£5bn rise for Sellafield clean up
The cost of decommissioning and cleaning up the nuclear site at Sellafield has increased by £5 billion to £53 billion, a new report has revealed.
The National Audit Office said that between 2010-11 and 2013-14 the nuclear provision for the site in Cumbria increased by more than £15 billion, mainly from higher estimates of the cost of work required to complete decommissioning and clean up.
Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, commented: " Despite my committee's calls in February 2014 for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to make big improvements, the cost of cleaning up the nuclear waste at Sellafield continues to soar and has risen by an astonishing £5 billion to £53 billion in February 2015, from £48 billion on 31 March 2014.
"The authority's work at Sellafield is not just costing more, it is also taking much longer than planned and, for 2014-15, it looks like work will be behind schedule for the fourth year running."
The NAO report also revealed that it cost £430,000 to terminate a contract in January with private consortium Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) to clean up the Sellafield site.
Ms Hodge said it was "galling" that breaking the contract would cost the public purse, adding that it was taking too long for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NMA) to deal with management "incompetence" at Sellafield.
"My committee concluded in February 2014 that the authority had not demonstrated why Nuclear Management Partners' ownership of Sellafield provides value for money.
"Yet the authority only took the decision in January 2015 to terminate this contract with Nuclear Management Partners, which is almost a year after my committee told it to do so if performance did not improve," she added.
The NMA, Energy Department, Sellafield and NMP will be questioned by the Public Accounts Committee next week.
In its updated report on Sellafield, the NAO said the estimate of decommissioning the site has been increasing "sharply" in recent years.
"The Authority considers that the increase in its lifetime cost estimates is mainly because it now has a better understanding of the scale and nature of the risks and challenges on the site.
"In particular, it reflects an improving understanding of the challenges, potential technical solutions and uncertainties still involved in the decommissioning projects and programmes to retrieve, package and store high risk, hazardous materials. It also reflects a more realistic assessment of the level of efficiencies achievable within the plan," said the report.
Chris Jukes, regional officer of the GMB union, said: "GMB has been absolutely clear all along that the NMP model did not work at Sellafield.
"Poor value for money, poor top NMP management and a lack of grip on key issues in an essential area for the UK energy sector, as well as the UK economy, have led to unbelievable decisions on expenditure.
"The PAC has undertaken some important work of scrutiny and we expect answers from NMP to some basic questions for our members in Sellafield, their families and communities."