Taxpayers face bill for nuclear reactors: A leaked report revealing the cost of demolishing old plant has added to pressure for a government review of the industry. Tom Wilkie reports

PRESSURE is increasing for the Government to hold a wide-ranging review of the nuclear industry, after a leaked report from the National Audit Office warned that taxpayers may have to meet part of the pounds 18bn bill to demolish old nuclear reactors and reprocessing plants.

The nuclear industry maintains that it is putting enough money aside from its current earnings to meet the cost of decommissioning its facilities.

Details from the NAO report confirm estimates that the cost of demolishing facilities owned by British Nuclear Fuels will amount to some pounds 6bn; Nuclear Electric's reactors will cost about pounds 7bn, and Scottish Nuclear's reactors pounds 1.5bn to demolish.

The balance, nearly pounds 3.5bn, represents the cost of decommissioning reactors and other radioactive plants owned by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. Almost all of the UKAEA's figure will have to be met by the taxpayer.

However, a spokesman for Nuclear Electric said it would only need to put aside pounds 2.5bn by 1998 to meet its long-term liabilities - not the full pounds 7bn. Nuclear Electric intends to decommission its reactors over a period of 100 years or more. The first stage would be to remove highly radioactive fuel; the second would be to make the plant weatherproof and secure then to leave it for up to a century for residual radioactivity to die away.

The third, and most expensive stage, of knocking down the plant and disposing of any radioactive waste, would thus be deferred long enough for the money presently set aside to accrue interest. The Nuclear Electric spokesman said: 'You pay your money into a pension fund and when you need it, it's there and it's grown because it has earned interest.' He ruled out the possibility that the company would be asking for an extension beyond 1998 of the 'nuclear levy' on all electricity consumers in England and Wales to meet the nuclear industry's liabilities.

The issue of decommissioning destroyed the Government's attempts to privatise nuclear power with the rest of the electricity supply industry. The cost of dealing with the fuel manufacturing and reprocessing facilities finally broke hopes of privatisation.

Estimates of the cost of demolishing BNF's buildings rose 10-fold overnight: from pounds 450m to pounds 4.5bn. Most of the costs had to be met by the Central Electricity Generating Board and its Scottish counterpart, not BNFL. They have been inherited by Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear.

It also became clear that the CEGB had not put aside enough money to meet its own decommissioning costs - pounds 400m- pounds 500m per station. The then secretary of State for Energy, John Wakeham, promised that no new reactors would be built pending a full review of the industry in 1994.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, disclosed recently that, following the review of the coal industry, he was bringing forward the nuclear review to later this year. His department would like to limit its scope to an assessment of the market for new nuclear power stations.

However, Dr Patrick Green, from Friends of the Earth, said: 'It is absurd to talk about new nuclear power stations when we haven't decided what to do with the present ones. The leak of this report from the National Audit Office underlines the need for the Government to stick by its commitment to a wide-ranging review.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones