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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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New dawn for Sellafield

JUST over 12 months ago, Sellafield passed into the hands of Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium of American, French and British companies.

The deal was said to be on the same financial scale as the 2012 London Olympics, with the potential to have a massive impact on both Sellafield’s operations and on West Cumbria’s economy for the next 50 years.

Nuclear Management Partners were handed the reins in November 2008, five months after the consortium won the bid to land a lucrative contract from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

It is worth around £1.3bn a year (but with a potential bonus of up to £50m a year, depending on results).

Competition was fierce: NMP (URS Washington, Ariva and Amec) was up against four other powerful global bidders.

Only four people were privy to the identity of the winning bidder – they were sworn to secrecy until the announcement at 10am on Friday July 11, 2008.

First to hear the news (on behalf of NMP) was Graham Campbell. By all accounts, the then general manager of URS Washington, the consortium’s American arm who holds a similar position for NMP in Cumbria, was told even before the Prime Minister.

“I am told (reliably) I was the first person to be told in our organisation. It was a very important, exciting and tense moment,” says Graham.

The stakes were high. “That morning,” says the affable Mancunian, “I was alone in my office (at Ingwell Hall, Westlakes); the rest of the team, 30-odd people, were in the training room down the corridor, out of the way.

“I was able to tell our chairman Tom Zarges and managing director Bob Peddie immediately – they were also quietly out of the way in a corner!

What we did next was walk down the corridor with a long face purposely.

“Everyone shouted ‘what’s happened?’ fearing from our looks that we’d lost out . . . I just raised an arm saying ‘we’ve won’.

“It was crazy, there was such a tremendous relief, not just at winning the job but all the efforts that had been put in. People had moved countries, dislocated their families to work night and day on the bid.

“To say everyone was on tenterhooks was an understatement. To hear they’d lost was obviously difficult for our competitors, all good-quality companies we’d worked with in the United States. It would have been the same for us.”

Graham Campbell, drawing on decades of business experience all over the world, turned all his attentions to the “Sellafield Project” from day one, lasting over three years.

He reflects: “It was an amazing exercise. In order to meet the challenge we brought three major companies in from across the world.”

An irresistible combination? “Well, obviously, that was the way the client (NDA) finally determined it.”

One of the key factors was what NMP promised but moreover assured the NDA it could deliver for the West Cumbrian community.

“I spent quite a lot time getting to know the local people,” Graham pointed out. “Part of the bid was socio-economics; it was important we understood exactly how the various stakeholders reacted to the competition process, what they were looking for and expected.

“What we brought to the table was a unique mix of skills in operations, decommissioning, project management and the local knowledge – our UK, French, American mix pretty well met the requirements.”

How does he find it working not just for one but three masters?

“Being in from the start helped giving me the benefit of working with the different cultures and the different ways of doing things. I could also draw on a lot of my own experience in different organisations and joint ventures in various parts of the world.”

So what exactly is his role?

“My task is essentially to ensure that the requirements of the board are discharged in the area. We are very clear on what those are: working with the NDA, the site licence company (Sellafield Ltd) and all the stakeholders in the region – I make sure we have the resources, the plans and the activities.

“If I don’t ensure that then people will ask why?

“Quite clearly NMP is here to deliver the NDA’s Sellafield mission of clean-up and decommissioning being done in a managed fashion focussed on high hazard reduction, primarily flowing through a lifetime plan.”

Saving money? “I wouldn’t say saving money is the key, more a case of acting effectively and efficiently, delivering value for money. A big part of our bid was to demonstrate we could do it.”
And earning a £50m dividend?

“We have fee mechanisms in place with the NDA based purely on measured, deliverable value.

“It’s an initial five-year contract and for this year we have performance-based incentives in place, all very clearly identified up front with the NDA. Right now I’d say we’ve delivered on all the agreed incentives and are quite happy we’re going to achieve what we set out to achieve.”

How important is the stakeholder involvement?

“Total. I spent a lot of time from 2006, with others, understanding the stakeholder community needs, the socio-economic issues, so if we won the contract we’d have a running start, how we could work with people to make that side of things effective and give a real commitment to the community.

“Being a Northern lad, born in Manchester, I knew Cumbria pretty well, one of the first drivers to go over Hardknott Pass (in a Morris 10) and I can honestly saw I’ve learned more each week.

