Government rues £7bn worth of nuclear mistakes

Posted on 2 Mar 2012

The UK must learn from its nuclear past so that the same mistakes are not made again, the Department of Energy and Climate Change secretary, Edward Davey, said on Friday (March 2).

Responding to a new government report called ‘Nuclear and Radioactive Waste Policy’, produced by the director of science and technology at the University of Sussex, Professor Gordon MacKerron, Mr Davey said the UK is struggling to manage a difficult legacy of old facilities.

As the UK embarks upon its next era of nuclear power, the report said that delays by governments and public bodies in tackling nuclear liabilities led to a progressive escalation of costs and deterioration in facilities.

The report praised the creation and funding of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to deal with the legacy and the legal framework put in place for liabilities resulting from any new nuclear build.

The report highlighted the environmental importance of nuclear decommissioning, which stated that it is necessary to maintain the government’s ring-fencing of the budget for this.

Commenting on the report, Mr Davey said: “It’s hard to imagine a starker salutary lesson. The public purse is now picking up the tab for previous mistakes. This kind of short-sightedness cannot and will not be allowed to happen again and we will not place a costly new millstone around the neck of future.

Mr Davey added: “Low carbon will support thousands of jobs in construction and operation but there will be no [public] subsidies, operators will be required to put money aside from day one to meet future clean up and waste costs and we intend to substantially increase operators’ third party liabilities.”

Professor Gordon MacKerron said: “Minimal attention was paid to deteriorating nuclear facilities for decades and the cost of remediating them is approximately £7bn higher now as a result, probably Lack of commitment to separating plutonium from spent fuel, long after any economic justification had ceased, compounded the problem.

“The establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in 2005 was a substantial step forward, the first time a single body focused entirely on managing nuclear legacy. Unsurprisingly this has led to the discovery that the (discounted) costs of managing our nuclear liabilities will be over £20bn,” added Professor MacKerron.