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UK’s nuclear waste cleanup operation could cost £260bn | Nuclear waste




The cost of decommissioning nuclear waste in the UK in the 20th century could rise to £260 billion as old and degraded sites present increasing challenges, according to an analysis provided to an international group of experts.

As the government pursues nuclear power with the promise of a new generation of reactors, the cost of safely cleaning up waste from previous generations of power plants is rising.

Deteriorating nuclear facilities are causing increasingly serious and difficult problems. Aging equipment and electrical systems at Sellafield, which stores much of the country’s nuclear waste and is one of the world’s most dangerous sites, increases the risk of fire, according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. They require increased maintenance and pose increased risks. Last October, a faulty lighting installation sparked a fire at a facility in Sellafield, shutting it down for several weeks.

An analysis by Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, estimates that the total bill for decommissioning a mountain of nuclear waste in the UK will rise to £260 billion.

Thomas said at a conference of international experts that the cost of shutting down Sellafield has risen from £110 billion, according to Freedom of Information requests.

Other sites needing decommissioning are 11 Magnox power plants, built between the 1950s and 1970s, including Dungeness A in Kent, Hinkley Point A in Somerset and Trawsfynydd in North Wales, and seven gas-cooled reactors built in the 1990s, Including Dungeness B, which closed last year, Hinkley Point B and Heysham 1 and 2 in Lancashire.

According to the NDA, the deterioration of one of Magnox’s plants, Trawsfynydd, which closed in 1991, requires significant work to make it safe. “The work that will then need to be retreated to complete the dismantling of the reactor,” the agency said.

Thomas told the International Nuclear Risk Assessment Group that similar problems are expected at other Magnox sites. The schedule for decommissioning old nuclear power plants has been abandoned, with a new schedule not yet published.

The Nuclear Waste Service said deferring the shutdown to 85 years of shutdown, which was the previous policy, is not appropriate for all reactors due to their different ages and physical conditions. NWS said shutdowns of some Magnox stations will have to be served.

Thomas said attempts to speed up the shutdown would only add to the growing bill, which he estimated had increased to £34 billion.

In 2005, the cost of decommissioning and disposing of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants built in the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s was determined to be around £51 billion.


Last year, the NDA’s estimate rose to £131 billion, and its latest annual report said £149 billion was needed to pay for liquidation costs. But Thomas said rising costs meant the total bill was on course to reach £260 billion.

Part of the increased increase is the cost of building a large underground nuclear landfill or geological deposit facility (GDF) to safely store 700,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste – nearly 6,000 double-decker buses – from the country’s previous nuclear program.

The massive engineering project was initially expected to cost £11 billion, but the bill is now estimated at up to £53 billion due to uncertainty over the location of the site, and the need to make room for an unspecified amount of new generation waste. Of the nuclear reactors that the government wants to build.

Four regions of the country are being considered for a GDF but no decision has been made on its whereabouts yet.

“While we are clear about the existing waste legacy already in place, GDF will have to process additional waste from new facilities being developed,” NWService said. “The actual cost … depends on the number of new nuclear projects the UK develops in the future and any additional waste from those plants.”

The National Defense Agency said it would take more than 100 years to clean up the former nuclear waste. Highlighting the challenges of degrading and dangerous facilities, the authority said in its annual report that robots and drones are increasingly being used to conduct on-site inspections.


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