Babcock Dounreay Partnership awarded nuclear plant demolition contract

The Babcock Dounreay Partnership, a consortium made of Babcock International, CH2M Hill and URS (NYSE: URS), said they have won the largest site closure contract ever in the UK. The consortium will in charge of decommissioning the Dounreay site, the UK’s center of fast reactor research and development from 1955 until 1994 and now Scotland’s largest nuclear clean-up and demolition project.

Their aim is to complete the decommissioning of the site by 2022-25 and reduce the cost to the UK taxpayer by over £1 billion ($1.6 billion).

The consortium officially took over Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. (DSRL) in March and will use the company’s 950 staff and supply chain to clean up and demolish the remainder of the site. DSRL held the site license, waste disposal authorization and other necessary legal permits for managing the site since April 1, 2008. Before then, the site was managed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

“We will be setting new standards for decommissioning delivery, safety and environmental protection. We want to establish Dounreay as the European reference site for nuclear decommissioning and site closure,” said Roger Hardy, a senior Babcock executive who becomes managing director of DSRL.

The site consists of three nuclear reactors, fuel reprocessing plants, laboratories and various waste facilities. The first Dounreay site restoration plan published in 2000 projected a clean-up taking until 2063 to complete at a cost of £4 billion ($6.4 billion).

By 2005, when the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority was established and took over the site, this had reduced to 2036 and £2.7 billion ($4.3 billion). Two years ago, the NDA invited companies to tender for a contract to complete the site's closure for a price not exceeding £150 million ($239.5 million) a year.

Babcock Dounreay Partnership’s 2022-25 bid earned it preferred bidder status from the NDA in November 2011. Its acquisition of DSRL was completed following a four-month transition period.

The contract is to clear away all the redundant plant, get the resultant radioactive waste into a condition that is safe for long-term storage or disposal, and the site into a condition that is safe for future generations.

The new management team has begun the process of overwriting DSRL’s existing clean-up program with their successful bid. Changes to the program are subject to normal regulatory controls governing safety, security and environmental protection.

Key features include a new target cost incentive fee contract arrangement, involving sharing risk with the NDA, an accelerated closure date, a new project-focused methodology and a program of support and mentoring for the local business community as it adjusts to the site closure.

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