Cleanup of Old British Nuclear Sites to Cost Billions
LONDON, UK, March 31, 2006 (ENS) - The cost of cleaning up Britain's old nuclear sites is estimated at £70 billion ($US121.6 billion), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said Thursday, releasing a comprehensive plan that has been approved by the Blair government.
The publication of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) strategy sets out for the first time how the UK will tackle the decommissioning and cleanup of the NDA’s 20 civil nuclear sites.
NDA Chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver said the estimated total cost of cleanup is still subject to change. "Within these overall totals are the cost of our income generating commercial operations at £14 billion (US$24 billion) and the cost of decommissioning and clean-up at £56 billion (US$97 billion). However, there are a range of factors, some of which are the subject of government policy reviews which will require further assessment. We are targeted to establish the full costs of cleanup by 2008 and so this remains work in progress."
"We are confident that, in light of what we know today, our approved strategy provides the best approach – in terms of safety, cost efficiency and sustainability – to tackle the UK’s historic 60 year nuclear legacy," he said.
Friends of the Earth UK said that the latest figures - a £14 billion increase over previous estimates - highlighted "the economic insanity of nuclear power," and called on the government to reject a new building program of nuclear reactors and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency instead.
Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper said, "UK taxpayers will have to pay the spiraling bill of dealing with Britain's dangerous nuclear legacy, which could now be as high as £70 billion."
Key principles in the NDA strategy include prioritizing safety, security and the environment by making the reduction of high hazards the key focus. The plan asserts "an aspiration to deliver accelerated decommissioning wherever feasible."
The strategy includes provisions for "effective stakeholder engagement", and "socio-economic support" for communities directly affected by decommissioning and cleanup.
Maintenance and development of skills is an important part of the strategy, the NDA said, including initiatives to establish a Nuclear Skills Institute and a National Nuclear Skills Academy.
Central to the competition schedule is the sale of the specialist nuclear clean-up business British Nuclear Group by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL).
BNFL’s Chief Executive Michael Parker said, "The sale is a positive strategic move for both the business and our employees. It gives the business the opportunity of increased performance and at the same time gives our employees increased career opportunities and the chance to earn a better future."
"We now look forward to working closely with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to develop the criteria against which preferred bidders will be selected. I expect that there will be significant interest from potential purchasers," said Parker.
Lawrie Haynes, British Nuclear Group’s Chief Executive, said, "A strong British Nuclear Group means strong competition and that can only be good news for the NDA and the UK taxpayer. The stronger we are, the better placed we are to safely deliver what I call ‘Big V’, that is the value we can create for UK taxpayer by reducing the overall lifetime bill for cleaning up the UK’s nuclear legacy."
"We will deliver this value by making real progress in safely cleaning up the sites, actively managing the supply chain while at the same time demonstrating our clear commitment to the communities in which we operate, said Haynes.
"The right buyer will enable us to complement our skills with theirs to create a powerful player in the global nuclear cleanup market and raise the bar in terms of subsequent competitions. This delivers enhanced value to the NDA by accelerating nuclear clean-up in the UK," Haynes explained.
The NDA strategy document states that with a new owner the British Nuclear Group will continue to manage and operate the Sellafield site until 2012, with a focus on the decommissioning of historical liabilities.
Commercial operations at Sellafield account for 70 percent of the revenue generating capacity on the site. This scope of work covers all aspects of spent fuel reprocessing from receipt and storage through reprocessing to final product finishing, mixed oxide fuel manufacture and return of waste and products to customers. The current portfolio of contracts involves 26 customers operating in eight countries.
Sellafield is just one of the 20 sites scheduled for some level of decommissioning under the NDA strategy. The others are: the Berkeley Power Station and Laboratories, Bradwell Power Station, Calder Hall Power Station, Capenhurst, Chapelcross Magnox Power Station, Culham JET, Dounreay, Dungeness A Power Station, Harwell, Hinkley Point A Power Station, Hunterston A Power Station, Low Level Waste Repository near Drigg, Oldbury Power Station, Sizewell A Power Station, Springfields, Trawsfynydd Power Station, Windscale, Winfrith, and the Wylfa Power Station.
"Our priorities for the coming year are to launch our first competition - the contract to manage and operate the low-level waste facility at Drigg - and, by April 2007, issue a new Sellafield contract as part of the sale of BNG," Sir Anthony said Thursday.
"We also intend to undertake consultations on the best approach to addressing socio-economic issues; to review site end states with stakeholders and to evaluate the business case for accelerated decommissioning for Magnox and other reactor sites," he said.
"The government must reject calls to build new nuclear reactors and invest in a comprehensive program of energy efficiency and renewables that will tackle climate change while securing our energy needs," Juniper said.
"Had we been able to invest this scale of resources into clean and sustainable renewable power, energy efficiency and the cleaner use of fossil energy, we could have met our climate change targets easily," said Juniper. "We need now to embrace the diverse cutting edge technologies of the future, not resurrect failed technologies from the past."
The Government's Climate Change Programme published on Tuesday stated that the government is investing £50 million (US$87 million) in low carbon buildings, £15 million (US$26 million) in renewable heat and less than £50 million into research on wave and tidal power.
Sir Anthony attempted to assure the British public that the latest technology would be employed in nuclear decommissioning.
"As we take these next steps, we will continue to review the strategy to ensure it takes into consideration the latest developments in this very complex industry," he said. "Openness and transparency are our core values and we’re committed to delivering the best outcome for the UK as we begin to tackle its nuclear legacy in earnest."
The NDA Strategy document is available online at: www.nda.gov.uk