Sellafield N-plant cleanup costs increase £2.5 billion in a year: report

The estimated cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria, UK, has increased by almost £2.5 billion in a year, according to a report.

According to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), clean-up costs at the complex were up from £67.5 billion in 2013 to an "astonishing" £70 billion.

The report added that progress had been ''poor'' and targets had been missed.

According to the consortium in charge of the clean-up the challenges at Sellafield had been "unprecedented".

The recommendations in the report by the committee of MPs call for termination of the contract of the private consortium Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) if its performance did not improve.

According to the report, the consortium had been brought in six years ago to help Sellafield improve its performance and had its contract extended last October despite "spiralling costs and poor performance".

BBC quoted Margaret Hodge, who chaired the committee, as saying, cleaning up the nuclear waste on this hazardous site was estimated to cost over £70 billion in cash terms. She added, what was worse was that the cost were likely to continue to rise.

Meanwhile, Wolverhampton-based NES - Nuclear Engineering Services had been working with the operators of the Sellafield nuclear power station to demonstrate the idea of using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to extract intermediate level waste from pile fuel cladding silos, so it could be put into containers and stored in purpose-built facilities on the site.

The silos, built more over 60 years ago, were full of irradiated fuel cladding since the early 1960s and were Sellafield's first storage facility for this kind of waste.

As per the original idea, the cladding or the metallic parts taken from the irradiated fuel elements from the piles was to be stored at the original Windscale power station.

Since then, similar cladding from a number of other sites, was also transferred to the facility until it reached capacity in the early 1960s.

A major challenge for the project team is the composition of this mixed radioactive material.

NES demonstrated the remotely-operated vehicles (ROV) technology for use in waste removal, at its Beckermet, Cumbria, facility just three miles from Sellafield.

The demonstration involved the use of ROVs operating within a facility that in certain ways closely resembled aspects of a silo compartment on a small scale.

The two ROVs used were about half the size of the system that was proposed.