“The culture up here is very specific. I am aware of it, learning and listening. When somebody calls me a marra I’ll be very pleased indeed.

“I respect the needs of the community up here. I get at least one stakeholder either in the office or talking to me on the phone every single day about specific issues – it’s important to understand how everything links up and for me to make sense of it.

“BNFL and Sellafield, in the old days, were very much the mainstay of the community. NMP is going to build on it, hopefully try to improve in particular ways, maybe do different types of support activities.

“We made an absolute commitment (in our bid) towards community support: this was on the table before we were awarded the contract, we took it to the top of the priority list. Since then we’ve put £20 million directly on the line over five years and on top of it is another £500,000 per year managed through the Cumbria Community Fund.

“We’ve got the bigger funds looking at the bigger projects, but the £500,000 is just as important, helping folks on the ground providing the community with the projects it wants without us telling them.

“Part of my job is to make sure those funds are managed properly.

“As the West Cumbria flood disaster began to take its toll, NMP was among the first to come to West Cumbria’s aid financially by contributing £50,000 to the Recovery Fund.

“I was sat with the NMP board at Sellafield (on November 19) watching the weather getting worse by the minute.

“The site staff were released progressively over the afternoon and the following morning I spoke to Tony Cunningham and said NMP would like to open a fund.

“We thought what we put in was both significant and important in setting some sort of a marker. It’s satisfying to know as we speak that the fund has passed well over the £1m mark.

“It’s unbelievable and so impressive the way everybody pulled round, and the amount of contributions in such a short space of time was remarkable. Everybody mucked in – great to see, but there’s still a lot of work to do out there.”

Could he do his job without this community support?

“Absolutely not. That’s why it’s a two-way street between the site and the community.

“At Sellafield, I am not directly responsible for operations –- that’s Bill Poulson and his team – but I work with them on a daily basis.

“Am I satisfied with the way things have gone over the first 12 months? Yes, absolutely, what we have done is precisely what we said we were going to do – and more, because we brought on to the site a lot more additional capability to try and move the thing forward a bit faster.

“One of my tasks is to ensure the site has the necessary resources to deliver the operations in the wider sense, that the three big consortium companies are aware of the needs and we call on the best available folk in the organisation.

“At this point we’ve got around an additional 75 people on the site, we call it reach-back resources so we can start making the improvements that the other (PASE) teams identified.

“The Sellafield workforce have all the capabilities and professionalism we need: what we’re trying to do is make it build on it, work in better and different ways, bringing in some new technologies to support the workforce.

“We will have done a good job when we demonstrate we have delivered everything – you can measure that.”

Where does he want Sellafield to be in five years’ time? “What we are aiming for is to deliver six years’ work in five – six for five. A lot of thought, planning has gone into that thinking. We’re going to deliver 20 per cent more work for a five-year programme, that’s the bottom line.

“We want folk out there to be saying ‘NMP know what they’re doing’ – let’s be honest, we want the NDA to renew our contract.

“My objective is to ensure absolutely that all the decision-makers say that we have done a good job: that we have used the capability at Sellafield to generate a centre of excellence as part of the Energy Coast Masterplan so the rest of the world sees West Cumbria as a centre of nuclear excellence.

“It’s also a case for us also of maintaining credibility and building trust – we would like to be seen as BNFL were in that respect and being a good neighbour. We have joined with the NDA and Sellafield Ltd in a funding partnership to help achieve that commitment through the Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria Board.

“New-build is not on NMP’s agenda, but our mission at Sellafield is very much in support of it. We know that if we don’t do a good job then it’s not going to be helpful, so we’re doing everything to support the new opportunities serving this region.

“I personally have a strong desire to see nuclear new-build through the UK and particularly in this region.

“It would connect very well with the work we do at Sellafield and the available skill base we have here.

“I think there should be no reason why this area should not get a couple of reactors but the events on the November 19 and 20 brought up how isolated we are. I think it woke a lot of people up. It suddenly made people realise there’s a lot to be done here.

“It pays to listen – we listen a lot, and what I do know is there is a very complex of mix of priorities up here, all sorts of tensions in terms of the economics and people’s needs.

“We are trying to filter out those activities which we really believe need to be addressed, we have to rely on what people advise. The economic picture is going to change and that’s another reason we prefer to let the community tell us what’s needed.

“Establishing that trust and credibility will, I am sure, enable us to come up with the right answers.”

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