Highly dangerous plutonium canisters are “decaying faster than anticipated” at the Sellafield nuclear plant and present an “intolerable risk” if they started to leak, the spending watchdog has warned. Government scientists have now agreed to spend an extra £1billion to make them safe by wrapping them in packaging, the National Audit Office said today. Britain has the largest amount of civil plutonium – a bi-product of nuclear fuel reprocessing – in the world, around 40 per cent of the global total. Most of the plutonium is stored at Sellafield in Cumbria, where it is managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The problems have occurred because some of the plutonium canisters are judged to be “unsuitable” for storage in a new facility which only opened in 2012, the NAO said. Staff are now racing against the clock to build a new £1.5billion facility – and are having to make contingency plans for the next two years while the new depot is constructed. The NAO report – titled ‘Progress with reducing risk at Sellafield’ – said: “Some canisters that have already been transferred into modern storage will have to be repackaged through the SRP [the residue store retreatment plant] facility to ensure they do not degrade.” The report adds: “A leak from any package would lead to an ‘intolerable’ risk as defined by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. “The NDA has therefore decided to place the canisters more at risk in extra layers of packaging until SRP is operational. It has not yet submitted a new business case to support these contingency arrangements.” Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said: “In some ways it is fortunate that this failure was detected whilst the plutonium was still accessible, and the cost of patching the canisters is only £1billion. If an inaccessible deep waste dump were to fail in a similar way, who knows what the full cost might be?”
Telegraph 19th June 2018 read more »
Decommissioning the nuclear site at Sellafield faces continued delays and an overspend of up to £913 million, according to an official report. The National Audit Office (NAO) said the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) had improved its performance in delivering major projects at the site in Cumbria. But work is still predicted to be late and to cost more than originally expected, said the spending watchdog. The NDA’s nine major projects were expected to cost an additional 60% of their budget at the design stage in 2015, but this has been reduced to 29%, said the NAO. While this was a substantial improvement, it was still a forecast overspend of £913 million. The NAO reported that three projects were cancelled when £586 million had already been spent on them after the NDA said it had found a better way of delivering the work. It said Sellafield Limited has achieved £470 million in efficiency savings, but added that neither the NDA nor the company knows their make-up and admit that a proportion does not represent genuine efficiency savings. “The strategic decisions the NDA takes around prioritising activity at Sellafield could be profoundly changed and improved by a better, more evidence-based assessment of these constraints. “The NAO has found that the role of the NDA is unclear and this could put at risk the progress we are now seeing at Sellafield,” the report said. “The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s governance of the NDA is complex and not working as well as it should to support improvements at Sellafield.
Herald 20th June 2018 read more »
A government watchdog has criticised the body overseeing the Sellafield clean-up. It has recommended a review into the role of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, because it is “unclear” what it does. The report praised it for improving its performance in delivering major projects, as most delivered their work to schedule and to budget in 2017-18. But it said the NDA could not demonstrate how its current work led to progress against the long-term decommissioning “mission”. The report also identified an expected £913 million overspend and delays in clean-up projects at the West Cumbrian nuclear complex.
Carlisle News & Star 20th June 2018 read more »
£900m Sellafield decom overspend warning from National Audit Office.
Energy Voice 20th June 2018 read more »
New Civil Engineer 20th June 2018 read more »