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My thoughts on a year of cleaning up UK's earliest nuclear sites

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This is a blog filled with’s my first blog in my first year at the NDA, after becoming Chief Executive in March.

David Peattie, NDA Chief Executive Officer
David Peattie, NDA Chief Executive Officer

This year, also for the first time, we've produced our annual report and accounts as a web page making it easier to read on mobile devices.

Publishing our annual report is much more than a legal requirement. For me, it’s an opportunity to let people know how we’re doing - being open about our financial performance and the progress we’re making against our mission to decommission and clean up the UK’s 17 earliest nuclear sites.

Financial update

In 2016/17, NDA’s estate secured over £1 billion of commercial income through the year, reducing the net impact on the public purse to £2.2 billion. The spend on NDA’s mission during the year was £3.2 billion, and I’m really pleased to say that this spend was within our allocated budget of £3.3 billion.

When talking about finances, it would be remiss of me to not mention the costs we had to cover as a result of the EnergySolutions and Bechtel claims against the NDA, for loss of potential earnings and legal costs over the placing of the Magnox contract.

Whilst we managed to accommodate the £100 million within our budget, thanks to careful financial management and more efficient working across the whole estate, we can’t view the costs as anything other than disappointing.

Although overall savings arising from the contract outweigh the £100 million, any unnecessary burden on the taxpayer is wrong. On joining the NDA, my immediate priority was to resolve this issue. Now, it’s about learning lessons from the ongoing independent inquiry and moving the organisation forward to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Meanwhile more positively, our decision to make Sellafield Ltd an NDA subsidiary is reaping financial benefits for the taxpayer. I’m in no doubt that this change is enabling the Sellafield Ltd management and workforce to deliver work more efficiently, resulting in a saving of more than £200 million last year.

A year of major milestones

This last year has been one of significant progress in delivering our mission.

View our year at a glance

At Sellafield, our largest and most complex site, I’ve been delighted by the success I’ve seen.

This is testament to the perseverance and commitment of the workforce, and the support and innovation from the supply chain. The scale of the achievements at the site, particularly in the high-hazard areas, should not be underestimated.

After years of preparation, Sellafield Ltd is getting ready to take waste out of the oldest and most hazardous silos, and is removing, treating and safely storing radioactive waste from 2 legacy storage ponds on the site. All these facilities date back to the earliest days of nuclear when, unlike in today’s modern nuclear industry, plants weren’t designed with clean-up and decommissioning in mind.

Meanwhile, progress continues on our 12 Magnox sites around the UK.

David Peattie visits Bradwell site in Essex
David Peattie visits Bradwell site in Essex

When I visited the Bradwell site, in Essex, earlier this year I saw what great strides are being made towards reaching its 'care and maintenance' phase. Bradwell will be the first Magnox site to reach this state when the vast majority of the radiological and conventional hazards have been removed from the site, and existing buildings left in-situ while any remaining radioactivity naturally decays.

This year also saw the NDA’s nuclear archive, Nucleus, open in Wick near Dounreay in Scotland. This state-of-the-art facility will become home to important nuclear records from across the whole of the estate. A 5-year project has begun which will see thousands of plans, photographs, drawings and many millions of electronic records transferred to Nucleus.

The achievements across the NDA's estate are many and varied. I encourage you to take a look at the full annual report to really appreciate the remarkable scale of the decommissioning progress being made at all our sites, including places like Dounreay, in the north of Scotland, and at the Low Level Waste Repository in Cumbria.

Read our case studies

Safety is a priority

You’ll hear me repeat that safety is our top priority. It is of the utmost importance to the NDA and to me personally. We set ourselves the highest standards as an organisation and expect these standards throughout our Estate. Although safety performance is largely strong, our annual report outlines a number of safety-related events, which are not going unchallenged.

Thorough investigations have taken place with steps taken to learn from these incidents, address the issues and get safety performance back to the consistently high levels we expect. This is a priority area of focus for me and the NDA Board.

Your thoughts

I’m very keen to hear your thoughts about the NDA. I've made a commitment to use this blog in the future to talk more about developments across the estate. Please share your comments or ask any questions below.

We will shortly be launching an online survey to learn more about your views of the NDA. If you would like to be notified when this survey is launched, then please sign up to our e-bulletin.

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