Aerial LLWR site towards Fells Large

Project:

Management & Operations of LLW Repository Ltd (LLWR), UK

Amentum was the majority partner of the consortium responsible for the management and operation of the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) in West Cumbria, UK and the development and implementation of the National Low Level Waste Programme. LLWR is the national facility for the disposal of low level radioactive waste in the UK. Upon contract award the client, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, saw an urgent need to expand capacity to meet the demand of the waste generators which would have seen the repository reach full capacity by 2022. Sourcing an alternative LLWR site would have been a lengthy process with an expected price tag of more than £2 billion and a significant cost burden to the UK government. Severe measures were required to avoid bringing the UK decommissioning programme to a standstill.

We resolved the short-term capacity gap by constructing Vault 9 and submitting an Environmental Safety Case (ESC) that was approved by the Environment Agency to allow disposal operations to continue for over 100 years.

Based on the national Transuranic Waste Programme in the USA, and with extensive engagement with UK government and regulators, Amentum worked with the NDA to implement a Government Policy and a National LLW Strategy that provided the working envelope for implementation of the strategy. Amentum introduced an integrated approach to waste minimisation with the establishment of waste treatment and alternative disposal routes between the generators and the supply chain. Robust characterisation methodology and stringent adherence to the Waste Management Hierarchy was incentivized and linked to the waste acceptance criteria in the ESC, to encourage change in behaviours and waste management practices.

As the site operator, we successfully transitioned the business to become a capable programme delivery organisation; safely and compliantly delivering the Plutonium Contaminated Materials (PCM) Decontamination and Decommissioning Programme (£100M), Repository Development Programme Phase 1 (£85M), Site Security Upgrade Programme (£25M) and Vault 9 construction (£25M) alongside a myriad of other minor projects.

Project Highlights

  • Developed and implemented a national Low Level Waste (LLW) Strategy that secured cost avoidance savings of £455m through waste diversion and treatment instead of waste disposal at LLWR
  • Saved £2 billion by eliminating the need for an additional LLW Repository
  • Enabled a radical reduction in the amount of LLW sent for disposal to LLWR moving from 95% in 2009 to just 2% in 2020, with 98% treated, recycled, or alternatively disposed
  • Provided a combination of 10 alternative disposal, treatment routes, or service opportunities in association with the supply chain
  • Extended the operational life of LLWR by more than 100 years, solving the long-term capacity gap for NDA and the UK
  • Developed and implemented new reporting tools and inventory reviews to improve forecast accuracy. As a result, significant volumes of LLW have been re-characterised as VLLW or exempt waste (reducing demand on LLWR).
  • Completed the PCM Decommissioning Programme 4 years earlier than scheduled, shaving £20 million off original budget
  • Secured national disposal of LLW through development of an Environmental Safety Case, and regulatory issue of an Environmental Permit.
  • Secured future operations at LLWR with planning consent for 2 further disposal vaults and the engineered closure of existing trenches and vaults.
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