Statement from PAC Chair on Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: Managing risk reduction at Sellafield

07 November 2012

A statement from the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts

Sellafield is the UK's largest and most hazardous nuclear site. It has suffered from decades of neglect, saddling taxpayers with a century-long clean-up job with a £67 billion price tag. The scale and complexity of the task is immense. On a site of 1,400 buildings, 240 contain enough nuclear waste combined to fill 27 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Projects of this length and ambition are ripe for dithering and delay. I am dismayed to discover the clean-up of Sellafield is no different. The Authority's revised plan sees critical milestones shunted back by up to seven years. After only ten months of operating under the new plan, performance in 12 out of 14 major projects has been dire. Between May 2011 and March 2012, the seven major projects in construction accumulated delays of between two and 19 months. The estimated lifetime costs of the largest project in the design stage escalated by an enormous £600 million.

Hazardous radioactive waste is housed in buildings which pose "intolerable risks to people and the environment". My concern is that unless the Authority holds Sellafield Limited to a clear and rigorously benchmarked plan, timetables will continue to slip and costs spiral. It is totally unacceptable to allow today's poor management to shift the burden and expense of Sellafield to future generations of taxpayers and their families.

My Committee will want the Authority to assure us that they can establish robust benchmarks to make sure that its plan for Sellafield bears down on inefficiency and waste in the supply chain. Importantly, the Authority needs to provide Parliament with regular reports to enable proper public scrutiny.

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