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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Sellafield clean-up cost at £67.5 billion - new report

The cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear site is £67.5 billion - and there is no indication when that will stop rising.

Download (.pdf): Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: Managing risk at Sellafield

A report by the government's Public Affairs Committee says deadlines have been missed, pushing vital decommissioning projects over budget.

It adds successive governments have failed to tackle problems at the site and raises concerns that a reported £700m in savings could have been ‘overstated’.

According to the report, basic management failings have continued to cause delays and increase costs, while doubts remain over the robustness of the decommissioning plan, in particular whether the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the body overseeing the clean up, is progressing the development of an underground nuclear store as quickly as possible.

Margaret Hodge MP, chairwoman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “It is unclear how long it will take to deal with hazardous radioactive waste at Sellafield or how much it will cost the taxpayer.

“Of the 14 current major projects, 12 were behind schedule in the last year and five of those were over budget.

“Furthermore, now that Cumbria County Council has ruled out west Cumbria as the site of the proposed geological disposal facility, a solution to the problem of long-term storage of the waste is as far away as ever.

“Taxpayers will have to foot the bill."

Noting that west Cumbria is an area of "considerable deprivation with high unemployment", Mrs Hodge adds taxpayers do not get a good deal from the authority’s arrangement with Nuclear Management Partners, the private consortium that manages Sellafield.

"Last year the consortium was rewarded with £54 million in fees, despite only two out of 14 major projects being on track.

“All payments to Nuclear Management Partners and, indeed to its constituent companies, need to be strictly controlled and determined by the value gained, so that payments are not made where companies have not delivered.

“Public money to the tune of £1.6bn is being spent at Sellafield each year," she said.

The Public Accounts Committee report follows concerns raised by the National Audit Office in November. It criticised the spiralling cost of plant decommissioning and the lack of a long-term plan for waste.

NDA chief executive John Clarke welcomed the report, saying the MPs’ visit to Sellafield in November allowed them to see the scale of the challenge.

He said that before the NDA's creation there was no credible lifetime plan for Sellafield and tough decisions about how to ultimately decommission the site were simply put off.

“We are now facing up to those challenges and for the first time we have a proper plan in place for the decommissioning of Sellafield which lays out in detail programmes of work for every area of the site. Since the creation of the NDA in 2005, the financial investment at Sellafield has increased from £900 million to over £1.5 billion a year.

“There are a significant number of existing facilities on site already storing high and intermediate level waste that meet the highest international standards and the Sellafield Plan includes an ongoing construction programme of surface stores over the next 10 to 15 years, to be built to these standards, valued around £600 million.

“Of course, not everything has gone smoothly on such a complex and highly technical programme and the report has rightly pointed to areas where we and the site need to do better. We have a programme of improvements in place and continue to work with Sellafield Ltd and NMP to make continued progress across a broad front of safe operations and project delivery,” added Mr Clarke.

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