Funds for UK nuclear clean-up have been redirected towards troubles at the huge Sellafield site, while the total bill for legacy facilities has increased by £6.4 billion ($12.6 billion).
|Decommissioning at Dounreay
The news came in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA's) business plan for the next three years. The 76-page document highlighted problems at the huge Sellafield site, which has a central role in the British nuclear industry. The NDA said the site's major issues were operational difficulties at the Thorp used nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and the continuing emergence of "issues at high-hazard facilities" which require extra funds for reasons of safety compliance.
The impact of bumping Sellafield further up the list of priorities will be felt "most immediately and significantly" at the Harwell, Winfrith research parks and the Magnox power reactor sites. "We are unlikely to achieve completion of reactor defuelling and Magnox reprocessing before 2016," admitted the NDA. Defuelling - the removal of highly-radioactive used nuclear fuel from a reactor - is the first main step in decommissioning and ultimately demolishing a nuclear power plant.
It is the NDA's top priority to reduce the levels of hazard presented by the UK's various pioneering national nuclear programs. Ultimately it is to manage the complete removal of much of the legacy infrastructure at 19 sites and guide the government in the long-term management of radioactive wastes. A new figure was placed on the discounted cost of the work: £37.0 billion ($73.3 billion), up £6.4 billion ($12.6 billion) on the last estimate. The NDA said this is due to its increased knowledge of the task ahead. In 2005 the undiscounted cost of the mega-project was put at £63 billion ($124 billion). This rose to £73 billion ($144 billion) during 2007, and the body's estimation methods were the subject of a report by the UK's National Audit Office.
The business plan was developed after approval of the NDA's strategy, and includes spending limits for each of the site licence companies against which they should deliver an agreed program of work. The plan was subject to public consultation between November 2007 and the end of January 2008.
Under the plan, some £2855.0 million ($5660 million) will be spent by NDA in 2008-9, of which £1318.2 million ($2613.4 million) should come from commercial operations (reprocessing at Thorp and electricity generation at the Wylfa and Oldbury Magnox power plants) with the rest made up by government as a grant-in-aid. In 2009-10 spending rises to £2817.8 million with commercial operations declining to £1205.8 million, and in 2010-11 £2784.6 should be spent, with just £1077.1 million from operations.