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NewsExtra: NDA 2013-16 business plan to concentrate on Sellafield

29 May 2013

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has published its 2013-16 Business Plan, which sets out its delivery priorities over its 19-site estate. The NDA says it will spend a total of £3.2bn cleaning up Britain's nuclear legacy during the next financial year with 55% of the annual budget to be spent on reducing hazard at Sellafield; the NDA's number one priority.

The focus at Sellafield will remain on major projects required to decommission the high hazard legacy ponds and silos, while also working towards the completion of the contracts at both the Magnox and Thorp reprocessing plants by the end of the decade.

Key activities across the rest of the NDA estate in 2013/14 will include the selection of a new owner of the contract to operate the 12 sites in the NDA's Magnox and Research Site Restoration Limited (RSRL) fleet. Defueling will continue at Oldbury and Sizewell A, with electricity generation continuing at Wylfa. 

An accelerated programme of decommissioning and demolition activities will continue at Bradwell and Trawsfynydd in preparation for the sites to be placed into the care and maintenance phase in 2015 and 2016 respectively. 

Other priorities over the period include the UK's low-level waste repository (LLWR) in north-west England and Dounreay in northern Scotland.

NDA chief executive John Clarke said: "Our 2013-16 Business Plan sets out a challenging year of activity across our estate as we seek to accelerate our programme to reduce hazard and deliver value for money for the taxpayer. 

"Sellafield remains our number one priority, particularly ensuring the site remains safe and secure and that we are able to make demonstrable progress in tackling the high hazard legacy facilities. 

The National Audit Office (NAO) said in November 2012 that an "intolerable risk" was posed by hazardous waste stored in run-down buildings at Sellafield. It also said that costs of plant-decommissioning had spiralled out of control.

The NAO report concluded that over the five decades it was open, operators had failed to plan how to dispose of the radioactive waste and that some of the older facilities have "deteriorated so much that their contents pose significant risks to people and the environment".

Clarke said in the Business Plan:  “I welcome the NAO report on Managing Risk Reduction at Sellafield and the subsequent report from the Public Accounts Committee. We are currently incorporating the recommendations from both reports into our future plans to bring about further improvements.”

The NDA says it will spend 55% of its annual budget reducing hazard at Sellafield
The NDA says it will spend 55% of its annual budget reducing hazard at Sellafield

Around 240 of Sellafield's 1,400 buildings are nuclear facilities and so far 55 buildings on the site have been decommissioned, including the Caesium Extraction Plant (CEP), built in the 1950s to produce radiation sources for medical uses. This ten-year decommissioning project saw the retrieval of 16 tonnes of radioactive waste from a facility which was never designed with decommissioning in mind, and NDA says this project will be a benchmark for future decommissioning projects. 

UK Nuclear Waste Management (UKNWM) has been awarded a further five year contract to manage LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR), the company that manages and operates the UK's national low-level waste repository and implements the nation's low-level waste strategy on behalf of the NDA.

During its first five-year term, the contract has realised savings of £30 million in savings, extended the life of the LLWR facility, reduced volumes of waste bound for the repository by a factor of three, and seen the opening a new vault at the repository, according to the NDA.

Construction and maintenance services company Hertel has won a major contract for the deplanting of Calder Hall, the UK's first commercial nuclear power station which closed in 2003 after 47 years of operation, at the Sellafield site. Work is due to start in April 2013 and will take three and a half years. 

The arrival of Babcock Dounreay Partnership (BDP) at the site in Caithness has brought in a new plan which has the potential to deliver Dounreay into its Interim State between the years of 2022-2025 and to make possible savings of more than £1 billion compared to the previous plan. 

NDA’s Capenhurst site has also been transferred to URENCO UK Ltd, following the earlier sale of Springfields Fuels Ltd to Westinghouse. The authority says these are examples of its programme to seek the best future for its sites while minimising future liabilities to the taxpayer. The Government recently announced plans to sell all or part of its stake in URENCO, which makes nuclear fuels. 

The NDA is also responsible for planning and implementing geological disposal of higher activity wastes in the UK. Plans to develop an underground repository under the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme are currently on hold following the rejection of continued collaboration by the only two local authorities to sign up to the programme in Cumbria and Kent.

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