Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Sellafield readiness inspection

Executive summary

Purpose of Intervention

On 24-25 September 2019 the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) undertook an intervention (supplemented by a Conventional Health & Safety Intervention on 19 September 2019) on the Sellafield site to inspect Sellafield Ltd’s (SL) readiness to commence construction of Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant (SRP) base slab, main building and Sellafield Product and Residue Store (SPRS) to SRP elevated transfer tunnel.

On completion of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing in 2020 and national consolidation activities, SL will house a significant stockpile of Special Nuclear Material (SNM) held in a range of packages. Left untreated, these packages (consisting of various layered containment can systems) are at risk to loss of containment faults via a range of mechanisms and therefore need to be retreated and/or repackaged in alignment with their substantiated lifetime.

Construction of a new retreatment plant (SRP) is key to SL being able to meet its objective of risk reduction and safe storage of the nuclear material and will serve to provide treatment and re-packaging capability to prepare the material for safe longer term storage. The purpose of the intervention was to inspect SL’s implementation of its safety case under its Licence Condition (LC) 19 arrangements for this project and to gain assurance that, SL is in a state of readiness to safely commence the proposed construction activities. The findings of the intervention will be used to inform the regulatory decision on SL’s request for ONR’s agreement to commence the construction of SPRS Retreatment Plant (SRP) base slab, main building and SPRS to SRP elevated transfer tunnel.

Interventions Carried Out by ONR

The scope of this intervention was to inspect the SRP project from a people, plant and processes perspective and assess the licensee’s readiness to safely commence construction of SPRS Retreatment Plant (SRP) base slab, main building and SPRS to SRP elevated transfer tunnel. A team comprising the ONR Project Inspector, Civil Engineering Specialist Inspector and Supply Chain and Quality Assurance (QA) Specialist Inspector carried out the inspection.

Supplementary to this, ONR inspected SL’s arrangements from a conventional health & safety perspective via a separate intervention on 19 September 2019, the output of which, feeds directly into this intervention report.

The readiness inspection was undertaken against LC 19 ‘Construction or installation of new plant’, which requires that the licensee shall make and implement adequate arrangements to control the construction or installation.  

The inspection comprised desktop-based discussions, construction site inspection and concrete batching plant inspection. It was undertaken against LC 19 in accordance with ONR guidance Technical Inspection Guide (TIG) NS-INSP-GD-019, LC19: Construction or installation of new plant, Revision 5, November 2018.

Explanation of Judgement if Safety System Not Judged to be Adequate

Not applicable.

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

No matters were identified requiring immediate regulatory attention during the conduct of the inspection.

Based on the evidence sampled during this intervention, I judge that SL’s implementation of its safety case under its LC 19 arrangements as Green (no formal action) With respect to ONR’s TIG NS-INSP-GD-019, SL adequately demonstrated:

Based on the evidence sampled I am satisfied that the licensee has adequate arrangements in place to manage the process of implementing the SRP safety case.

Overall, I am satisfied that SL has appropriate arrangements to enable it to commence construction of SPRS Retreatment Plant (SRP) base slab, main building and SPRS to SRP elevated transfer tunnel.

Conclusion of Intervention

Based on ONR’s findings from the available evidence, I judge that SL’s implementation of its safety case under its LC19 arrangements is adequate in this instance. No shortfalls were identified that would prevent permission being granted for SL to commence the proposed construction activities.

I am satisfied that SL has appropriate arrangements in place to enable it to commence construction of SRP and for implementing its safety case. I therefore consider, noting the ONR guidance on inspection ratings, that an inspection rating of Green (no formal action required) is merited here.