Year of NDA progress in nuclear clean-up

Crucial milestones were achieved in the clean-up of the UK’s nuclear legacy last year, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority NDA has revealed in its annual report and accounts.

  • completion of defueling at Chapelcross and Dungeness A, removing 99% of radioactivity from those sites
  • agreement of a plan to bring forward the closure of Winfrith and Harwell research sites by a combined 32 years, with potential cost savings of £500 million
  • integration of a new contract at Dounreay, expected to save taxpayers £1bn and bring forward closure by 17 years
  • higher than expected commercial income of almost £900m, aided by extended generation at Wylfa and land sale at Capenhurst worth £50m
  • progress on a £7 billion competition to run 12 sites
  • largest ever programme of work in decommissioning programme for 10 Magnox sites
  • completion of first five years under private control for the Low Level Repository in Cumbria, which has so far saved taxpayers £30m
  • strong industrial safety performance at Sellafield whilst delivering three key projects to enable future retrieval of radioactive waste from legacy storage facilities
  • successful completion of the third shipment of vitrified highly active waste to Japan

NDA chief executive John Clarke, who has completed his first full year in charge of the authority, said:

“Sellafield remains our top priority. It is the world’s most complex nuclear site with unprecedented challenges. Against this background, performance in the year has been mixed with some notable milestones achieved on legacy ponds and silos balanced by some disappointing project cost increases and schedule slippages together with operational performance impacted by unreliable plant.

“I’m pleased to note good performance elsewhere in the estate, particularly across the Magnox sites  which has this year delivered its largest-ever programme of work. We look forward to seeing Bradwell and Traswfynydd becoming the first UK nuclear sites to enter the care and maintenance phase within the next two to three years.

“At Research Sites Restoration Ltd, an optimised plan will bring forward closure of Winfrith by 27 years and take Harwell to care and maintenance five years earlier than originally planned, with the potential to save £500 million.

“The new contract at Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, awarded to the Babcock Dounreay Partnership, has been successfully incorporated into the site’s Lifetime Plan, and is expected to deliver more than £1bn in savings while achieving site closure up to 17 years earlier than originally anticipated.

“At the Low Level Waste Repository near Drigg, the contract awarded to UK Nuclear Waste Management (UKNWM) in 2008 has been extended for a further five years following a successful first five-year term, which secured around £30m in savings, extended the life of the facility, reduced volumes of waste sent to the Repository through the opening up of alternative waste management routes and saw the opening of a new vault.

“We are also part-way through the last major competition, award of the £7bn contract for the 12 sites operated by Magnox Ltd and RSRL Ltd, and are pleased to see a healthy level of interest from four high-calibre consortia.

“When looking at the overall costs of the clean-up programme over the next 120 years or so, we see a continuation of recent trends whereby life time costs are reducing in all parts of our estate with the exception of Sellafield, where some significant uncertainties remain. The net result is that the undiscounted figure for the long term clean-up programme is relatively stable.”

Baroness Verma, Department of Energy and Climate Change minister with responsibility for nuclear decommissioning, said:

“I’ve been impressed by the approach and professionalism of the NDA as the strategic authority acting on behalf of Government to oversee this vital programme.

“An absolute priority is to deal with the legacy, particularly at Sellafield. On visiting Sellafield I saw the sheer size, scale and complexity of the challenges facing the NDA. It is absolutely right that there is a relentless focus on tackling the inherited legacies of the first-generation nuclear power stations.

“The process will take many decades and will need to address many of the unique, high-hazard problems that accumulated in the post-war years.

“Significant milestones have also been achieved elsewhere in the NDA estate, delivering innovation, reduced timeframes and savings for the taxpayer as various research and former generating sites are progressively being defueled and decommissioned with land returned for future use.”

You can read the Annual Report and Accounts here.