Sellafield Ltd

21st December 2015
Esri UK

Sellafield Ltd

At the world’s most complex nuclear facility, the strategic planning team uses Esri’s ArcGIS platform to help plan and manage hundreds of simultaneous decommissioning projects that will take 110 years to complete. ArcGIS is contributing to multi-million pound cost savings, while helping Sellafield to reduce risk.

The Customer

Sellafield Ltd is the company responsible for safely decommissioning the Sellafield site on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Located in West Cumbria, Sellafield is the world’s most complex nuclear facility and has been at the centre of Britain’s civil nuclear history ever since its beginnings in the 1940s.

Sellafield is minimising costs across all project phases by using ArcGIS to improve forward planning and site management

ArcGIS is used to plot the locations of hazards and improve site safety by relocating employees away from potential danger

ArcGIS helps to minimise the risks of delays and budget overruns in a project with an anticipated duration of more than one hundred years

The Challenge

The Strategic Planning team at Sellafield Ltd makes decisions that shape the evolution of the site. It selects the location of buildings and facilities, plans the timing of construction and demolition and organises the routing of transport and facilities. In order to safely decommission hundreds of nuclear plants, hazardous storage facilities and buildings, as well as vast stretches of contaminated land; the team needs to arrange the construction of new transportation and utility networks and over 300 new buildings over the remaining lifetime of the site.

To do all this on a congested 2.5 km2 site containing 1400 buildings, 55 km of transport infrastructure and 330 km of pipes is difficult enough; but add to that the safety issues associated with 200 nuclear facilities, the logistical challenges presented by 70 separate business units and a planning horizon of 110 years – then the huge magnitude of the undertaking becomes apparent.

Without a coordinated view of the site, Sellafield Ltd realised that it might not be able to manage and develop its facilities in the most time and cost efficient way. The Strategic Planning team was concerned that buildings and utilities might be constructed to suit one purpose, without taking into account the needs of adjacent and subsequent developments. This in turn might lead to protracted projects, delays and unnecessary costs.

From a very small capital investment in Esri GIS solutions, we anticipate making multi-million pound savings over the course of the project

Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) Capability Leader – Sellafield Ltd

The Solution

The Strategic Planning team at Sellafield Ltd decided to address the challenges by consolidating information from many sources into a single planning system. They acquired Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop solution and the Tracking Analyst extension enabling them to analyse information relative to time and location.

The Geographic Information System (GIS) solution gives the Strategic Planning team the ability to visualise the entire Sellafield site at different stages in the project, monitor the progress of each decommissioning programme, plot the locations of proposed developments, maintain assets and view animated timelines. The team can represent existing and planned buildings on the site at different points in time and plan site usage many years into the future. The system enables planners to take into account concurrent and adjacent activities, previous land use, potential contaminations, site congestion, the proximity of dependent facilities, the cost of transporting materials, the utility infrastructure and other planned developments.

We would find it difficult now to manage a project of this scale and duration without ArcGIS

Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) Capability Leader – Sellafield Ltd


ArcGIS is helping Sellafield Ltd to minimise costs across all project phases. In the design and development stage, the solution helps managers to reduce site location time from many weeks to a few days. Managers have visibility of multiple projects (which can be both concurrent and consecutive) across the site. Managers can group projects together to make more cost effective use of contractors, land and utility resources. They can also plan more strategically and select sites that are close to existing rail and pipe networks to reduce both construction and on-going operating costs.

“The cost of construction is only around 10-25% of the total lifetime cost of the building,” says the CAE Leader. “A large proportion of the rest of the cost stems from transportation and the cost of providing utilities. Therefore, if we can locate a building close to other dependent facilities or combine requirements, we can reduce the whole lifetime cost by up to 10%.”

ArcGIS delivers accurate, up-to-date information about the entire site, over the entire duration of the project. “ArcGIS enables us to understand the future better,” says the CAE Leader. “We can look forwards and see when one project is in a critical phase and plan neighbouring and dependent projects around that, so that they don’t interfere with each other. Once you use ArcGIS to display the sequence of plants and their activities, you can see disconnects in logic and coordinate the timing of multiple projects much more effectively to reduce risk.”

Two of the potential risks faced by Sellafield Ltd are that: a) the project will exceed near term and long term budgets; and b) the project will overrun its near term and long term deadlines. The organisation anticipates that its use of ArcGIS minimises these risks, by helping it to keep its massive 110-year project on schedule and on budget.

Some areas of the Sellafield site are contaminated and there are also a wide range of other safety hazards. Sellafield has been able to use ArcGIS to plot hazard locations and show their proximity to people at work. The CAE Leader explains: “There are a small number of people who need to work near the hazards, but there are many others who don’t. Because we now have a better spatial awareness of where the hazards are and where our people are, it is easy for us to make decisions about relocating them.”

Sellafield Ltd has fifteen directorates and over seventy operational units. ArcGIS provides Sellafield Ltd with a central source of data and tools that facilitate closer collaboration between these groups. “ArcGIS is enabling us to improve planning efficiency and coordinate the activities of over seventy business units more effectively,” says the CAE Leader. “It is helping us to achieve a much more collaborative way of working. We would find it difficult now to manage a project of this scale and duration without ArcGIS.”

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