Sellafield shifts focus to high priority work as it restarts operations

The nuclear decommissioning facility will focus on high hazard projects with a reduced workforce and social distancing norms in place

The Big Zero report

UK nuclear decommissioning facility Sellafield is preparing for a phased restart of its operations.

In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the company has announced various measures to ensure the safety of key workers as priority work begins on high hazard and risk reduction projects.

Martin Chown, Sellafield Ltd Chief Executive, said: “We’ve thought long and hard about the questions ‘Can we? Should we? Will we?’ before restarting any piece of work. But we also have to be aware of the risks involved in not restarting more work – every day of delay caused by the pandemic is another day further in the future where a nuclear incident could in theory happen.”

Following a detailed risk assessment, a ‘lead and learn’ protocol has been initiated to determine the number of workers that can be active on-site and to ensure social distancing and hygiene norms are followed across operations.

The workforce has been reduced to a fifth of its full capacity, with only 1,500 key workers resuming tasks. The company plans to deploy only 120 additional workers to service off-site offices.

All reprocessing operations and construction work is currently on pause.

Mr Chown added: “We have always said we will only progressively restart certain operations when safe to do so.

“The excellent preparation and risk analysis work we have done so far has given us the confidence to be able to restart the most important work which is of national interest. Safety is in our DNA. If any organisation can work safely around Covid-19, we can.”

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