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article imageUK nuclear decommissioning Sellafield, budget and safety concerns

By Eileen Kersey     Feb 6, 2013 in Environment
Seascale - Sellafield, formerly known as Windscale, Britain's largest nuclear facility is being decommissioned. The cost continues to escalate with the latest estimate reaching £67.5 billion.
Sellafield in the north west of England is a nuclear reprocessing site. Work undertaken at the site includes a process which separates the uranium, plutonium, and fission products from spent nuclear fuel. The site is located close to the Cumbrian village of Seascale, which lies on the coast of the Irish Sea.
Decommissioning work is ongoing but Monday the BBC reported that the cost for this work had risen to a staggering £67.5bn. That may sound a huge sum of money but the bad news is that is not a final total. The costs continue to rise.
In November the BBC reported that the decommissioning work at Sellafield was to undergo a 'value for money' investigation. The UK National Audit Office (NAO) early in November reported it had found run-down storage buildings at the facility and had assessed the cost as already over budget. Costs were 'spiralling' out of control and work was behind schedule. Importantly there were safety concerns.
Safety and cost continue to raise concerns.
The UK coalition government is keen to invest in nuclear energy. As a small country, likely to get smaller if the Scots vote for independence, Britain has nowhere near enough natural resources to sustain and supply the country's energy needs.
The UK government gave the green light for the controversial practice of fracking to re-start in December. Fracking had been put on hold following earthquakes in the Blackpool area and safety concerns. Fracking alone though will not be enough to solve the UKs energy problems, even if it is successful.
Many countries turned away from nuclear development after the devastating Fukushima plant earthquake problems. They highlighted all too clearly what can go wrong.
Tuesday a House of Commons, Committee of Public Accounts, published an updated report. It is available to purchase at TSO. It begins with background information, 'Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: Managing Risk At Sellafield (HC 746)' examines the work of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (the Authority) which was set up in 2005 with the specific remit to tackle the UK's nuclear legacy; and confirms that the Authority believes it now has a credible plan for decommissioning Sellafield.
Sellafield is run for the Authority by Sellafield Limited; in November 2008, the Authority contracted with an international consortium, Nuclear Management Partners Limited, to improve Sellafield Limited's management of the site, including the development of an improved lifetime plan; Sellafield Limited are due to start retrieving hazardous waste currently held in legacy facilities in 2015.
Over several decades, successive governments have been guilty of failing to tackle issues on the site. Deadlines for cleaning up Sellafield have been missed, while total lifetime costs for decommissioning the site continue to rise each year and now stand at £67.5 billion.
Basic project management failings continue to cause delays and increase costs, while doubts remain over the robustness of the plan, in particular whether the Authority is progressing the development of the geological disposal facility as quickly as possible.
The Committee also remain unconvinced that taxpayers are getting a good deal from the Authority's arrangement with Nuclear Management Partners. Taxpayers currently bear the financial risks of delays and cost increases.
As the UK continues to experience a range of problems regarding the decommissioning of Sellafield Tuesday there was more news on its latest nuclear development plans. The BBC reports that Centrica is pulling out of a deal to build four new nuclear reactors in the UK, leaving EDF, the French state-owned utility, in control.
The bad news is that EDF will now have to look to other investors. It has already approached China.
More about Sellafield, windscale, uk nuclear decommissioning, Nuclear energy, centrica
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