The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has awarded a contract to the UK Nuclear Waste Management consortium for the management and operation of the Drigg low-level radioactive waste repository in Cumbria.
|Emplacing wastes at Drigg (Image: NDA)
UKNWM is a consortium led by URS Corp's Washington Division and includes Studsvik UK, Areva and Serco Assurance. The initial contract, worth some £125 million ($250 million), is for a period of five years. However, there is the potential of further extension periods, subject to performance and NDA management approval, up to a total of 17 years, providing an additional £200 million ($400 million) to £500 million ($1 billion).
The first element of the contract focuses on managing Drigg and maintaining the future capacity of existing storage vaults. It also includes gaining regulatory approval for continued operation and planning for the long-term future of the site. The second element calls for UKNWM to develop a UK-wide LLW strategy to manage the increased levels of waste expected to be generated by the NDA's planned decommissioning of obsolete nuclear facilities across the UK.
Drigg has been operating since 1959. It underwent a major upgrade in 1995, since which time all low-level waste (LLW) has been disposed of in engineered concrete vaults. Work to remove all plutonium-contaminated materials from the site for storage at the nearby Sellafield complex was completed in July 2007, bringing to an end a long-term project to remove intermediate-level waste from the repository.
"We are delighted with the award, which reflects the strength of the consortium and the leading positions of its members in the nuclear decommissioning and waste management industries in the United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden and France," said Tom Zarges, president of URS' Washington Division. He added, "This agreement is an exciting opportunity for us and our partners to help the NDA meet the challenges managing its low-level waste operations."
Magnus Groth, president and CEO of Studsvik, said: "We feel that Studsvik will play a key part in the team utilizing the decades of experience we have gained in waste volume reduction and stabilization technologies."
The executive vice-president of Areva's Recycling Business Units, Denis Hugelmann, said: "This success is an acknowledgement of the unique skills and operating experience we can offer. We hope to have the opportunity of applying these capabilities to other projects as the UK market ups up further."
NDA's CEO, Ian Roxburgh, commented: "This is a landmark occasion for many reasons. Primarily it is significant because it is through the competition process that we will bring innovation and new expertise to the programme to decommission and clean-up the UK's nuclear legacy. It is equally important as it means the NDA has delivered the first in a series of multi-million pound competitions."
The contract is the culmination of a competition process launched by the NDA in April 2006. Two other consortia - Waste Management Solutions (Energy Solutions, BNG Project Services, Fluor and Jacobs) and BSN Environmental (Babcock Support Services, Stoller and Nukem) - participated in the competition. It is the first of several contracts that the NDA will award to manage ongoing operations and to decommission old nuclear facilities.