Sellafield nuclear waste a ‘significant risk’ and clean-up costs spiralling says NAO report

Hazardous waste at Sellafield, Britain’s largest nuclear power plant, poses “significant risks to people and the environment”, a report today claims.

The UK’s public spending watchdog, The National Audit Office (NAO), warns that “any significant containment failure, particularly in legacy storage ponds and silos, could result in highly hazardous radioactive material causing enduring contamination”.

The NAO also concludes that clean-up projects at the site in Cumbria have so far been “poor” and that there are “significant uncertainties and scheduling risks”.

Since 2008, Sellafield has been managed by a ‘parent body’ consortium of Areva, AMEC and URS, which is overseen by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Last year the NDA unveiled a lifetime plan for the clean-up of Sellafield by 2120, with a price tag of £67bn.

So far, 55 buildings at Sellafield have been decommissioned, but a further 1400 remain. Of these, 240 are operating nuclear facilities or legacy buildings containing radioactive materials. In the 2011-2012 financial year, £1.6bn was spent on running and cleaning up Sellafield, with £411m going on major projects.

The NAO report today states that there is “considerable uncertainty over the time required and cost of completing facilities to treat and store highly radioactive material held in deteriorating legacy ponds and silos”.

While it praises the parent body for improvements in commercial operations on the site, including the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, it found that some of the NDA’s 14 major projects at Sellafield have not provided good value for money. These projects are for the design and build of complex chemical engineering projects to retrieve, package and store hazardous nuclear material from old facilities. The projects range in cost from £21m to £1.3bn. “Twelve of these projects delivered less than planned during 2011-2012, which could delay risk and hazard reduction,” states the report.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today: "Owing to historic neglect, the NDA faces a considerable challenge in taking forward decommissioning at Sellafield. 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.”

Morse added that “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”.

Margaret Hodge, an MP who chairs the government’s Public Accounts Committee, said: Sellafield has suffered from decades of neglect, saddling taxpayers with a century-long clean-up job with a £67bn price tag. Projects of this length and ambition are ripe for dithering and delay. I am dismayed to discover the clean-up of Sellafield is no different.

“My concern is that unless the authority holds Sellafield Limited to a clear and rigorously benchmarked plan, timetables will continue to slip and costs spiral. It is totally unacceptable to allow today’s poor management to shift the burden and expense of Sellafield to future generations of taxpayers and their families.”

In a statement today, Sellafield Ltd said: “We welcome the report and are pleased that the NAO recognise the globally unique challenge we are facing in cleaning up and decommissioning the site.

Sellafield said that it had “taken steps to strengthen our approach, both in terms of how we manage projects as a whole and how we develop better, more beneficial relationships with the supply chain”.

Today’s report comes a week after Japan’s Hitachi announced it was to buy the Horizon project to build new nuclear plants in the UK. Horizon forms a key part of the UK government's plans to kickstart a nuclear new build programme, with the other key participant being a consortium of EDF and Centrica.

Horizon was formed by German companies E.ON and RWE but both pulled out earlier this year, citing financial constraints caused by the Merkel government’s plan to withdraw from nuclear power in Germany.

Follow Power Engineering International on Twitter




Editor's Picks

 Schleswig-Holstein Climate Minister Robert Habeck

Federal states applying pressure on Merkel government over subsidies to nuclear

States with green party representation in Germany are calling on the German government to take action against the prospect...
Mike Baston of Euracoal

Future global power generation mix – the coal-fired power perspective

In our inaugural PEi Google Hangout, Mike Bostan, Policy Officer at Euracoal tells Power Engineering International's Diarm...
Faymann

Austrian PM confirms lawsuit against Hinkley decision ready in weeks

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has confirmed that his country will be registering its lawsuit against the European Com...
Projects of the Year 2015

One week left to enter Pei EMEA Projects of the Year

Power Engineering International has launched the EMEA Projects of the Year, which will seek to highlight the best in power...
Slovak Economy Minister Pavol Pavlis

Enel on collision course with Slovakia

Italian energy giant Enel’s plans to offload its share in Slovak electricity producer Slovenske Elektrarne AS, or SEAS loo...

PEI Magazine Issues



>> Current Issue           >> Past Issues

Latest Wire News

NW Natural Reports on 2014 Results at Annual Meeting of Shareholders

NW Natural Reports on 2014 Results at Annual Meeting of Shareholders

Trelleborg Senior Appointment Signals Industry Ambition

Trelleborg Senior Appointment Signals Industry Ambition

Planet Resource Recovery Completes PetroLuxus(TM) Application Training to Mexican Companies in the Oil Sector

Planet Resource Recovery Completes PetroLuxus(TM) Application Training to Mexican Companies ...

Interpoll Laboratories, Inc. to Exhibit at 31st Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

Interpoll Laboratories, Inc. to Exhibit at 31st Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop &...

