Sellafield's clean-up costs to reach £1bn next year

The new Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is to spend £1bn next year cleaning up and operating BNFL's controversial Sellafield facility.

The revelation highlights the extent of the liabilities at the Cumbrian plant, which was once to be the centrepiece of the Government's privatisation plans for BNFL before they were abandoned.

In its first year the NDA is proposing to spend £2.2bn sorting out Britain's nuclear legacy, when it begins life in April. According to its new draft plan, it needs to spend £534.3m on decommissioning and cleaning up Sellafield, while £483.6m will be needed to just keep the plant ticking over.

The plan also reveals that the NDA is relying on Sellafield to balance its budgets. It estimates that the facility will generate £860m income over the year, which will be ploughed back into the NDA. According to its plan, some £275.7m of this will come from electricity generation and, controversially, from the sale of Mox fuel, made from spent nuclear fuel.

But the inclusion of Mox has led some to call the NDA's budgets into question. The company has spent £473m on its Mox plant, but technical problems have prevented the company from selling any of the fuel. There are doubts whether it will ever make money from Mox.

John Gummer, the former Conservative environment secretary, who has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the Mox plant, is one of the sceptics. He said: "I am very surprised that the NDA has included Mox in its budget as there is no evidence that [BNFL] has ever sold any of this fuel. The nuclear industry has never got its figures right. It sounds to me that they have got their numbers wrong again."

Mr Gummer said that he had received evidence that the design of BNFL's Mox plant was flawed, as performing even simple maintenance was logistically very difficult.

A spokeswoman for BNFL insisted that the design was "sound". She added: "The first [Mox fuel] assembly is expected to be completed in early 2005. The first Mox fuel order is for the Swiss utility NOK."

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