance have drafted a letter to UK government ministers expressing disappointment with the proposed Future Homes Standard.

26th February 2024

Read more

Global corporations such as Amazon and Google purchased a record 46 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy last year, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

13th February 2024

Read more

Three-quarters of UK adults are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their bills, according to polling commissioned by Positive Money.

13th February 2024

Read more

The reality of delivering net zero is that we need solutions tailored to specific areas. Peter Gudde explores models that local authorities could adopt

15th January 2024

Read more

Heat pump installations in UK homes increased by nearly a fifth last year, with over 200,000 now having been installed across the country.

11th January 2024

Read more

Last year was the warmest ever recorded, surpassing the previous annual high set in 2016 by a large margin, scientists have confirmed today.

9th January 2024

Read more

This year’s COP28 climate summit concluded with an “historic” agreement between countries to “transition away from fossil fuels”, although the final Global Stocktake text has been described as containing “a litany of loopholes”.

14th December 2023

Read more

The huge quantities of data we generate online every day is having an increasingly negative impact on the environment. Chris Seekings examines what is being done to tackle the problem

30th November 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close