With the Sellafield figures published in the National Audit Office report (March 2015) – ‘Progress on the Sellafield site: an update’, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority faces a renewed grilling from the Government’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on March 11th. Chair of the Committee MP Margaret Hodge has said she will be seeking an explanation from the NDA, its Site Licence Company Sellafield Ltd and others, as to how the escalation of Sellafield’s costs will be stopped, why the clean-up programme continues to fall behind and how/when it will be put back on track.
In recent encounters with the NDA, PAC’s Margaret Hodge has been highly critical of the Authority’s oversight of Sellafield, its poor management of major projects and its mis-guided faith in Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) who it had contracted in 2008 as Sellafield’s Parent Body Organisation whose financing from the public purse she described as an absolutely appalling waste of public money …it is like scattering confetti’ (NMP was stripped of its contract in January this year at a cost to the taxpayer of £430,000). She also raised the evidence submitted by CORE (18/10/13) to PAC on Sellafield’s commercial operations ‘Underperformance and Missed Targets’ in which the expansion of the NDA’s original clean-up and decommissioning remit – through taking on the oversight of the UK’s nuclear waste disposal and an involvement in new-build issues – had overstretched the Authority and adversely affected its judgement and performance.
In its own report published last month ‘Nuclear Provision – explaining the cost of cleaning up Britain’s nuclear legacy. February 2015’, the NDA makes no specific reference to the £53Bn figure used by the NAO for Sellafield but provides an alarming estimate of the costs of cleaning up all 17 nuclear sites under its ownership and for which it is responsible for deciding how they should be decommissioned. It states ‘…in reality, taking account of numerous uncertainties, the range (across the UK) is likely to be somewhere between £90 billion and £220 billion, depending on a wide range of assumptions.
On Sellafield, the NDA’s report estimates that at least one third of today’s costs for the environmental restoration of Sellafield is attributed to the site’s military involvement, with the remainder associated with the civil nuclear energy programme. The current annual budget for Sellafield (around £3Bn) is financed largely (two-thirds) from public funds plus the smaller revenues from electricity generation, land sales, nuclear transports and nuclear fuel reprocessing – with Sellafield’s operational plants forecast to generate around £10Bn of income between 2015 and 2027.
In describing the Sellafield site as posing levels of complexity and uncertainty that are unique in the global nuclear sector, the NDA admits that significant uncertainties remain and further unforeseen cost increases cannot be ruled out.