EVTN Announces Voraxial(R) Shipment for Oil Spill Response

EVTN Announces Voraxial(R) Shipment for Oil Spill Response


Editorial Guides

Lubrication Challenges for the Biogas Industry in 2015

The biogas industry is growing in importance as the world continues to look for alternative, clean energy sources. However...

Maximising Power Plant Efficiency

The need for power plants to operate at maximum efficiency and flexibility while cutting emissions is greater than ever be...

How to cut your OPEX

How to cut your OPEX In a constantly evolving electricity market, factors such as over capacity and low coal costs can pu...

Alstom Editorial Guide: Thailand to showcase latest upgrade of Alstom's GT26 in combined-cycle

Read all about Alstom's new advanced GT26 gas turbine in the North Bangkok CCPP expansion project online with the Power En...

PLEXOS® Integrated Energy Model – Leading the Field in Energy Market Modelling

PLEXOS® Integrated Energy Modelling is an advanced software tool that employs the latest mathematical programming methods ...

Buyers Guide Companies

ComRent International LLC

Offers rentals, sales, and services of load banks for testing generators...

Advanced Energy

Advanced Energy is a global leader in innovative power and control techn...

ACOEM AB

ACOEM is a supplier of Fixturlaser's innovative and user-friendly equipm...

Fluid Energy Controls Inc

CCI Thermal Technologies Inc

A leader in the development and manufacturing of industrial heating and ...

AKG of America Inc

AKG is a worldwide design leader and manufacturer of high performance co...

Acromag Inc

CU Services LLC

Manufactures plug resistant orifices for steam line drains, recirculatio...

FLSmidth Inc

Designs and supplies pneumatic conveying systems for power, cement, and ...

Frenzelit North America Inc

Frenzelit manufactures fabric, rubber, and metallic expansion joints. F...

Buyers Guide Products

Fixturlaser NXA Pro

This laser alignment system features many ...

Bore Measurement

Typical applications are full bore measure...

Expansion Joints

Braden Exhaust Expansion Joints provide a ...

PARTS & FILTERS

Braden is uniquely qualified to provide ou...

Exhaust Systems

Leader in Exhaust Bypass, Simple Cycle, Ex...

HydroJet®-Retractable Boiler Cleaning System

A major breakthrough in furnace water clea...

IK-700® - Retractable Sootblower

Designed specifically for low maintenance,...

RETROFIT

Braden's retrofit strengths are divided in...

Air Filtration

Braden filtration offers a wide range of f...

Spare parts manufacturing / Re-engineering / CNC / CMM / Machining / workshop service

CMM/laser scanning technology (workshop, r...

Power Engineering International

Whitepapers

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New challenges and opportunities are continually appearing thanks to dramatic developments in technology...

The bottom line: engine oil impact on engine reliability

A reliable and well-maintained gas-powered engine performs consistently and continuously, which can lead to a healthier bottom line for plant operators. There is a raised awareness around the need ...

Understanding Moisture Dynamics in Power Transformers

In this webinar recording "Moisture Dynamics in Power Transformers" (held originally in September 23, 2014) you will have a chance to learn about the phenomena and its importance to your ...

How to lower your total cost of ownership on DC Control Power

In this whitepaper, we look at implementing battery management solutions and how smart battery management effectively lowers the total cost of DC Control power systems and the risk of their failure...

Portfolio Optimization by PLEXOS

To achieve Portfolio Optimization, PLEXOS performs the Security Constrained Unit Commitment and Economic Dispatch using Mixed Integer Programming (MIP) to minimize a cost function subject to all op...

Evaluating cogeneration for your facility: A look at the potential energy-efficiency, economic and environmental benefits

The energy-efficiency, economic and environmental benefits of cogeneration are the subject of this in-depth white paper. The paper argues that producing electricity and heat/cooling from the same f...

The Effect of Moisture on the Breakdown Voltage of Transformer Oil

Power transformers utilize oil as a heat transfer medium and a dielectric material, together with cellulose. Breakdown voltage (dielectric strength) is one of the most important parameters of trans...

Improving Mission Critical Cooling Systems With More Reliable Level Sensing

The choice of coolant level sensor may seem like an insignificant detail when designing complex machinery such as emergency generators and cranes, but if this sensor fails, the operator has no warn...

Steps Towards a Low Carbon Future: Solutions and Technologies That Will Support the Global Revolution Required

A smart grid is becoming more and more essential as clean energy becomes more dominant. In addition, the demand for electricity is expected to treble the ability to supply it over the next decade. ...

Latest Digital Edition

  Power
  Engineering
  International
Look Inside >
Cover
Current Issue

Article Archives for Power Engineering International Magazine

Latest Energy Jobs

View more Job Listings >>