Cost of nuclear clean-up is £9bn more than predicted

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Indy Politics

Cleaning up Britain's old nuclear power plants will cost at least £9bn more than previous estimates, the Government will announce today.

Robot submarines have uncovered vast deposits of radioactive sludge that was left in underground storage tanks at Sellafield, in Cumbria, decades ago and forgotten. It has pushed up the bill now facing taxpayers to £65bn - but that could rise higher if more forgotten deposits are uncovered. The previous estimate for cleaning up after the civil nuclear industry was £56bn.

The announcement will stiffen resistance to Tony Blair's plans for a new generation of nuclear power plants, which are likely to be part of the Government's review of energy policy. Speaking in Australia this week, Mr Blair included nuclear power as part of the "mix" of energy sources he claims the UK needs.

Trade unionists from Britain's biggest private-sector union, Amicus, which has a large membership in the electricity industry, lobbied MPs yesterday to press the case for more nuclear plants. They are opposed by eight leading Labour MPs who will publish a pamphlet this week arguing that Britain can solve its energy problems without nuclear energy.

"Even if we took a decision soon, no new power would arise for perhaps 10 years, and even then we would be no clearer about how to deal with the waste," one of the authors, the former transport minister Alan Whitehead, claimed.

The former environment minister Michael Meacher asked in the same pamphlet: "Is it rational or responsible to create yet more mountains of dangerous waste until we have found a satisfactory form of long-term disposal of the gigantic quantity we've already got?"

David Chaytor, another author, warned: "Cost, waste, profileration and terrorism have provided powerful arguments for rejecting the nuclear option."

Today's figures will be released as part of a comprehensive strategy for demolishing and decontaminating old nuclear plants, a job given last year to the newly created Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It will show that cleaning up Britain's largest nuclear site, Sellafield, will cost about £40bn and take nearly 150 years. The figure of £69bn only applies to 20 state-owned nuclear plants, most of which are no longer producing electricity. It is does not include newer, privatised plants, or the military laboratory at Aldermaston.

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