“We don’t know what is in the Sellafield ponds – but we want more” say the nuclear mafia

The B30 pond showing a full loading with fuel rods and radioactive debris
The B30 pond showing a full loading with fuel rods and radioactive debris

NDA National Stakeholder* Event

29 October 2014 Meeting Report

Published 19 December 2014

*see astonishing revelation below


Question: You talked about the biggest project at Sellafield – Silos Direct
Encapsulation Plant (SDP). Can you explain whether that is within the current
spending plan or will it be additional spend?

John Clarke: The answer is a bit of both. The existing plan for Sellafield does
cover the SDP project however the cost is significantly more than originally
estimated and so we have to go back to Government for approval. Each site has an
overall site funding limit but it is up to the sites to
National Event Meeting Report 29 October 2014

decide where their priorities lie. The total cost for SDP is around £3 billion, but
that will not all fall within the next spending review – it will be over the next
12/13 years. The bulk is beyond the next spending round.

Question: Speaking as a county councillor, re new build. What is the relationship
between new build developers and the NDA?

John Clarke: The NDA has no direct role in new build, however, as an NDPB we are
supportive of Government policy. The role we do have is modest. We have been asked
to review new build operators’ plans for decommissioning to ensure they are costed
and adequate. A fund will be created, intended to develop sufficiently to discharge
the liability. We are also looking at whether there would be ways of optimising
spent fuel management between us and new build operators. We have previously sold
land for new build and we have more land available if necessary. We are also having
discussions with new build developers to see where we can work collaboratively, for
example on skills, managing a transient workforce (for construction) and on
stakeholder engagement issues, to ensure we are joined up.

Question: I have a number of questions regarding Sellafield.

Are you getting to the bottom of what is in the ponds? What materials (plutonium,
uranics, etc) are in there and have we got an accurate inventory?

Is the physical structure of the ponds sound?

Are you using non-intrusive investigative techniques? Speed is of the essence here,
and the longer you take, the more worries there will be about the integrity of the

What emergency plans are in place if there is a leak and what are you doing to
ensure there is sufficient water?

John Clarke: Yes, we are getting to the bottom of many of the issues associated with
the ponds. In a general sense, we know what is in the ponds – spent fuel.
Specifically we don’t know what form the spent fuel is in. Lots of work is going on
to characterise, however, uncertainties will remain until we get to the bottom of
the ponds and see what is there.

On the physical integrity of the structures, we have taken core samples and they are
actually in pretty good condition. They wouldn’t meet modern standards but they are
not in imminent danger of falling down. We are using the most modern non-intrusive
techniques and carrying out a raft of work to reduce risks, particularly on
retrieving the waste. All sorts of techniques are being considered for retrievals
from the pond but we always come back to grabbers for the silos. This might sound
rather agricultural but it is the best way of accessing the silos. With ponds, we
are deploying underwater remotely operated submarines but we are always looking at
different techniques.

On emergency processes, being ready for an emergency is a high priority for us. The
key priority is to be prepared, especially since Fukushima, which has led to
arrangements being stepped up. We would all wish for the problems associated with
the ponds and silos to go away quickly but the most important consideration is to
ensure issues are dealt with safely – this is the No 1 priority.

Question: The plutonium debate needs more emphasis in the document and to be
Adrian Simper: I agree with the importance but we need to take our time to ensure
that we make the right decision.

Stakeholder engagement

The session on stakeholder engagement and socio-economics had to be cancelled due to
other sessions over running. Participants were sent a note of what would have been
said at the session and were asked to provide any feedback. The information from
that note is included below.
While the overarching principles of public and stakeholder engagement remain the
same, our experience over the last nine years and the different circumstances in
which we will be engaging in the future will result in some changes to the way in
which we deliver our engagement.
At the local community level, we will see several Magnox sites enter into Care &
Maintenance and Winfrith reach its Interim End State through the period of Strategy
3. With activity shifting towards monitoring and surveillance on these sites during
this period it is clear that the current structures and arrangements for engaging
locally with stakeholders will need to evolve to be appropriate to their changing
circumstances. On current plans three EdF Energy stations are due to close within
the Strategy 3 period – 2016 to 2021. Even if life extensions are agreed for these
stations they will probably be at least making plans for their eventual
decommissioning during the Strategy 3 period. Also, in the same period we are due to
see construction start on a new fleet of reactors on land adjacent to existing
We have been considering the appropriate mechanisms for local engagement around NDA
sites entering Care & Maintenance and these will continue to be the subject of
discussion with local stakeholders and the relevant site stakeholder groups. We do
not believe that a “one size fits all” approach is appropriate.
Given that some of these communities will have an EDF Energy station entering or
preparing for decommissioning and some with new build under construction as well,
there will clearly be a need for significant engagement. We propose to engage with
EdF Energy and the relevant new build companies to share our understanding and
experience of community engagement to help map out appropriate solutions in
partnership with each community.
Beyond the local community level we will review our engagement mechanisms to ensure
we offer good opportunities for discussion with all those who have an interest in
our activities.

We undertook a review of national engagement during the Strategy 2 period and made
some changes. However, further changes to our estate, for example the creation of
one parent body to manage all the Magnox and RSRL sites, lead us to question how
appropriate the current engagement arrangements are.

Also, the increasing interest and involvement of local authorities around our sites
and in some cases a lack of dialogue between them and their site stakeholder group
have also resulted in us considering whether there are better forms of engagement.

National Event Meeting Report 29 October 2014

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