Industries can share lessons from decommissioning, says NDA report

04 June 2020

The UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has produced an overview of the Cross-industry Learning initiative series of workshops it has been having over the last two years. Each workshop has been based on a series of themes of common interest originally agreed with the Oil and Gas Authority, but now more than 100 organisations, including authorities, academics and regulators have benefitted from sharing "what good looks like, and occasionally what it doesn’t", the NDA said.

The UK is one of the first nations faced with decommissioning legacy infrastructure and facilities (Image: NDA)

In its newly published report, Decommissioning Learnings, Sharing good practice across industrial sectors, the NDA notes that, "being at the forefront of energy production", means that the UK is one of the first nations faced with decommissioning legacy infrastructure and facilities. Commonalities between industries range from the need for technologies that enable remote access to hazardous areas and approaches to regulation, to culture, leadership and project management.

David Peattie, CEO of the NDA, says in the report: "It's important that our industries work together to share lessons learned, swap tools and techniques and build a cross-industry supply chain and exportable UK expertise."

George Colquhoun, CEO of TotalDECOM, notes the "tangible economic benefits" to collaboration between industries. "From a nuclear perspective, over the years, many innovations have had their origins in other industries. Examples include dredger shapes adapted from the clam fishing industry then used in Sellafield ponds for radioactive sludge, sub-sea scanning technologies in murky environments adapted for nuclear ponds, robotic arms adapted from the car industry for use in closed cells for manipulating nuclear waste, remotely operated vehicles (land-based, underwater and aerial drones) adapted from defence, oil and gas, and consumer electronics tasked for surveying hazardous environments," he said.

One of the cross-industry workshops, convened in London in July 2019, examined cost and schedule performance on decommissioning projects.

The nuclear industry has been challenged by its sector deal to reduce the cost of decommissioning the UK civil nuclear estate by 20% (from nearly GBP150 billion), the report says. Oil and gas is similarly challenged to reduce the cost of decommissioning its UK offshore infrastructure by 35% (from GBP60 billion).

Karl Sanderson, head of cross-industry learning at the NDA, and Ian Fozdar, decommissioning manager at the UK Oil and Gas Authority, says that early indications are that oil and gas is making good progress in securing cost reductions while, in contrast, the nuclear provision is rising year on year. They add that “well characterised cost and schedule estimates underpin quality decision making”.

A legacy of the UK civil nuclear estate is that “there is a need to swiftly mitigate nuclear risks in old facilities, making schedule aggressiveness frequently necessary”, they say. An examination of the root causes of over-runs suggests that failure is “often predictable” and rooted in matters, such as inadequate definition and preparation, late changes in strategy and scope, and gaps in project basic data.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News