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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Sellafield bosses ‘humbled and truly sorry’ over failings

Sellafield's management has apologised to the taxpayer over failings on the nuclear site.

Tom Zarges photo
Tom Zarges

Tom Zarges, the chair of Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) – the consortium that runs the site – said that he was “humbled and truly sorry” for mistakes made during his firm’s five-year tenure at Sellafield, and vowed that they will not be repeated in the future.

Criticisms levelled at the site’s management include soaring costs, projects behind schedule and an alleged lack of leadership.

The mounting costs of decommissioning the nuclear site are estimated at more than £70bn.

Mr Zarges was joined by John Clarke, chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Tony Price, managing director of Sellafield Ltd, to answer criticisms as part of an ongoing review by the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The committee’s chair, MP Margaret Hodge, said she was “bewildered” the NDA had recently awarded NMP a five-year extension to run the nuclear site.

“This is a massive contract worth billions of pounds,” she said. “It is imperative in the public interest that we seek to get the best value.”

Mr Zarges said: “While we have had achievements, we are not satisfied with these. We are a long way from satisfied.”

Mr Clarke conceded that he has been “disappointed with elements of NMP’s performance.”

Further concern was raised by the committee about the “overuse” of seconding staff from elsewhere to work in Cumbria, and a number of “inadequately explained” expenses claims.

It sought assurances that costs and project lengths will not continue to soar.

Mr Price said: “There have been disappointments, and we will learn from the mistakes, but there have been some successes that can be built on. We can rebuild confidence and trust.”

Mr Zarges added: “If we have not learned from these experiences, we are not doing our job.”

Following the hearing, a Sellafield Ltd spokesman said: “The challenges we face are complex, and we have had some difficulties – much of which are down to inherited conditions. However, the commitment we have to achieving our mission of safely and securely managing Sellafield, while cleaning up our nation’s nuclear legacy is unwavering.

“We can move forward now, having learned much over the past five years, into perhaps the most important phase of the site’s history, when waste retrievals from some of our oldest plants can begin, and we can make demonstrable progress with decommissioning them,” he added.

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