UK decommissioning spending almost unchanged on year

14 December 2016

The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced its total planned expenditure for 2017-2018 will remain almost the same as last year at GBP3.24 billion ($4.1 billion). The government will fund GBP2.36 billion of this, while GBP0.88 billion will come from income from commercial operations.

The NDA publishes its business plan every year, setting out the next three years of key activity towards cleaning up and decommissioning 17 of the UK's earliest nuclear sites. These include the UK's first nuclear power stations, various research and fuel facilities, including Sellafield in Cumbria, its largest and most complex nuclear site.

In a statement, NDA chief executive John Clarke said: "We are now seeing contaminated waste being retrieved from the highest hazard facilities for the first time ever at Sellafield. Meanwhile, at some of our other sites, defueling - the removal of all nuclear fuel - will soon be completed.

"It's also important not to forget the great strides that have been made in dealing with low-level waste generated by the nuclear industry. In 2010 we published a national strategy for dealing with this type of waste. This has led to innovative, more sustainable ways of dealing with low-level waste, including re-use, metal recycling, disposal to specially licensed landfill sites and combustion."

Opening its latest draft business plan for consultation on 12 December, NDA said it expected to spend GBP3.06 billion on site programs and GBP0.18 billion on non-site work, which includes skills development, socio-economic development, research and development, insurance and pension costs, as well as implementing geological disposal.

Sellafield will account for GBP2 billion of total expenditure. Closure of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, or Thorp, in 2018 is a key objective in the plan, the NDA said.

"The end of reprocessing operations in Thorp provides a clear transition point for Sellafield," it said. "The site will move from commercial operations to decommissioning and continued management of spent fuel and waste."

Clarke listed five key highlights of the plan: after many decades, all nuclear fuel reprocessing at Sellafield will draw to an end by 2020; all 11 Magnox reactors will have been defueled and fuel transferred by 2019; an earlier start for retrievals from the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo at Sellafield by 2020; first NDA site moving into care and maintenance by 2019; and a Low-Level Waste Repository decision related to the third term of the parent body agreement will be made in 2018.

The consultation closes on 3 February.

In January this year, the NDA unveiled its draft Strategy and Business Plan for 2016-2019 for formal consultation. The documents reflected the NDA's five-year budget as determined through the government's Spending Review set out by previous Chancellor George Osborne in November. The Strategy, published every five years, looked at the NDA's long-term mission through a number of themes while the Business Plan, which is published annually, takes a more focused look at the next three years of activity across its estate, together with the associated funding.

Clarke said then that the NDA had been able to offer savings to the Treasury of around GBP1 billion over the Spending Review period. In return, it has secured over GBP11 billion of grant funding for the next five years which, together with its income projections, will enable it to continue to make broad progress across its nuclear estate.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News