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Clear-up costs for Sizewell A nuclear site to top £900m

PUBLISHED: 07:35 04 October 2010 | UPDATED: 10:04 04 October 2010

THE estimated cost of clearing the Sizewell A nuclear power station site is now a massive £927m, according to new figures.

THE estimated cost of clearing the Sizewell A nuclear power station site is now a massive £927m, according to new figures.

Taxpayers will pick up most of the bill because the twin reactor plant, as well as 20 other reactors around the country, are state-owned – some by the Ministry of Defence for the production of weapons-grade plutonium.

The cost of decommissioning all of the UK’s first-generation Magnox nuclear power stations, together with research facilities and the reprocessing plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, is presently expected to be £37.1bn.

Four years ago, the estimated cost of clearing the decommissioned Sizewell A site was £870m.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said yesterday that costs changed over time and were constantly being reassessed.

The NDA’s only income is from two Magnox power stations elsewhere in the country, which are still generating electricity, and land sales which have already raised £400m. But it has huge liabilities in terms of clearing nuclear sites.

Current cost estimates were revealed at a meeting in Saxmundham hosted by the Sizewell Stakeholder Group at which the NDA – set up by the Government to supervise the site clearances – set out its draft strategy for the next five years.

The remaining cost of clearing the Bradwell site in north Essex is put at £746m. About £36m is being spent at Sizewell A this financial year, but there are fears that scheduled spending there and at other sites over the next few years will be slowed as a result of the NDA’s budget being cut. An announcement is expected on October 20.

Under current plans, all the Sizewell spent fuel will be removed from the reactor by 2013.

Demolition of ancillary buildings will continue until 2034 when the site will be moth-balled in a “care and maintenance” phase – to allow radioactivity levels to subside. Final site clearance work is due to start in 2088 and last for 10 years.

At Bradwell, the “care and maintenance” stage is due to start in 2027, with final site clearance being achieved in 2093.

At the public meeting, Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, called for a guarantee from the NDA that Sizewell A would be returned to a “greenfield” condition.

He said this would be in accordance with the wishes of a public meeting held four years ago.

NDA officials said the final “end state” for the site would reflect the views of the local community, but they stepped back from giving a definite “greenfield” assurance.

Mr Barnett said he was not satisfied with the response and he castigated the NDA for selling off land in other parts of the country to power firms planning to build a new series of nuclear reactors.

“By doing this you are compounding the problems of dealing with nuclear waste,” he said.

After the meeting, one NDA official, Richard Mrowicki said the final use of the Sizewell site would be decided by the local community and the local planning authority.

But the decision might have to be taken by a future generation.

“Views change over time and it is just too early to be making definite decisions,” he said.

•Members of the public have until November 24 to comment on the NDA’s draft strategy. It can be accessed via its website at www.nda.gov.uk/consultations

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