Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to take a direct grip of Sellafield - updated

Site to move back to public sector control from private sector parent body NMP as union calls for Cumbria Nuclear Delivery Authority.


Government has said that it’s decision to terminate a £9bn deal with Nuclear Management Partners to deliver decommissioning at Sellafield and put the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in direct charge was the result of  “technical uncertainties  that made the transfer of responsibility unsuitable”.

The move follows intense criticism of the private sector arrangement with NMP which is made up of AECOM, AMEC and Areva by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the National Audit Office.

"It is time to change the model …. it is now clear that Sellafield’s complexity and technical uncertainties present significantly greater challenges than other NDA sites." Ed Davey, Energy Secretary.

In the PAC's 2014 Progress at Sellafield report it said that “progress in nuclear decommissioning and reprocessing at Sellafield has been poor. Time-scales have slipped, costs have escalated substantially and reprocessing targets have been missed… NMP has not provided the clear leadership, strong management and improved capabilities needed to deliver the performance required at the site.” 

NMP has been operating as a parent body for Sellafield Ltd for the last six years. But according to energy secretary Ed Davey yesterday, “although the current arrangements brought stability to the site and have allowed for effective planning, it is time to change the model …. it is now clear that Sellafield’s complexity and technical uncertainties present significantly greater challenges than other NDA sites, and it is therefore less well suited to the transfer of full site-wide responsibility.”

In the new arrangements, ownership of Sellafield Ltd reverts to the NDA from NMP. The Sellafield Ltd board will continue to consist of existing non-executive directors and key members of the current executive team, but over time will now also see the introduction of NDA appointed directors.

Reporting to this board will be the Sellafield Ltd executive team which will continue to have day-to-day management responsibilities for the site.

A strategic partner is to brought in to work with Sellafield Ltd on management of projects and contracts, a process which is expected to take 15 months.

Editor's Comment: Sellafield: a complex programme the public sector cannot afford to keep at arm’s length

This means the private sector becomes a supplier to the Sellafield Ltd rather than a parent of it, government said.

In a statement NMP said: “The NDA has advised us of its decision to make changes to its current contractual model for running the Sellafield site. We are surprised and naturally disappointed, especially in light of the considerable progress made at Sellafield since NMP was awarded the contract in 2008.  NDA has made it very clear that it is the contractual model that it is being revised and has acknowledged the progress made by NMP over the last six years.”

Suppliers greeted the news with dismay, anticipating that activity on site will hit a brick wall while the new arrangements are put in place. Some have committed major resources to contracts that are delivering no work.

Others spoken to claimed there was an impermeable layer of inertia within Sellafield Ltd which has made progress difficult but they foresaw little change under the new arrangements.

Meanwhile GMB union leaders are proposing a campaign for a Cumbria Nuclear Delivery Authority to combine decommissioning with new build nuclear. “The plutonium at Sellafield is an asset and not simply a waste. The correct strategy is to turn the plutonium into fuel. We have enough plutonium stockpiled to make a major contribution to the UK’s energy needs for years to come. As part of a strategic plan for nuclear power Sellafield must be equipped to deal with the full nuclear cycle.” 

West Cumbria has some of the most highly skilled and experienced nuclear works on the planet, GMB said.”They are best palced to deal with the waste and in return our members want a secure future. “Our membership feel like they are pawns in a big political game and it just isn’t good enough. We want to see no repeat of the false start with NMP.”

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