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Sellafield Update 2022

nuClear News, May 2922, Executive Summary
Reprocessing

Spent fuel from the UK’s first-generation Magnox reactors is still being reprocessed. It was
scheduled to end in 2012 to help the UK meet its international obligations to end the radioactive
pollution of the north-east Atlantic. It’s now scheduled to end later this year.
Storage
At the end of 2021, the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP), one of Sellafield’s most
hazardous facilities, and the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) still contained 75% of the legacy
spent fuel which has to be removed and placed in interim storage. This degraded fuel won’t be
in interim storage until 2025. It will then have to be conditioned, and eventually transferred to
the proposed Geological Disposal Facility by 2125.

Spent fuel
The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) has closed, and almost 5,000 tonnes of unreprocessed spent fuel from the UK’s second-generation Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs)
will be stored in ponds at Sellafield until at least 2075. In addition, an estimated 141 tonnes of
exotic fuel will remain in storage once the Magnox reprocessing plant closes, and isn’t expected
to be in a modern interim storage facility until 2028. Sellafield is also contracted to receive and
store spent submarine fuel from the MoD.

Plutonium
The government has yet to decide about possible re-use or disposal of the 140 tonnes of
plutonium stored at Sellafield. Its preferred option is to re-use it in Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) for
nuclear reactors, but some plutonium will be unsuitable for this and will need to be immobilised
and treated as a waste for disposal. Some of the older plutonium packages and facilities are
amongst the highest hazards on the Sellafield site. All plutonium needs to be gradually transferred to a new store, and two more stores are likely to be required – one is expected to be
ready in 2033 and the second in 2040.

High Level Waste
High Level Waste (HLW) Liquors, left over after reprocessing, need to be constantly cooled
otherwise they would start to boil causing radioactivity to escape and contaminate the
surrounding environment. Conversion of these liquors into a solid form and emplacement in
storage is not expected to be complete until 2030. The solid waste will remain in storage until
‘disposal’ by 2104. All HLW belonging to overseas customers should be returned by 2025.
Levels of risk
In 2013 Sellafield was described as posing an “intolerable risk”. Then in 2018 it was reported
that “work to reduce risk and high hazard at Sellafield has taken an encouraging turn for the
better”. Since then, the site has not been much in the news, but there is still a lot of work to do,
as many of the risks remain. And the timescales for carrying out this work are simply
staggering. According to the UK Radioactive Waste Inventory decommissioning won’t be
complete until around 2090 and then all buildings won’t be demolished until 2120 – almost a
century from now. (1)


Introduction
Sellafield is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA’s) largest and most hazardous site,
home to a number of ageing facilities that store radioactive materials which pose a hazard to
people and the environment. Decommissioning these facilities is challenging: the NDA estimates
it will cost £91 billion and take around 100 years to decommission and ‘clean up’ the Sellafield
site. Sellafield also stores 40% of the global stock of weapons-useable plutonium. The
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) funds and is accountable, with the
NDA, for reducing risks and delivering value for money at Sellafield. The Department has
delegated its oversight of the NDA to UK Government Investment (UKGI)

