Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Licence Condition 4 and 32 compliance inspection at First Generation Magnox Storage Ponds (FGMSP) and Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP)

Executive summary

Purpose of intervention

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) undertakes all regulatory interaction with the Sellafield site licensee (Sellafield Limited, SL) against a strategy defined by the ONR Sellafield Programme.  In accordance with that Strategy, a planned compliance inspection was undertaken in July 2015 at the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) and Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) against Licence Conditions 4 (LC4, management of nuclear matter on the site) and 32 (LC32, accumulation of radioactive waste). 

These facilities were chosen for the inspection as they contain significant inventories of legacy waste and enabled the inspection to address a number of key objectives. Firstly, ONR was able to examine the adequacy of implementation of the licensee’s arrangements for compliance with these Licence Conditions, secondly we were able inspect progress against actions arising from the joint ONR/Environment Agency inspection in October 2014 when compliance with LC32 had been judged to be below standard.  Thirdly, we were able to inspect SL’s progress with the resolution of “waste bottlenecks” associated with Low and Intermediate Level Wastes (LLW and ILW).  This is important to maintaining our confidence that the momentum of high hazard and risk reduction on-site would not be impacted adversely.

Interventions Carried Out by ONR

My inspection, carried out jointly with the Environment Agency (EA), took place over three days and involved discussions with key Sellafield Ltd staff, examination of relevant documentation and a plant walk down. I was supported on the inspection by two specialist inspectors (radioactive waste management and decommissioning/nuclear liabilities). A member of Sellafield Limited’s independent internal regulation team also participated in the inspection.

LC4 requires the licensee to make and implement adequate arrangements for bringing nuclear matter on to the site and for its storage on the site.  The meaning of “nuclear matter” is assigned in the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (as amended).

LC32 requires the licensee to make and implement adequate arrangements for minimising, so far as is reasonably practicable, the rate of production and total quantity of radioactive waste accumulated on the site at any time and for recording the waste so accumulated. 

Explanation of Judgement if Safety System Not Judged to be Adequate

This was not a safety system inspection.

Key Findings, Inspector's Opinions and Reasons for Judgements Made

I noted that the licensee’s written arrangements provided to demonstrate compliance with Licence Condition 4 did not appropriately define nuclear matter. SL’s definition does not cover all materials that I would expect to be defined as nuclear matter.  The licensee was, however, able to provide adequate evidence of the implementation of arrangements to control nuclear materials and other materials that I would expect to fall within the scope of nuclear matter as defined under the Nuclear Installations Act. 

With respect to Licence Condition 32, I noted that the licensee has made significant progress since the inspection in October 2014. I observed improvements in housekeeping in the relevant areas, with less legacy wastes and more evidence of better control of waste by the licensee.  It is my opinion that this area will require continued attention by the licensee and oversight from ONR to ensure that the improving trend is maintained.

I noted that new temporary waste laydown areas have been brought into service for the major high hazard and risk reduction projects, with written Conditions for Acceptance and appropriate management controls.  It is my opinion that these will alleviate problems with the temporary storage of wastes, particularly large items of ILW and items that cannot be immediately categorised as LLW.  The continuing availability of temporary ILW storage capacity is, however, not assured beyond early 2016.  Consequently, I believe it is important that the licensee resolves this issue to minimise the risk of delays in high hazard and risk reduction associated with management of decommissioning wastes, particularly ILW. 

The licensee has issued an updated site-wide procedure for the management of wastes in June 2016, which addresses a number of the shortfalls identified during the October 2014 inspection.  This procedure includes minimum standards for waste storage, a requirement for a safety case or Plant Modification Proposal (PMP) for temporary waste storage, a maximum time period for such storage, requirements for recording of accumulated radioactive wastes and regular inspections.  It is my opinion that the licensee has made progress in recording of accumulated wastes and is improving its waste forecasting to underpin development of waste strategies.

Conclusion of Intervention

From the evidence sampled during this inspection, I judge that the licensee’s arrangements for compliance with LC4 are below standard, because they do not define nuclear matter adequately.  This procedural shortfall makes it difficult for the licensee to demonstrate compliance with LC4 in a transparent manner, but I do not consider this to be significant with respect to nuclear safety.  I consider that the licensee’s arrangements for the control of nuclear material, radioactive substances and items (such as radioactive sources), radioactive wastes and contaminated land provide appropriate means of control and management of materials that would fall within the definition of nuclear matter. It is my opinion that an IIS rating of 4 (below standard) is appropriate for compliance against LC4. I will agree an appropriate action with the licensee to address this shortfall.

I consider that the licensee has made significant improvements since October 2014. From the evidence sampled, it is my opinion that an IIS rating of adequate (3) is appropriate for compliance against LC32.

I consider the situation regarding the nature of the arrangements in place for the long term management of ILW presents an ongoing risk to progress with high hazard and risk reduction activities.  I am therefore defining a regulatory issue relating to management of decommissioning wastes supporting high hazard and risk reduction to ensure it receives appropriate focus and oversight.  This issue will also incorporate any outstanding matters from the regulatory issues raised in October 2014.