Bill to clean up UK nuclear waste rises to £ 48 bn
The true cost of cleaning up the UK's nuclear waste, some of it dating from the 1940s, has increased to almost £ 48 bn. The figures were revealed by the government as "radical" changes to managing the country's nuclear legacy were announced.
A new national body, the Liabilities Management Authority, is to be created to ensure that the decades-long clean-up
is carried out safely and efficiently. The expenditure, estimated at £ 43 bn last year, will cover the
decommissioning and eventual demolition of nuclear plants and buildings as well as the processing, storage and
disposal of nuclear wastes and any environmental restoration.
The LMA will take on responsibility for the nuclear waste from British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and is being seen by some observers as a step forward in plans to privatise BNFL. Although dealing with the waste is a devolved issue, the LMA will take charge of decommissioning and clean-up work at Dounreay, Hunterston A and Chapelcross in Scotland.
Brian Wilson, the energy minister, said the new authority would be a "champion of public information", adding that
nuclear clean-up was one of the most important technical and environmental challenges facing the UK. New research in
Scotland, disclosed by the Scottish Executive, reinforced the need for Mr Wilson's approach, revealing that the
public did not trust the government, industry or the media on the issue of nuclear waste but had a higher regard for
non-governmental organisations and the nuclear regulators.
It also emerged Scots thought they were personally affected by the nuclear waste issue and that they were sufficiently mature to be involved in a debate. British Energy, the Scottish-based nuclear company which is the biggest generator in the UK, welcomed the announcement, saying that a partnership approach was the only way forward if the industry was to gain public confidence on this issue.
Radioactive waste from the current generation of nuclear power stations, however, is likely to be far less than in
the past, due to advances in design and technology. A new nuclear build programme involving a further eight stations
over the next 30 years will increase total waste quantities by just 5-10 %.
Kevin Dunion, CEO of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Today's revelation of the staggering cost of cleaning up Britain's civil nuclear waste legacy highlights once again that nuclear power is completely uneconomic."