Friday, 18 February 2011

MOD withholds information on how the recommendations of the Haddon Cave report are being taken forward

MOD is withholding information about how the recommendations of the Haddon Cave report are being taken forward particularly in the context of nuclear safety. The information is being with held on the grounds:

“Information held by a government department or by the Welsh Assembly Government is exempt information if it relates to

(a) the formulation or development of government policy,

On this occasion we believe that the need to allow free and frank discussion between officials and ministers outweighs the public's right to information. This is because the assessment is ongoing and we would not wish to prejudice any future decisions. Once the Department has decided on a course of action a public statement will be made.

The Haddon Cave report was published nearly two year ago in 2009, the delay in acting on the wider implications of the report particularly for nuclear safety seems to indicate that MOD has yet to make any decisions on how the recommendations are to be acted upon. If there was good news to report I am sure that MOD would be only too keen to publicise that news.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

MOD nuclear decommissioning strategy, a state secret

Following an internal review relating to a FOI request to the MOD to provide information about its nuclear decommissioning strategy; MOD continues to keep details of its nuclear decommissioning strategy secret and has reneged on its own policy to involve stakeholders including NGOs in the development of its decommissioning strategy preferring the old discredited “announce and defend” approach to decision making.

The MOD policy makes clear that the strategy is to be developed in consultation with stakeholders which means that the draft strategy should be a public document.

The following references in the MOD policy support this view

Para 8 K “consulting appropriate public and stakeholder groups on the options considered and the contents of the strategy”

Para 10 “Whilst in no way underestimating the task ahead the MOD remains confident that in conjunction with stakeholders (OGDs and NGOs) it is able to deliver the policy outcomes set out above”

Extract from the MOD’s internal review.

“MOD Decommissioning and Disposal Strategy (Section 35 and Section 22)

12. DE&S informed you that the information is being withheld in its entirety under section 35(1)(a) and explained that although there is a public interest in the development of the MOD's Decommissioning and Disposal Strategy, there is a greater public interest in MOD having the space to develop that strategy in an effective manner, including proposing and discussing new ideas, without the fear that there would be early disclosure of information before it has had an opportunity to mature. At the time of your request the consultation process was ongoing and I can confirm that this has not yet been finalised. lt is vital for MOD to be able to discuss all options in a free and frank manner and that disclosure would be detrimental to this process as participants would be less than free and frank if they were concerned that their contributions would later be subject to disclosure. Again, I can also inform you that this exemption is engaged where the information can be accurately characterised as relating to formulation or development of government policy.”

It notable that the information requested does not relate to policy but the strategy that delivers the policy outcomes referred to in “Ministry of Defence Policy for Decommissioning and Disposal of Radioactive Waste and Residual Nuclear Material arising from the Nuclear Programme.

The MOD approach is in stark contrast to the open and transparent processes which the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) employs; involving stakeholders including NGOs in the development of their strategy. The NDA seems to have no problems discussing new ideas, or fears about the early disclosure of information before it has had an opportunity to mature.

The report on non NDA Liability Management Strategy published in March 2010 indicates MOD’s failure to address liabilities for Exotic Fuel and Higher Active Waste

To quote from the report

“MoD currently owns the largest stock of exotic fuel which is stored at Sellafield. MoD does not have a long term liability management plan for these fuels so their impact on NDA‘s exotic strategy is as yet undetermined. There is the potential that this could form part of the exotic fuels inventory and hence may influence the NDA strategy” and

“Higher Active Waste. Wastes from BE reprocessing and potentially from MoD fuel processing will require (i) long term management, (ii) appropriate conditioning for ultimate disposal, and (iii) disposal in the GDF”.

This demonstrates that MODs inability to develop a strategy for managing its nuclear liabilities is impacting negatively on the NDA and nationally on the “managing radioactively waste safely” process.

This all tends to suggest that MODs reluctance to provide information on its strategy for managing nuclear decommissioning liabilities is to avoid embarrassment about an inability to make decisions on how to manage these liabilities, failure to afford them proper priority and most of all, a lack of funds.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

What no decommissioning Strategy !!!

MODs' own reports acknowledge there is no funding to deliver the decommissioning strategy. However a properly funded decommissioning strategy is one of the key requirements for holding a nuclear site license in the civil sector, why should MOD be any different?

From the 2009 DNESB report

“Decommissioning & Disposal. 2005 issue 3 updated and reduced.
No Decommissioning and Disposal Strategy and no funded plan for decommissioning and disposal of submarine including adequate facilities to de-fuel them at the end of service life”

However the guidance from the HSE to inspectors on decommissioning nuclear licensed sites requires licensees’ to demonstrate that they have funding to carry out decommissioning and for state owned industry should describe their corresponding arrangements.


A2.3.14 Demonstration of Financial Provision

A2.3.14.1 Comprehensive estimates of the costs of decommissioning should be provided and linked to the activities to be carried out. All significant activities should be taken into account including corporate and general infrastructure responsibilities; radioactive waste management, storage and disposal; decontamination and dismantling works; care and maintenance; monitoring and surveillance and any other associated activities. Major cost components should be identified together with the distribution of costs with time. Any assumptions made on discount rates and the timescales over which they have been applied should be justified (see Appendix 6).

A2.3.14.2 Licensees should provide details of the arrangements for the funding of their nuclear liabilities. In the case of the privatised industry the financial provision is expected to be contained in segregated funds, kept separate from other company funds. The state owned industry should describe their corresponding arrangements. Licensees should provide a demonstration of the adequacy of the financial provision being made to implement the strategies. This should show that the strategy does not economically foreclose on earlier options for decommissioning, including an explanation of how the costs will change and the money will be provided if alternative options are chosen.”

Extract from a note by the Health & Safety Executive- Financial Implications of Licence Condition Compliance at NDA Sites:

“Financial Implications for Site Licensees
HSE clearly has an interest in whether the site license company (SLC) has reasonable expectation of access to sufficient resources to enable it to comply with all the Licence Conditions, and to have confidence that those resources will continue to be available at least for the term of the NDA contract. Confidence in the likely access to adequate and secure funding is one factor which HSE takes into account in its continuous assessment of whether an SLC is, and is likely to remain, a fit and proper body to hold the nuclear site licence (bearing in mind that if not happy with the SLC’s fitness, HSE has the power to revoke a licence at any time, and to impose suitable controls on the ex-licensee via Directions issued under the Nuclear Installations Act).”

The MOD is not subject regulation by the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (NIA65) but subject to a system of internal regulation enforced by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR); it is clear that DNSR lacks the regulatory power to ensure that the MOD decommissioning strategy is funded as would be the case on a civil site regulated by the HSE/NII.

If the MOD controlled nuclear activities were subject to regulation under the NIA65 it is worth considering if HSE would find the MOD fit and proper body to hold a nuclear site licence.

The lack of a funded decommissioning strategy provides powerful evidence of the need to apply the Nuclear Installation Act 1965 to MOD controlled nuclear activities.