Lack of knowledge on nuclear sites to cost ‘generations’ of UK taxpayers


‘MASSIVE’ failed contracts, ‘weak’ UK Government oversight and a ‘perpetual’ lack of knowledge on the state of nuclear sites will cost ‘generations’ of UK taxpayers dearly, a new report has warned.

The document, by the UK Government’s public accounts committee, said that the decommissioning of retired civil nuclear sites was an ‘afterthought’ when the UK’s ‘pioneering’ nuclear industry was established.

It continues by stating that decades of poor records of the state and location of hazardous materials and ‘weak’ UK Government oversight has left the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) with the legacy of a ‘perpetual’ lack of knowledge about the condition of the UK’s nuclear sites and its responsibility for making it safe.

The report estimates that the decommissioning of the sites – including Hunterston B Power Station in Ayrshire, Dounreay Power Station in Caithness and Torness Power Station in East Lothian – will cost taxpayers around £132 billion, take around 120 years to complete and have a ‘significant’ impact on the lives of those who live near the NDA sites.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the public accounts committee, commented, “The UK went from leading the world in establishing nuclear power to this sorry saga of a perpetual lack of knowledge about the current state of the UK’s nuclear sites. With a project of this length and cost we need to see clearer discipline in project management.”

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy Chair of the public accounts committee, added, “Although progress has been made since our last report, incredibly, the NDA still doesn’t know even where we’re currently at, in terms of state and safety of the UK’s disused nuclear sites.  Without that, and after the serious knock to the NDA’s reputation in the Magnox contracting disaster, it is hard to have confidence in future plans or estimates.

“The UK nuclear industry has valuable technical skills and is still a world leader in nuclear decommissioning technology. The NDA, with stronger, better oversight from Government, must make a clear break with the incompetence and failures of the past and step up to maximise these assets, and the astronomical sums of taxpayers’ money it has absorbed, for the benefit of local communities and the post-Covid recovery of the UK economy as a whole.

“Generations of taxpayers and local residents will continue to be impacted just by cleaning up these sites – the process must be made to work for them.  The NDA have a duty to those taxpayers to ensure that they provide value for money for everything they do.

“In tandem with this, the NDA should be helping to export these capabilities the world over – it should be a force for and part of our economic recovery over the coming decade, instead of the damaging drain on resources, more precious than ever now, it has been allowed to become.”