Friday, August 12, 2005

Nuclear sites to be cleared years early

Nuclear sites to be cleared years early - The Herald

DAVID ROSS, Highland Correspondent August 12 2005

THE decommissioning of two nuclear power plants should be completed many decades earlier than planned, government-appointed experts said yesterday.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said the UK's ageing Magnox reactor sites, including Hunterston A, in Ayrshire, and Chapelcross, near Dumfries, could be cleared within 25 years.
But it also warned that the cost of decommissioning the first 20 nuclear sites will be at least £8bn more than expected.
Hunterston, which operated from 1964 to 1989, was scheduled to be returned to greenfield status by 2090, while Chapelcross, Scotland's first nuclear power station, which ceased generating electricity in June last year, is to be returned to brownfield status by 2128.
But the NDA said there was "a strong case to abandon this approach in favour of de-fuelling, decommissioning and release" of the sites for alternative uses by 2030.
The proposals are contained in the NDA's first report since it was set up last year to take strategic responsibility for the UK's nuclear legacy.
Critics last night insisted the huge cost increase should put the last nail in the coffin of any plans for new nuclear power stations in Scotland.
Sir Anthony Cleaver, NDA chairman, said: "In terms of the overall cost, we inherited an original estimate of £48bn.
"When we rolled up the life cycle baseline (costs) and added them together last year they came to £56bn.
"Our expectation is that, in the short term, that number may well increase."
Sir Anthony said Dounreay's already accelerated programme was reasonable and achievable over the next 30 years.
He admitted that speeding up decommissioning and looking for "other innovative ways of tackling things" could help to reduce costs.
"The current plans assume that we spend 10 or 15 years on each Magnox station, reducing it to a point where the higher radiation areas are contained on the site. We then leave it for 60 or 70 years and, finally, come back to complete the decommissioning.
"We think, based on experience elsewhere in the world, it should be possible to accelerate that process significantly, and there are major benefits we believe in doing that." The NDA said its proposed approach to the Magnox reactors was similar to those adopted in Japan, which plans to decommission a similar reactor in 17 years.
The report said it may be possible for Chapelcross to be decommissioned almost a century ahead of schedule.
However, the NDA's draft strategy makes clear that decommissioning the higher- hazard legacy facilities at Sellafield is its "number one clean-up priority", accounting for 60% of the clean-up budget.
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said last night: "The £8bn increase to decommissioning costs should be the final nail in the coffin for any new nuclear power stations in Scotland. The authorities are struggling to deal with current sites, never mind burdening future generations with even more deadly waste."

Sites for decommissioning
Berkeley, Gloucestershire
Bradwell, Essex
Calder Hall, Cumbria
Capenhurst, Cheshire
Chapelcross, Dumfriesshire
Culham, Oxfordshire
Dounreay, Caithness
Drigg, Cumbria
Dungeness, Kent
Harwell, Oxfordshire
Hinkley, Somerset
Hunterston, Ayrshire
Oldbury, Gloucestershire
Sellafield, Cumbria
Sizewell, Suffolk
Springfields, Lancashire
Trawsfynydd, north Wales
Windscale, Cumbria
Winfrith, Dorset
Wylfa, north Wales


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