Nuclear clean-up bill £12bn higher than predicted

Decommissioning Britain's growing radioactive waste mountain is likely to cost the taxpayer £12bn more than previous highest estimates, raising fresh questions about the expense of the new generation of nuclear power stations.

Environmental campaigners and Tory MPs said the costs of decommissioning – likely to reach £73bn - were now "out of control". They called for an urgent clean-up at the Sellafield recycling plant in Cumbria after the report by the public spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO).

The NAO reported that decommissioning costs for the existing 19 nuclear plants had risen by 18 per cent – about £11.7bn between 2005 and 2007 – and are expected to reach £73bn but could go higher. Part of the reason for the rise is that previous plans failed to include the cost of cleaning up the ponds and silos at Sellafield, and the method of decommissioning was changed from manual to remotely operated work to reduce risks to staff.

"Today's report reveals the staggering cost of trying to safeguard Britain's growing mountain of radioactive waste," said Neil Crumpton, a Friends of the Earth campaigner. "And it's the taxpayer who will have to foot the bill. We can meet our energy needs and combat climate change without building new reactors.

"The Government should invest in clean safe renewable power, energy efficiency and low-carbon technology, rather than adding to a nuclear legacy that we still don't know what to do with."

The Government is still pondering the best way to store future waste but has been advised that deep storage under the sea is probably the safest method. The cost of building new storage facilities is not included in the latest estimates.

Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, which will investigate the figures, said: "It is particularly worrying that cost estimates for work about to begin are still on the rise." He warned that the taxpayer was facing higher costs because of the "start and stop" nature of the work at some of the sites.

A member of his committee, the Tory MP Richard Bacon, said the cost of cleaning up the UK's first nuclear reactors was "running out of control". He said problems encountered in cleaning up the Sellafield recycling plant were proving "toxic" for the decommissioning authority's finances, disrupting work at other sites and creating additional costs for the taxpayer. He added: "The authority needs to reduce the pressure the work at Sellafield is putting on its operations by cleaning up Sellafield as a matter of priority".

The authority said the increase in costs partly reflected "a more complete assessment of the range of work that needs to be taken forward, including the action necessary to address hazards at some of the legacy facilities at Sellafield.

"Our analysis of the plans also indicates, however, that cost estimates on work expected to be undertaken in the near to medium-term, which might be expected to have stabilised by now, have risen significantly. Between 2005 and 2007, the estimate of likely costs for the first five year period covered by those plans in a consistent manner – April 2008 to March 2013 – rose by 41 per cent."

A growing proportion of the UK's nuclear facilities have reached, or are nearing, the end of their operational life. By December 2007, 14 facilities had shut down and were in the process of being decommissioned, which included cleaning up the sites.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants to go ahead with new nuclear power stations to reduce Britain's reliance on Middle East oil and to reduce the country's carbon emissions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn