The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has awarded the contract for management and operation of the low-level waste (LLW) repository at Drigg, in Cumbria, to UK Nuclear Waste Management Ltd.

The initial contract is for a period of five years with the potential of further extension periods, subject to performance and NDA management approval, up to a total of 17 years.

The price range for the first five years is £125 million plus potential additional work depending on the LLW strategy during that period.

The contract could have a value of between £200 million and £500 million. It is not capped at £500 million but subject to incentives and fee negotiation per implementation package.

The UK Nuclear Waste Management consortium is led by URS Washington Division and includes Studsvik UK, Areva and Serco Assurance.

The award follows a two-year tender process and completes the first in a series of tenders for NDA sites.

The NDA claims that proposals to reduce costs at the repository will deliver savings of over £100 million while “innovative” technical proposals aimed at delivering a 20% reduction in the UK’s LLW liability could result in savings of up to £1 billion.

The contract has two primary elements. The first element includes managing the repository and maintaining future capacity for its existing storage vaults, gaining regulatory approval for continued operation at the site and developing plans for the long-term future of the site.

The second element, which is particularly important to Studsvik, commissions the consortium to develop a LLW strategy to manage the increased levels of waste expected from decommissioning. In this context, Studsvik has pointed out the benefits of waste volume reduction and recycling of metals.

Dick Raaz, nominated managing director of the consortium, said: “UK Nuclear Waste Management brings together a group of companies with world-beating experience in nuclear waste management. We look forward to bringing our experience and technology to bear on the UK’s extensive legacy of LLW.

“We believe that in partnership with the NDA, we can make a real difference. Like the NDA, we are committed to the fullest possible engagement with national and local stakeholders.”

On 1 April 2008, the new contract comes into effect with the transfer of shares in the site licence company from British Nuclear Group to UK Nuclear Waste Management Ltd.

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