The recently produced UK government White Paper on the future of the nuclear industry looks at managing the nuclear legacy, and outlines the steps necessary for the creation of the Liabilities Management Authority (LMA) which will take on the financial responsibility for all public sector civil nuclear liabilities and assets, along with the associated legal responsibility for most of those currently belonging to BNFL.

The White Paper outlines how the new arrangements should operate in practice. It reflects the scale of the technical and managerial challenges involved in nuclear clean up and the government’s intention, through competition, to ensure that the best available skills and experience from the public and private sectors are brought to bear on the task.

The government’s priority is to ensure that clean up is carried out safely, securely, cost effectively and in ways that protect the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.

The nuclear legacy represents about 85% of total UK nuclear liabilities, and is wholly the responsibility of the government. These liabilities comprise of:

• Those nuclear sites and facilities now operated by UKAEA and BNFL which were developed up to the 1960s to support the government’s research programmes, and the wastes, materials and spent fuel produced by those programmes.

• The Magnox reactors built in the 1960s and 1970s, now operated by BNFL, plant and facilities at Sellafield for reprocessing Magnox fuel, and all associated wastes and materials.

Six of the 11 Magnox stations built are currently operational, but by 2010, they will all have been closed. UKAEA’s last operational fission reactor closed in 1994. The Joint European Torus (JET) which supports fusion research at UKAEA’s Culham site remains operational, but will have to be decommissioned when it closes.

The Liabilities Management Authority

The government is proposing to set up a new Liabilities Management Authority (LMA) responsible to the government with a specific remit to clean up the nuclear legacy.

Because it will be responsible for the nuclear legacy as a whole, the LMA will be able to set the right framework for systematic and progressive delivery of the clean up programme; promote and exploit synergies between different sites; encourage the development of best practice; and ensure that resources are deployed where they are most needed. It will also be in a position to take decisions that balance short, medium and long term considerations and reflect the fact that the clean up programme has to be sustained over more than 100 years.

Competition will be central to the LMA’s approach. Developing competitive markets for clean up contracts will help to stimulate innovation and improvements in safety and operating standards to enable the LMA to make the best possible use of the skills available. While UKAEA and BNFL will have the opportunity to be suppliers of choice, the management of clean up will be opened up to competition and there will be a greater emphasis on competitive procurement of decommissioning and support services.

What the LMA will do

The LMA’s main task will be to put an overall strategy in place for dealing with the legacy safely, securely, and in accordance with national and international environmental requirements. In particular:

• Taking legal and financial responsibility for legacy sites and ensuring that the right arrangements are in place for driving forward the clean up programme.

• Holding those responsible for site management to account for performance against objectives.

• Putting in place comprehensive long term plans for the clean up of all of its sites and ensuring that short term priorities for each site over 5-10 years are clearly identified.

• Ensuring that the skills and resources required for clean up are available and can be sustained over the medium and long term.

• In conjunction with the site licensees and the regulators, managing the competing demands of different sites to ensure that the skills and resources available are used to best effect.

• Working with licensees and regulators to exploit synergies between sites and applying relevant lessons learned at one site to others.

• Drawing on best practice overseas and in other sectors to improve performance and delivery.

The LMA will not directly manage the sites for which it is responsible. Instead, it will contract with site licensees who will be responsible for delivering the clean up programme for each site consistent with the regulatory requirements which apply.

The site licensees will be responsible for managing their sites in accordance with safety, security and environmental requirements. They will work with the LMA and regulators to develop and regularly update comprehensive long term plans for clean up. Short term individual decommissioning and clean up projects will be planned and carried out using subcontractors.

Contracts will provide for the sharing of business risk, set key performance indicators and establish payment mechanisms within a framework aimed at incentivising licensees to deliver specific outcomes safely and at best value. The LMA will publish information about the incentivisation structures written into its contracts. Key performance measures, and information about performance against them, will also be published.