Sellafield Ltd’s collaboration between people, supply chain, academia and stakeholders has led to twelve months of progress
Following the recently published Public Accounts Committee report into risk reduction at Sellafield, Jamie Reed reflects on the past twelve months of progress at the West Cumbrian site - one of the biggest environmental remediation challenges in Europe.
Covering two-square miles and home to more than 200 nuclear facilities and over 1,000 buildings, Sellafield is transforming as its main business of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing comes to an end and the site’s focus moves towards environmental remediation and the accelerated clean-up of the site.
As an Nuclear Decommissioning Authority subsidiary, we spend more than £2billion of public money every year at Sellafield. Safety and security is at the forefront of everything we do as we deal with some of the oldest nuclear facilities in the world. Attending to the legacy of the Cold War and our civil nuclear programme - the first in the world - is understandably complex and time consuming.
As the Public Accounts Committee acknowledges, we are making progress in a challenging environment and the last twelve months has seen us reach a series of important milestones.
We are reaching some landmark targets with the completion of both the Thorp and Magnox reprocessing programmes, and we are determined to ensure that we continue to demonstrate value for money. Thorp –an incredible feat of British engineering – will stop reprocessing spent nuclear fuel this November.
The last year has seen us continue to focus on acutely important areas of work: continuing to tackle ‘high hazard’ areas and reduce risk whilst continuing with the decommissioning and remediation of the site. This involves receiving, treating, recycling and packaging nuclear waste and the safeguarding of special nuclear materials. Also as we clean up our legacy buildings, we are building modern waste retrieval, processing and storage facilities to look after the resulting nuclear fuel and waste. All of this work is undertaken on behalf of the nation in the national interest.
Major highlights over the past year, include:
· Recognition from the National Audit Office for “significant progress in reducing high hazards, including removing 70% of the radioactive content of the Pile Fuel Storage Pond and accelerating the schedule for emptying the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo by six years compared with 2015 estimates”
· Starting production in our newest nuclear facility – an ‘evaporator’ for highly active liquid radioactive waste - which increases the capacity for reducing the highest risks on the site
· Removing our tallest risk – a redundant industrial chimney (discharge stack)
· Completing work on a new interim nuclear waste store
· Deploying remotely operated machinery into the site’s most hazardous nuclear waste store for the first time
Alongside the progress made in cleaning up the highest nuclear risks and hazards– two fuel storage ponds and two waste silos – and driving forward a number of major projects on site, we are also investing in research, skills and training. This investment is necessary for our mission, the nation and the local Sellafield community.
Last year we had 884 apprentices and 300 graduates on our books, 41% of whom are female – potentially the highest female apprentice uptake in the UK. We invested more than £80 million in research and development, we opened the doors to the brand new northern hub of the National College for Nuclear, we spent £79 million directly with small to medium sized enterprises and our supply chain spent £214 million with SMEs. In addition, recognising our influence and importance nationally, regionally and locally, we became members of the Northern Powerhouse.
Building on goals established by the United Nations, we launched our new Social Impact Strategy and this year will mark the opening of the brand new Whitehaven Campus: a state of the art secondary school campus funded by NDA, Sellafield Ltd, the Copeland Community Fund and Cumbria County Council that will help to improve educational outcomes in West Cumbria. We invested £2.6 million in a business growth and town centre regeneraton project in Whitehaven and engaged 45 local schools on the science, technology, engineering and maths curriculum.
We’ve made a step-change in our social impact agenda, directing our resources to strategic investments that will create sustainable benefit over the coming years. This involved spending £9.9 million in 2017/18 and this expenditure is set to continue.
The key to our success is collaboration between our people, supply chain, academia and all our stakeholders.
Every Member of Parliament has been invited by me to see first-hand the progress that we are making at Sellafield. We’re proud of our work and we welcome the accountability that accompanies it.
For further details on Sellafield Ltd’s activities, you can view the company’s annual review 2017 here.