Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Sellafield - Evaporator D Programme Inspection

Executive summary

Purpose of intervention

The purpose of this intervention was to gain regulatory confidence that the Evaporator D programme is credible, and suitably underpinned to support the date for completion of active connections to the existing HALES (Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage) facility by November 2016 - as declared by the licensee.

This was a planned intervention supported by independent external experts (under a TSC contract) in support of ONR’s objective 8 - Hazard and risk reduction from Highly Active Liquor (HAL).

Interventions Carried Out by ONR

Timely delivery of the Evaporator D project is critical for continuing hazard reduction and remediation at the Sellafield site, particularly due to the limited remnant life of evaporator. In September 2014, ONR informed the licensee that we had regulatory concerns in the timely delivery of the Evaporator D programme. Consequently, ONR would conduct an independent intervention to gain the necessary regulatory confidence in the programme.

In response, the licensee conducted its own review of the programme in Oct/Nov’14. This review resulted in inclusion of additional scope and adjustment to the durations and the project completion date slipped to November 2016.

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

In sampling Evaporator D programme, we judged that:

The licensee’s own review of the schedule has resulted in demonstrable improvements to the planning and delivery of the remaining construction activities. This has provided more confidence that construction programme is better underpinned.

The engineering that has been delivered to date on the project is impressive, particularly taking into account space constraints. Once delivered the facility will be an important asset to the site. Overall, the safety culture is robust and performance is good.

We understand that organisational changes are planned, specifically at the commissioning leadership level. We support this as clarity around organisational arrangements that ensure the right commissioning leadership are imperative, if the commissioning activities are to be delivered in a timely manner.

Pre-operations team have brought forward a number of significant opportunities around early connections and permissioning, however, similar opportunities need to be explored in the commissioning phase.

In sampling the Evaporator D programme, in our opinion the following areas require increased focus to ensure timely delivery of Evaporator D:

It is our opinion that the forecast date of November 2016 for completion of active tie-ins is challenging and that further focus on the commissioning programme, the risk management process, organisational set-up and the contractual arrangements with the principal contractor and the sub-contractors is required.

It is our opinion that increased personal focus and a clear line of sight between the licensee’s senior management and the project staff will provide further encouragement, motivation and leadership to drive through improvements.

We believe that there are gaps in the risk management process, and there are shortfalls in recording and categorisation of certain key technical and programme risks. We accepted that some work had been done in all of the areas sampled; however, identification and categorisation on the risk register would allow the licensee to appropriately prioritise and co-ordinate its mitigation actions.

From information sampled, we saw little evidence of incentives being used to improve project performance. It is understood that the Shepley (construction sub-contractor) contract has been revised to include an element of incentivisation but we do not believe this is likely to benefit the commissioning programme. Hence, there is an opportunity to consider how different incentivisation approaches could benefit the overall project.

In our opinion, the team is experienced and well integrated, although now the focus should move to more of an operations culture. The commissioning and pre ops teams may benefit from further strengthening if practicable, particularly at the team leader and operator level with people who have production plant experience.

The licensee should consider identifying a dedicated resource to focus on identifying and driving through improvements at the programme level, free from day to day delivery/reporting pressures.

The licensee should consider integrating a construction ‘squad’ within the commissioning team to drive the reservation/remainder of construction activities to completion, leaving the commissioning team to focus on their core skills.

The licensee should consider how lessons learnt during its own programme review and that highlighted through ONR’s intervention are to be promulgated through the major projects portfolio.

Conclusion of Intervention

It is our judgement based on the evidence provided by the licensee that, the forecast date of November 2016 for completion of active tie-ins is challenging and the licensee should focus on the outlined areas above to achieve timely delivery of the project.