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ONR's regulatory role in Sellafield decommissioning

Alan Wylie, from ONR's Sellafield, Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste division, recently joined more than 3,300 nuclear professionals at the Phoenix Waste Management Symposium, one of the world’s premier radioactive waste management conferences.

During the five-day event which brought together global experts, Alan delivered a presentation describing our approach to the regulation of Sellafield, one of most hazardous nuclear sites in Europe.

He highlighted how ONR's enabling regulatory approach was helping the site to get on with the vital work of decommissioning its most hazardous ponds and silos, noting how waste retrievals were now underway at the four most hazardous facilities on the site.

He explained the importance of having an effective regulatory strategy and discussed how ONR had kept its own strategy under review to ensure it was enabling, fit for purpose and was not inadvertently hindering progress.

Alan also discussed the importance of effective stakeholder engagement and highlighted the work of the Sellafield G6 group and how regular and constructive engagement between key stakeholders was helping to remove blockers and drive forward progress at the site.

He closed by sharing some key learning points from his experience of leading the Sellafield project inspection team. He emphasised the importance of building trusting and open relationships and early engagement with licensees to help de-risk projects.

Ensuring regulatory expectations were clear and that emerging issues were addressed promptly was also one of Alan’s key takeaways. The role of the internal regulator to provide robust challenge was also emphasised, as well as the need to ensure the correct culture was in place with all stakeholders focused on the desired outcomes.

Alan said: “Sellafield is a unique site with significant decommissioning and waste management challenges.

“Dealing safely and efficiently with the legacy challenges is both a national priority and one of our main regulatory priorities.

“In the last two years, we have been able to permission the start of retrievals at the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo and Pile Fuel Cladding Silo, which are both significant milestones for the site.

“I was delighted to represent ONR at this event and to explain our regulatory approach and share some key learning points from our experience of regulating the Sellafield site, which I hope will help others who are dealing with similar decommissioning challenges in other parts of the world.”