THE chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), John Clarke, is to retire in the next year.

The role is arguably the most important in the nuclear sector, given that the NDA is responsible for Sellafield and other UK nuclear legacy sites.

Mr Clarke, 57, said: “I have been honoured and privileged to lead the NDA and its exceptional people through some major changes.

"It’s a demanding role and now is the time to hand the reins to someone who can take the organisation through the next phase of its development over the next five years. “

Mr Clarke became chief executive of the NDA in 2012 following the departure of Tony Fountain.

He was formerly its director of business planning.

He has worked in the international nuclear industry for more than 30 years in a operational, commercial and business leadership roles.

He joined the NDA board in 2008 from Sellafield Ltd.

A chartered engineer and fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, his early career involved a range of roles in the design, development, commissioning and operation of nuclear fuel processing plants.

A member of Sellafield’s executive team for eight years, he spent five years as head of environmental, health, safety and quality, followed by three years as director of production where he was accountable for the majority of operational activities at Sellafield.

Since joining the NDA, he has led the negotiations for the sale of Springfields Fuels to Westinghouse, managed the sale of surplus NDA land, and led the transfer of operations at Sellafield back to the NDA from Nuclear Management Partners.

Mr Clarke's retirement was announced by the NDA's chairman, Stephen Henwood, who paid tribute to his record.

Mr Henwood said: “John has made a major contribution to the NDA and its mission to safely clean up the UK’s nuclear legacy.

"Through his leadership, drive and commitment, John has improved performance at Sellafield with a new operating model, delivered an integrated approach to accelerating decommissioning across the estate and created an optimised strategy, resulting in increased value to the taxpayer.

“The NDA has made great progress under John’s leadership, but I recognise that the chief executive's role is all-consuming and places great demands on both the individual and their family.

"I must therefore respect John’s wishes and reluctantly accept his decision to retire. We will now set in train the process to select his successor and secure a smooth hand-over.

"The precise timing of John’s departure will be announced at a future date."

He added: “John leaves an impressive legacy here at the NDA and across the broader UK nuclear industry. He will leave with my and the Board’s best wishes for a long and happy retirement.”