A new approach to decommissioning Magnox & RSRL sites

25 February 2015

Cavendish Fluor Partnership has begun to implement a new approach at 12 UK nuclear sites. It will safely decommission the sites, while providing savings to the NDA. By Kenny Douglas

Cavendish Fluor Partnership (CFP), a joint venture between Cavendish Nuclear of the UK and Fluor Corporation of the US, is putting into practice a strategy for managing safe and timely decommissioning of 12 of the UK's nuclear sites (ten with Magnox plants and two housing research reactors) over the next 14 years. CFP officially became the new parent body organisation (PBO) for site licence companies (SLCs) Magnox and Research Sites Restoration Ltd (RSRL) on 1 September 2014, when share transfer and formal contract award by the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) took place. It is now focused on delivering each of the 12 sites to its agreed and defined point (either interim end state, or care and maintenance), at a potential saving anticipated to be in excess of £1.5 billion against the previous site lifetime plans.
CFP's approach draws on the two partners' extensive UK and US decommissioning experience and track record in reducing annual spend and through-life cost. Its key features include a programme-based approach, organisational transformation, integrated management, and safety and technical innovation.

The first phase was a five month transition programme in advance of official contract award, implementing preparatory measures for a seamless handover from the two previous PBOs to the new one, with minimal impact on the existing teams and continuity of the work taking place at the sites. In this intensive period CFP introduced the new management team to the SLC management and workforce, engaged with stakeholders, and did initial due diligence on the sites' lifetime plans, assessing progress against the information gained and assumptions made in the bidding process. Preparations were also laid for organisational transformation, to gain a better understanding of the processes being used, procurement and existing site initiatives, and for ensuring that all regulatory requirements were met and the highest level of safety standards implemented.
With this phase successfully completed, and the contract awarded, CFP is now taking a staged and carefully managed approach to put its management strategy and lifetime plans for the sites into operation.

Seeking a single SLC

A single organisation with common systems is at the core of this approach, and Cavendish Fluor Partnership is seeking approval to run the two site licence companies within a single organisation. The option to relicense into one SLC in spring 2015 is being explored with the regulatory authorities, and Magnox and RSRL are currently in a period of shadow working, trialling a common board and executive structure to allow regulators to test the proposed arrangements.

In the event relicensing takes place, all 12 sites are expected to come together into one organisation (Magnox Limited) in mid 2015. In this event, a CFP integrated management system will be employed.

Following relicensing, and as part of CFP's single organisation strategy, the single SLC will also standardise management, operational systems and processes across all 12 sites, and maximise learning across all locations. So approval for an approach gained at one site will be replicated across the other sites, incorporating experience from each. This "lead and learn" approach delivers locally while integrating the process and programme across all the sites, increasing knowledge, reducing risk and improving value for money.

Some standardisation will be explored in advance of relicensing to a single SLC. For example, we are modularising the safety and environmental case approach, using a safety case interface software tool. The intention is to take a generic approach wherever possible within a framework strategy. A safety and environmental case will be delivered at one site, and adapted to the next one, accommodating design differences, applying site-specific requirements, retaining procedures as appropriate and sharing or transferring the experience gained.

A programme approach is another core tenet of the CFP strategy. The Magnox organisation already adopts such an approach, and this will be rolled out further to include the Harwell and Winfrith sites. The approach will also be improved through the introduction of a number of new programmes. Ten core programmes or projects have been identified, which collectively deliver the mission and around which the organisational structure will progressively align. In each case, a programme director will lead a team focused on delivering that programme across all sites. The programmes will cover areas such as ponds; plant and structures; legacy waste; waste operations; defuelling; reactors; site restoration; asset management; and care and maintenance. Roll out and delivery of these programmes will start in the second quarter of 2015, but preparatory work is already under way to align plans and projects to the new approach.

Technical innovation

Equally important in the Cavendish Fluor approach is technical innovation, which will build on experience and proven techniques from within the nuclear industry and the partners' own experience in the UK and US, as well as potentially bringing best practice from other industries. Cavendish Fluor will work with the SLC teams, NDA, stakeholders and regulators to ensure that the appropriate technical approach is taken for each site.
One example is a simplified approach to the treatment of fuel element debris (FED). Whereas previously this was treated and disposed of through a dissolution process, for a number of the sites this will now be treated by encapsulating the FED using a cementation process, and then allowing it to decay.

A further example is in waste storage, where integrated solutions and lower cost options are being considered. (CFP is in the process of finalising its proposed waste strategy). Where appropriate, waste will be stored in reinforced concrete boxes - which are proven, fit for purpose, and represent value for money - or in cost-effective, versatile and lightweight TRUShield containers, in preference to ductile cast iron containers (commonly known as yellow boxes or Mosaiks). Again, the experience of the SLC teams will help shape the application of the approaches proposed by Cavendish Fluor.

A proposed cross-estate approach to asset management will standardise the maintenance programme and level across sites that are at the same stage within the decommissioning programme. This system can provide substantial savings when applied across an estate and has proved to be very effective when applied across some of the larger sites in the US.

Long-term opportunities

It is important that the Cavendish Fluor strategy provides long-term employment opportunities for the SLC workforce (now part of the largest so-called nuclear "suitably qualified and experienced personnel", team in the UK). Both Cavendish Nuclear and Fluor are ambitious growing companies with interest in the UK's new-build programmes (of which four potential sites are adjacent to Magnox sites). At the appropriate time, the companies will seek to maximise the opportunity for the skilled workforce to move from decommissioning into the new-build programme. There will also be opportunities within one of the two parent companies when the decommissioning work is complete. Cavendish Fluor's single approach, category management, SME engagement, and SLC staff development will also be valuable in optimising the supply chain.

The contract requiring Cavendish Fluor Partnership to deliver the 12 nuclear sites to their interim and final end states over a 14-year period falls into two distinct phases, each with defined output requirements. The first, from 2014 to 2021, will see all the Magnox stations defuelled and spent fuel reprocessed, four Magnox sites (Bradwell, Chapelcross, Dungeness A and Trawsfynydd) taken into the interim or final care and maintenance phase, and Winfrith achieving interim end state. By the end of the second phase, lasting from 2021 to 2028, all the remaining sites must have entered care and maintenance, and Harwell must be at interim end state with the reactors dismantled.

When the NDA announced the Cavendish Fluor Partnership as the preferred bidder for the Magnox and RSRL contract, NDA chief executive John Clarke called the selection "a significant step in our drive to attract world-class management and innovation to our sites." To meet this challenge CFP intends to manage the capability and experience residing in the Magnox and RSRL SLCs by agreeing and applying the right strategy for decommissioning and waste management, and turning that strategy into detailed programmes with clear targets, choosing the right people to deliver them, adopting robust corporate governance processes, providing incisive challenge and demonstrating leadership, while learning from experience and reducing cost.

About the author

Kenny Douglas is managing director of Magnox and RSRL. This article was first published in the February issue of Nuclear Engineering International

Deplanting and demolition work is underway at various Magnox sites Deplanting and demolition work is underway at various Magnox sites
Map of Magnox/RSRL* sites with timescales for entering care and maintenance/interim end state* Map of Magnox/RSRL sites
Intermediate level waste processing at Trawsfynydd Intermediate level waste processing at Trawsfynydd
Wylfa, which still has one unit in operation, is due to enter care and maintenance by 2028 Wylfa, which still has one unit in operation, is due to enter care and maintenance by 2028

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