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MP says Sellafield is Europe's ‘biggest nuclear slum’

A veteran MP has launched a withering attack on the Sellafield nuclear plant, calling it “the biggest nuclear slum in Europe”.

Austin Mitchell photo
Labour MP Austin Mitchell

The comment from Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, came as he and other politicians on the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee gave nuclear bosses a grilling over Sellafield’s spiralling project costs, big salaries and potential risks. The committee monitors public spending and wants to know whether Sellafield has wasted taxpayers’ money.

A damning National Audit Office report has labelled Sellafield the UK’s largest and most hazardous nuclear site. The Managing Risk Reduction at Sellafield report said some deteriorating buildings posed significant risks to people and the environment.

Members of the Parliamentary select committee visited Sellafield before putting nuclear chiefs in the firing line during a public hearing at Energus (Lillyhall) on Monday.

Mr Mitchell referred to the committee’s earlier visit to the nuclear plant, saying: “I think it was a kind of a sop to make us more sympathetic.”

The MP added: “It’s a cross between science fiction and a nuclear slum – and it’s probably the biggest nuclear slum in Europe.”

The committee’s chairwoman Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, said that for 30 years nobody had really focused on the issue of waste disposal.

She said: “There’s catch up to be done now. We need to be assured they are working as fast and efficiently as they can. Expenditure is well over budget and projects well behind time so that suggests things aren’t right. We are now talking about total decommissioning costs of £67 billion – that’s a lot of taxpayers’ money.”

Chief executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority John Clarke faced questions but it was said the authority had inherited “a legacy of poor planning and neglect over several decades”.

Mr Clarke said: “Removing the high hazards is our number one priority. We are doing all we can to make sure we have the right balance, funding and quality in place to make sure work progresses as quickly as possible with due care to the environment.”

Much of the hearing focused on the high costs of running Sellafield, not just massive over-spending on major projects but also what was paid both to executives and specialists.

“It’s in our interests to make sure taxpayers are not being ripped off,” said Mrs Hodge. She referred to £44 million being paid over four years to Reachback experts and another £32 million to 16 Sellafield Ltd executives.

“These are shocking, shocking figures in a poor economy in the north of England,” she added.

“What does your boss earn?” she asked George Beveridge, Sellafield Ltd’s deputy managing director.

Mr Beveridge did not give a specific answer, prompting Mrs Hodge to say that the annual report and accounts showed the highest paid director received £1.2 million.

On radioactive waste disposal, MPs were taken aback by the time it would take to have an underground waste repository – 2040.

Mrs Hodge said the committee will report to parliament in six or seven weeks.

Have your say

Labour and Tory Governments are both at fault, they sold Sellafield down the river, and because of that they are now trying to force the underground dump onto West Cumbria,a geo area that is unsuitable for deep storage... so get back to some of those worthy MP's and check out their backyards for it.

Posted by Clive on 4 December 2012 at 20:18

It's ironic how Sellafields getting a kicking from the government for being such a burden on the taxpayer. Shouldn't the government have spent a bit more time focussing their attention on how the site was run if it's such a huge overhead? Or is it like the banks where they turn their backs on it and hope it will sort itself out!! This is just one example of how the government are completely out of touch with the rest of the UK, do any of these MP's actually have a clue what goes on at the site, and the history behind the legacy problems associated? Obviously not. It was government and MOD activities in 50's which left the site with the problems which attribute it to being a so called "nuclear slum". The plants and facilities constructed in recent years are well run and safe.

Posted by D on 3 December 2012 at 11:35

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