As part of TotalDECOM Expo on October 21st 2020, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) hosted a virtual Question Time discussion with the aim of posing, to a panel of experts from the nuclear and oil & gas industries authorities and institutions, questions on cross industry working from the participants at the Expo. Each participant gave a brief introduction on themselves and their work focus area before opening the floor to the audience members.
Karl Sanderson, Head of Cross Industry Learning from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
Anthony Banford, Chief Technologist - Waste Management & Decommissioning, National Nuclear Laboratory
Will Rowley, Interim Managing Director, Decom North Sea
Roger Esson, Decommissioning Solution Centre Manager, The OGTC
Questions from the audience covered several different areas and the panel provided some insightful answers. Several themes emerged from the session:
Similarities of decommissioning challenges across industries
Highlighting that the decommissioning challenge is common across many industries, this panel represented an energetic cohort of representatives from different industries that are already working together to share lessons, collaborate and look at issues such as supply chain, transferring skills and expertise. This theme resonated constantly throughout the panel discussion and there was a clear desire to ensure that collaboration is continued and fostered further across industries to ensure that lessons are shared.
The example of Space decommissioning as an emerging industry was discussed with the nuclear similarities such as extreme environments highlighted. Individuals spoke passionately about there being clear opportunities to learn from other industries especially in how decommissioning is considered upfront as part of the whole lifecycle. A lot of effort is going into cross industry working and the benefits of doing this were debated across the panel. These include; less siloed working, improved technology transfer, and helping to move the industry forward to be more efficient and able to hit goals. Benefits for safety and increased innovation were also mentioned. It was felt that there is an emerging trend of conferences and events allowing for cross industry participation which is opening the industry and dismissing the notion that decommissioning challenges are unique to each industry.
Sharing all lessons
In cross industry collaborative working it was stressed by the panel the importance of sharing not just the things that go well, but also how not to do things. Learning from others’ mistakes is as valuable as learning from their successes. Shared learning will help to reduce the liabilities and encouraging the concept of bearing the end in mind in the design phase is vital learning to continue to share.
There is a clear desire to want to increase the ability to work internationally. Several examples of where this is already happening were shared across the panel and clear collaboration opportunities were evident. The industrial section of the nuclear sector deal encourages exactly this exporting of talent, and collaboration between the UK and other countries is taking place already, especially within technology export. Continuing to highlight where this is occurring, and growing this further, should be considered a vital part of what the decommissioning industry in the UK does. This is a theme of common interest for the NDA’s Cross Industry team and an upcoming workshop, hosted by TotalDecom will delve further into this topic of Winning international Business.
Renewable Decommissioning Liabilities
Numbers was a hot topic with discussion on the total amount for the renewable decommissioning liabilities. With values in the billions of pounds there was realisation that this liability will only grow as additional turbines are installed. It was stressed that some decommissioning of renewables has already taken place, but that new challenges will continue to enter the industry such as blade materials. Current estimates of the liability are likely to be low, as was seen with initial oil and gas, and indeed nuclear estimates.
Decom North Sea is not Just about the North Sea
The panel provided some information on organisations that not all Expo attendees were familiar with. For example, we learned that Decom North Sea is not just about the North sea. Their work extends to such places as Brunei, Brazil and India. Thus showing that such question time panels are a great place to find out about other companies and what they do both holistically along with some specific examples.
All panel members were clearly passionate about the work they cover and were approachable in their responses. The content was varied and suitable to industry experts and newer recruits alike due to its informal and friendly approach. Another Question Time webinar is planned for January 2021 to be chaired by the Nuclear Industry Association, with an expert panel from the tier 1 supply chain. The NIA is keen to continue this discussion for members of the NIA and those organisations who work within the oil and gas industry to help share and understand the synergies between decommissioning in Nuclear and Oil and Gas and where the scope for work is.