The Government is expected to take back control of the clean-up of nuclear waste at Cumbria’s Sellafield, following a string of failures by a private sector consortium of US, French and British engineers. Alarmed by spiralling budgets – £70bn and counting – and a series of delays to crucial projects, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has quietly drafted in a team of consultants from the accountants KPMG to review how Sellafield is run, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
It is running through three options to sort out a situation in which 12 of 14 major projects were behind schedule last year, as well as last month’s £700,000 fine for sending bags filled with radioactive waste to a landfill site in Cumbria rather than a specialist facility.
The most eye-catching – and believed to be favoured – choice, involves stripping the contract from Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium made up of URS from California, France’s Areva and Amec, one of Britain’s biggest listed companies.
In a report published in February, the Public Accounts Committee said that successive governments had failed to tackle the build-up of nuclear waste at Sellafield, which includes a 60-year-old storage pond with radioactive sludge that could half-fill an Olympic swimming pool. The report added: “Deadlines for cleaning up Sellafield have been missed, while total lifetime costs for decommissioning the site continue to rise each year and now stand at £67.5bn. It is essential that the authority brings a real sense of urgency to its oversight of Sellafield.”