Clean-up for nuclear sites costs pounds 8bn

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THE COST of decommissioning old nuclear facilities owned by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) has doubled from pounds 4bn to pounds 8bn, Tim Eggar, Minister for Energy, announced yesterday.

He warned that the bill could be even higher, and will fall entirely on the taxpayer, even though the authority is due for privatisation in the autumn. The liabilities for old research establishments, ranging from Harwell in Oxfordshire to Dounreay in the north of Scotland, will be retained in the public sector when the viable parts of the AEA are sold off.

The new figure represents a further increase on last year's estimate - by the independent National Audit Office - that the total cost of knocking down all Britain's old nuclear facilities would exceed pounds 18bn. The authority's latest estimate now raises the total to at least pounds 22bn.

At the beginning of April, the authority was split into two parts, one of which, the government division, will remain in government hands and will be responsible for the liabilities of nearly half a century of nuclear experiments and production facilities.

According to Dr Derek Pooley, chief executive of the government division, much of the additional cost arose because, once privatised, the authority would no longer continue nuclear operations at many of its sites. 'We now assume that sites will not have much other nuclear work,' he said.