'With creation of the NDA a number of firms have come forward as potential Tier 1 contractors, ' observes Parsons Brinckerhoff director of nuclear decommissioning Alistair Smith, who will speak at NCE's Nuclear Decommissioning conference on 27 October. 'As soon as the first contract is advertised we're going to see them jockeying for position.' The NDA is introducing competition to the management of nuclear sites for the first time. 'For the bid process to be seen as credible UKAEA and BNG will have to lose control of some sites, ' Smith says. 'They may join consortia and win, or they may be beaten by sharper, brighter companies.
'Bidding costs will be huge - in the region of £5M-£10M, ' Smith warns. 'That rules out a lot of players. But having won a contract the profits are there.' Smith anticipates Tier 2 and Tier 3 contracts worth 'tens of millions of pounds', but cautions that contractors should not anticipate a rapid upturn in decommissioning work. At present only 10% of the NDA's £2bn annual budget is actually being spent on decommissioning projects. Nine tenths of its cash is going into maintenance. The NDA wants to shift this balance to 50/50 within the next five years.
'All the projects are proceeding far more slowly than initially anticipated. The delay in spending means that the industry has scaled its capability to match available money.'