Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Britain – nuclear industry’s insatiable appetite for taxpayers’ money

For a project whose £740m cost will undoubtedly escalate further, aggrieved taxpayers may take some comfort from Sellafield’s 2012 announcement that plans for a fifth (£600m) Evaporator E had been scrapped. But they should now cast a wary eye to NuGen’s new-build project just across the road from Sellafield where the prospect of further pilfering from the public purse is simmering on the back-burner.

hungry-nukes 1flag-UKNuclear plundering of the public purse – the Sellafield and Moorside billions, Ecologist, Martin Forwood 13th December 2016  While the government is cutting vital public expenditure across the board there’s one industry for which no costs are too great, writes Martin Forwood. The price of an ‘evaporator’ at the Sellafield nuclear complex is escalating towards £1 billion, while billions more of taxpayer finance are being lined up to finance cooling systems, power lines and transport links for the adjacent Moorside new-build nuclear power plant.

The Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s elevation to the US Presidency have turned the international status quo upside down.

But some things – like the nuclear industry’s insatiable appetite for taxpayers’ money – never change.

Sellafield’s Evaporator D project, with NuGen’s Moorside in hot pursuit, is a prime example as it limps along, sustained only by ever increasing helpings from the public purse.

With nuclear power rightly acknowledged as being a hideously expensive way of boiling a kettle, then Evaporator D – known to the Sellafield workforce as the ‘Big Kettle’ – must be breaking all records.

Initially costed at £90 million (2007) and originally due to come into operation in 2010/11, the cost has increased eight-fold to £740m – as at September 2015. With a ‘challenging’ operational date currently pencilled in as 2017/18, and with updated figures yet to be published, the sky is clearly the limit for Evaporator D

The tortured progress of the new Evaporator, designed to reduce (by evaporation) the volume of the dangerous liquid High Level Wastes (HLW) produced by spent fuel reprocessing, reveals a catalogue of project mismanagement and eye-watering cost hikes that show little sign of abating.

Promoted specifically by BNFL and subsequently by the NDA as being urgently needed to support continued reprocessing operations in the B205 (magnox fuel) and THORP (oxide fuel) plant, Evaporator D is currently being shoe-horned into the HLW complex.

There it will join its three fellow but semi-crippled evaporators (A,B & C) whose increasing unreliability through age and internal corrosion had underpinned the urgency for Evaporator D.

A tale of mismanagement and incompetence

Despite claiming not to recognise the £90m estimate of 2007, the NDA was nevertheless happy to confirm a price tag of £100m in 2008, since when the cost of Evaporator D has risen in almost annual increments – with the biggest hike to over £600m.

That number comes in a damning report by the National Audit Office that was highly critical of the NDA’s project management and that of its subsequently sacked contractor Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) who had acted for the NDA as Sellafield’s Parent Body Organisation since 2008. As the NAO reported,

“Gaps in the capability of subcontractors in the supply chain to undertake work to the standards required for nuclear installations have had direct consequences for the speed and efficiency of project delivery. For example, the Authority estimates that £50 million of the £244 million increase in the cost of evaporator D and part of the 18-month delay since 2009 is because the subcontractor lacked experience in welding to the necessary nuclear quality standards.

“The Authority was aware of these risks when it approved the start of construction. It relied on Sellafield Limited’s assurances that its subcontractor could manage the risks. The Authority did not obtain assurance from Sellafield Limited that it had put in place appropriate quality assurance and training.”

The cramped conditions in and around the HLW complex was a major factor in employing the novel option of having the main elements of the Evaporator built off-site (by Interserve at Ellesmere Port) and delivered by barge to Sellafield beach in the form of 11 modules, the largest weighing 500 tonnes and measuring 12.5 x 7.5 x 27 metres tall. The Evaporator, whose top and bottom sections are shown above being fabricated at Ellesmere Port, will operate in an upright position once installed at Sellafield.

Novel as the option was, it soon fell foul of a range of problems that included a disorganised supply chain, design changes, the quality of module fabrication, and seismic qualification.

With the modules delivered to Sellafield beach and hauled onto site between 2011 and 2013, Evaporator D’s cost increases from 2013 onwards are largely attributed by the NDA to the ‘transfer of incomplete modules to site’. This resulted in extensive additional cutting and welding work being needed – in a confined work space – to connect together the component parts of the Evaporator system.

And now Evaporator D looks set to miss the ‘reprocessing boat’

The greatest irony of all is, of course, that despite the early hullabaloo about its urgent and crucial support role for reprocessing at Sellafield, Evaporator D can be of service to THORP reprocessing (due to finish in 2018) for no more than one year at best.

At worst it will be of service only for THORP’s post-2018 clean out, the remnant days of B205 reprocessing which is due to end around 2020 and other site decommissioning work.

Faced with this prospect and the embarrassing reality that its much vaunted Evaporator D could indeed miss the THORP reprocessing boat for which it was primarily designed, the NDA and Sellafield Ltd damage limitation teams have recently swung into top gear – by stressing the Evaporator’s future decommissioning role through its ability to deal with the larger waste particles expected to be encountered during the coming years of clean-up work.

For a project whose £740m cost will undoubtedly escalate further, aggrieved taxpayers may take some comfort from Sellafield’s 2012 announcement that plans for a fifth (£600m) Evaporator E had been scrapped. But they should now cast a wary eye to NuGen’s new-build project just across the road from Sellafield where the prospect of further pilfering from the public purse is simmering on the back-burner.

Moorside nuclear power plant – another massive drain on taxpayers’ money……

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988449/nuclear_plundering_of_the_public_purse_the_sellafield_and_moorside_billions.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=

 

December 19, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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