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Government needs firmer grip on Sellafield nuclear challenges

31 October 2018

  • NDA has not systematically reviewed why major projects keep running into difficulties
  • Despite some progress, expected cost overruns stand at nearly £1 billion
  • BEIS still to make decision on future plutonium stockpile

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Sellafield Limited have recently met significant milestones with reducing risk at the high hazard facilities at Sellafield, the NDA's largest and most hazardous site.

The NDA and Sellafield Limited have also made progress with reducing delays and expected cost overruns with 14 major projects at Sellafield, which have a combined lifetime cost estimate of £6 billion.

While we recognise that there has been progress since this Committee last reported, there is still a long way to go and the NDA cannot afford to be complacent.

Most major projects at Sellafield are still significantly delayed, with expected combined cost overruns of £913 million. The NDA has not systematically reviewed why these projects keep running into difficulties, or analysed properly the constraints it says prevent them from making faster progress.

Until this work is completed, we remain sceptical about its long-term strategy to decommission Sellafield.

Also, despite this Committee's recommendation nearly five years ago, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has still not decided what to do with the plutonium stockpile currently stored at Sellafield.

Given the scale and unique challenges at Sellafield, the NDA must have a firm grip of the work that takes place on the site.

We saw that this was not the case with the NDA's recently failed contract to decommission its Magnox sites, and we are no more convinced of its current ability to monitor and challenge progress at Sellafield. 

At the same time, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy must be more streamlined and effective in its oversight of the NDA's performance if it is to hold it properly to account.

Comment from Deputy Chair

Comment from PAC Deputy Chair, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP:

“This report is critical of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's performance. The Government's oversight of the NDA's performance could and should be much better, particularly on projects at Sellafield that cost a considerable amount of public money.

This report follows the Committee's earlier report into the NDA's Magnox contract. The NDA failed in both the procurement and management of this contract and cost the taxpayer £122 million.

In short, BEIS needs to seriously get a grip on its oversight of nuclear decommissioning in this country.”

Further information

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