UK nuclear waste clean-up costs spiral out of control - China Dialogue
Energy

UK nuclear waste clean-up costs spiral out of control

As the cost of cleaning up nuclear waste at the Sellafield site rockets to over £70 billion, executives are accused of poor leadership
The spiralling costs of the UK’s nuclear waste legacy were under attack this week as executives from the Sellafield nuclear plant – the site of the world’s first full-scale nuclear power plant and much of the radioactive waste – were hauled before MPs to explain why they have been unable to keep control of the clean-up bill.
 
The UK’s civilian nuclear power industry dates back to the 1950s and as of 2010 had amassed an estimated stockpile of five million cubic metres of radioactive waste, with Sellafield itself home to the largest civilian stockpile of plutonium waste in the world.
 
What to do about safely disposing of this waste has become both costly and controversial. As it stands, Finland is the only country in the world to have established a long-term waste disposal plan.
 
In the UK, the management of the company responsible for the Sellafield nuclear plant has come under severe criticism for overseeing a drastic increase in costs and serious management failings. MPs criticised the state-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) for extending the contract of the company managing the site for a further five years, despite the heavy critique.
 
Speaking previously, the MP Margaret Hodge, chair of a committee of MPs scrutinising the nuclear industry said: "An enormous legacy of nuclear waste has been allowed to build up on the Sellafield site. Over decades, successive governments have failed to get to grips with this critical problem, to the point where the total lifetime cost of decommissioning the site has now reached £67.5 billion, and there’s no indication of when that cost will stop rising.”
“It is unclear how long it will take to deal with hazardous radioactive waste at Sellafield or how much it will cost the taxpayer,” she added.

Despite the escalating costs of nuclear power, the UK recently gave the go ahead for the construction of its first nuclear power plant to come online since 1995. The Chinese and French-backed project, currently estimated to cost in the region of £14bn, has been criticised by those who say state support should be directed towards renewables, rather than subsidising a new generation of nuclear power.