The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) regulates the Sellafield site licensee (Sellafield Ltd) against a strategy set by the ONR Sellafield Programme. Our strategy underpins the extant 2014/2015 regulatory inspection plan for the Waste and Effluent Disposition (WEDD) and Infrastructure Directorates, which identifies that Licence Condition 26 (LC26, control and supervision of operations) will be inspected in September 2014.
I completed an LC26 compliance inspection of the Waste Vitrification Plant (WVP) Line 3 within the High Level Waste Plants (HLWP) Operating Unit, part of the WED Division within the Sellafield Ltd organisation. I undertook this intervention at the WVP site offices on the Sellafield site in West Cumbria.
The focus of this LC compliance inspection was on the supervisory competence of WVP staff as they recover Line 3 to vitrification operations following an internal contamination event in November 2013. The WVP staff supervise plant activities that include the management of Highly Active Liquor (HAL), a significant hazard on site.
The return to service of Line 3 depends upon SL complying with an Improvement Notice served by ONR following the November 2013 event. Therefore, this inspection also covered a review of wider preparations by the facility to ensure that the plant could Return to Service (RTS) safely in line with this Improvement Notice, and could sustain reprocessing operations for an extended period post restart in support of high hazard reduction at site.
ONR also conducted another inspection in parallel with this one, looking specifically at SL’s resolution of matters relating to the Improvement Notice. That inspection is reported separately.
I completed an on-site inspection, which lasted one working day. The compliance inspection was undertaken in accordance with the following ONR processes and supporting inspection guidance:
N/A This was not a Safety System inspection.
I discussed the importance of control and supervision with the Head of HLWP, and reiterated my expectation that they will explicitly assure themselves that Line 3 is safe to restart (i.e. the lessons from the November 2013 event have been learned), prior to allowing HAL feed to recommence.
I consider that, in the areas I inspected, the licensee has provided adequate evidence in support of their claim that they provide adequate supervision of plant operations, utilising personnel with sufficient knowledge and experience. I also note that the extended duration of the forced outage and the importance of the facility to hazard reduction on site have combined to increase licensee oversight in support of the restart.
The evidence presented during this intervention was sufficient to demonstrate that the WVP facility operations team provide sufficient oversight of plant operations that affect nuclear safety, and are compliant with the arrangements for control and supervision of operations. Therefore, I consider that an IIS rating of 3 (adequate) against LC26 (control and supervision of operations) is appropriate.
Given the importance of this facility to achieving hazard reduction on site, I have also raised a Regulatory Issue to facilitate ONR’s tracking of the pre- and post-RTS actions being undertaken by the licensee. These actions are detailed in the licensee’s Management Investigation Report (MIR) that reviewed the event in November 2013, and set out the activities to be completed to ensure this event would be not be repeated.