Andy White, Vice President, Nuclear Services, AMEC

Andy White is Vice President of AMEC’s Nuclear Services, a provider of engineering, decommissioning, consulting and project management services to a wide range of customers including EDF, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Bruce Power, BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.

Andy White on private sector stumbling blocks in the nuclear decommissioning sector: "Where commercial reactors are undergoing decommissioning these liabilities have to be owned and managed by the private sector, which creates a barrier to entry for many

By Heba Hashem

With 25 years of experience in the nuclear industry, White speaks on the role of the private sector in European nuclear decommissioning, and on the implications resulting from the market’s expansion into commercial reactor decommissioning.

Q: How is AMEC currently involved in European decommissioning of nuclear energy plants?

A: Our European Nuclear Services business and Strategic Programmes business sit within AMEC Clean Energy Europe and are respectively focused on Decommissioning and Consultancy, and Management and Operations of nuclear sites. A team of 1,500 people works across the UK, France, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, South Africa and South Korea, and on projects in Ukraine, Lithuania and Italy.

The central hub of the business is located in the UK where we are heavily involved in the UK Nuclear Decommissioning market undertaking projects, consultancy and site management. We also operate the UK’s largest commercial laboratory and test rig facility dedicated to the nuclear market.

Our current involvement within Europe covers decommissioning, waste management, site restoration and environmental remediation, and tier-1 management and operation of nuclear sites. In Slovakia, we are deploying our specialist Remotely Operated Vehicle technology on a critical waste retrieval project at Bohunice. In Czech Republic, we are working on the re-treatment and characterisation of radioactive waste at a waste repository.

In Ukraine, we’re providing project management support to the decommissioning of the undamaged units 1, 2 and 3 at Chernobyl, and consultancy and project management services for the implementation of a liquid waste treatment facility and an interim spent fuel store.

In the UK, as part of Nuclear Management Partners, Parent Body Organisation for Sellafield, we are helping lead an extensive change and delivery programme at Sellafield as part of a planned 17-year contract. In addition, through AXIOM (a joint venture of AMEC, Assystem, Jacobs Engineering Group. and Mott MacDonald), we are working as part of a 15-year Design Services Alliance with Sellafield.

Finally, through ACTUS (a JV of AMEC, Jacobs Engineering Group, Costain and Babcock), we are undertaking design, construction, commissioning, and operating facilities to retrieve and package intermediate level waste; thereby decontaminating associated facilities at Trawsfynydd.

Q: On what basis does AMEC Nuclear Services select partners and subcontractors for decommissioning projects? Which factors do you consider?

A: Decommissioning projects are typically complex requiring the deployment of a wide range of specialist capabilities and technologies. AMEC collaborates with the supply chain to develop the best value solutions for our customers. The customer’s perception of value may be focused on a range of considerations, such as financial, expedited delivery, project experience, proven technology, locality, capability, capacity, leveraging SME’s and socioeconomics. AMEC takes great care in selecting supply chain partners and it is imperative that they share our Safety and Quality values, and are as focused as we are on delivering best value to the our customer.

Q: What advice would you give to private sector firms entering the nuclear decommissioning market for the first time?

A: Encouraging new entrants into the market is very important for the industry; it fosters innovation and drives competition ensuring a healthy sustainable market. Many barriers to entry do exist and a focused business strategy is required. Larger companies may have the luxury of acquisition, but most will not.

The simplest way for a company with differentiated technology, product or a capability to enter the market is to leverage a company like AMEC who has the market knowledge, reach and industry network to help position and promote the offering, and we are very willing to engage companies along such lines. Of course a range of entry strategies exist and it depends on the company in question, most of the barriers can be overcome with investment.

Q: With regards to business opportunities in the decommissioning of nuclear energy, what is the current market potential in your opinion?

A: From a global perspective the market potential is enormous, this potential will be realised over several decades. As new reactors come on line and go off line, the market should be somewhat perpetual and the decommissioning projects should become less complex and more routine as time progresses. We are also currently dealing with a global legacy of weapons production with very complex decommissioning requirements.

Q: What do you think are the key stumbling blocks hindering the private sector’s involvement in nuclear decommissioning?

A: Generally governments own the nuclear liability associated with historic weapons production and nationalised power production. By far this represents the vast majority of the current global decommissioning market.

Since governments own the liability they manage and undertake decommissioning activities through Government organisations such as the Department of Energy, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and French nuclear energy institute, CEA.

Predominantly these government organisations are supported by the private sector in delivering their decommissioning mission. It is difficult for the private sector to accept liabilities inherent in complex decommissioning delivery and hence these liabilities generally remain with the government.

Where commercial reactors are undergoing decommissioning these liabilities have to be owned and managed by the private sector, which creates a barrier to entry for many private sector firms.

Acceptance of liability would be a major stumbling block for the private sector involvement as the decommissioning market expands into commercial reactor decommissioning.

Q: Could you share your outlook on the European nuclear decommissioning market?

A: The nuclear decommissioning market for 2014/15 looks buoyant with many exciting opportunities across Europe at all tiers of the supply chain.

Join AMEC’s lunchtime workshop at the 5th Annual Nuclear Decommissioning Conference 2014, to be held May 7-8 in Manchester. From specialist consultancy, through new build and life time extension to decommissioning and remediation projects, attend this lunchtime briefing to see what developments are taking place and understand how you can work with AMEC to support this challenging market

Register for the conference workshop before Friday 11th March and receive £100 discount using the code AMEC100 at registration.