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A National Audit Office (NAO) report, published almost a decade ago, in November 2012,
criticised Sellafield for posing a “significant risk to people and the environment” because of the
deteriorating conditions of radioactive waste storage facilities and called for immediate
improvements in the management of major projects on site (2).
The lack of progress exposed in the NAO report prompted Rt. Hon. Margaret Hodge MP, who
was chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) from 2010 until March
2015, to declare that Sellafield posed an “intolerable risk” (3). Then in February 2013 the PAC
published its own report which described Sellafield as:
“…an extraordinary accumulation of hazardous waste, much of it stored in outdated nuclear
facilities” (4).
In March 2013, Friends of the Earth published “Towards a Safer Cumbria: How government,
regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have neglected nuclear waste in Cumbria”.
This looked at how hazardous nuclear waste at Sellafield has been stored and handled via three case studies: THORP Reprocessing and Plutonium separation Plant; High Level Liquid Waste
Treatment Facilities and The Treatment of Solid Wastes. (5)
This was followed almost two years later by a 2015 Update, which examined what had
happened since 2013. It made for some grim reading. (6) It highlighted in particular delays to
ending Magnox Reprocessing. In July 2002, the UK Government told its international colleagues
in the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East
Atlantic that Magnox reprocessing was expected to cease by around 2012. It is still operating
today, a decade later. (7)
Later in 2015 the NAO produced an update. (8) This said that the NDA’s estimate of the cost of
‘cleaning up’ Sellafield had risen by £5bn to £53bn in less than a year. Margaret Hodge
described the increase as “astonishing” and noted that it came despite the committee’s call a
year earlier for the authority to get costs under control. The NAO said the NDA had attributed
the higher costs to “a better understanding of the scale and nature of the risks and challenges on
the site”.
The report also revealed that it cost £430,000 to terminate the NDA’s contract with the private
consortium, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), which was responsible for decommissioning
Sellafield. Ms Hodge said it was “galling” that the taxpayer would foot the bill for breaking the
contract, adding that the authority was taking too long to deal with management “incompetence”
at Sellafield. “My committee concluded in February 2014 that the authority had not demonstrated
why Nuclear Management Partners’ ownership of Sellafield provides value for money,” she said.
“Yet the authority only took the decision in January 2015 to terminate this contract, which is
almost a year after my committee told it to do so if performance did not improve.” (9)

The NDA, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, NMP, and Sellafield Ltd. appeared
before the Public Accounts Committee on 11th March 2015. Stephen Lovegrove, the
Department’s Permanent Secretary, told MPs that it was “impossible to know” the costs of the
detoxification of one of the world’s most hazardous nuclear sites, a job that will not be
completed until well into the 22nd century. John Clarke, the chief executive of the NDA, said
experts “can’t yet even start to scope” projects not due to start for many years – meaning that
costs are likely to increase as problems are found. MPs wanted to know why the NDA had not
simply terminated the NMP consortium’s deal when its contract came up for renewal in late

  1. Mr Clarke said that he did not have a “proper analysis” at the time on whether alternative
    options for Sellafield were workable. Mr Clarke insisted that NMP had not failed in its contract,
    rather the way the deal was structured was wrong. (10)
    The most recent NAO report, published in 2018 (11), reported that “work to reduce risk and high
    hazard at Sellafield has taken an encouraging turn for the better” but it still has more work to do.
    The NAO said the NDA cannot show what work has been done to test and understand the
    perceived constraints to making faster progress with reducing high hazards at Sellafield. It is
    not lack of funding which is constraining progress but other factors. NAO recommended that the
    NDA should invest in understanding the drivers of project improvements to ascertain which
    have been most effective and replicable; and test the perceived constraints to faster and further

The NDA, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, NMP, and Sellafield Ltd. appeared
before the Public Accounts Committee on 11th March 2015. Stephen Lovegrove, the
Department’s Permanent Secretary, told MPs that it was “impossible to know” the costs of the
detoxification of one of the world’s most hazardous nuclear sites, a job that will not be
completed until well into the 22nd century. John Clarke, the chief executive of the NDA, said
experts “can’t yet even start to scope” projects not due to start for many years – meaning that
costs are likely to increase as problems are found. MPs wanted to know why the NDA had not
simply terminated the NMP consortium’s deal when its contract came up for renewal in late

  1. Mr Clarke said that he did not have a “proper analysis” at the time on whether alternative
    options for Sellafield were workable. Mr Clarke insisted that NMP had not failed in its contract,
    rather the way the deal was structured was wrong. (10)
    The most recent NAO report, published in 2018 (11), reported that “work to reduce risk and high
    hazard at Sellafield has taken an encouraging turn for the better” but it still has more work to do.
    The NAO said the NDA cannot show what work has been done to test and understand the
    perceived constraints to making faster progress with reducing high hazards at Sellafield. It is
    not lack of funding which is constraining progress but other factors. NAO recommended that the
    NDA should invest in understanding the drivers of project improvements to ascertain which
    have been most effective and replicable; and test the perceived constraints to faster and further progress…………………………………………………

more  https://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/nuClearNewsNo139.pdf

May 19, 2022 - Posted by | safety, UK

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