By Ben Simmons
Energy Secretary Edward Davey today underlined the Government’s commitment to deal with the UK’s nuclear legacy and to ensure that the nuclear new build programme learns every lesson from past mistakes.
He said policies to ensure new nuclear operators cover their waste and decommissioning costs will mean that future generations do not pay the price for nuclear electricity used decades before they were even born.
This came as the Government published a report by Professor Gordon MacKerron of SPRU (Science and Technology Policy Research), University of Sussex, into the history of managing nuclear wastes and decommissioning.
“The Coalition has made cleaning up and decommissioning the nuclear legacy a priority— even at a time when it faces difficult spending decisions,” said Davey.
“It’s hard to imagine a starker salutary lesson. The public purse is now picking up the tab for previous mistakes. This kind of short-sightedness cannot and will not be allowed to happen again. We will not place a costly new millstone around the neck of future generations.
“The coalition wants to see new nuclear power come forward as part of a balanced energy mix. It is secure, low carbon and will support thousands of jobs in construction and operation. But there will be no subsidy, operators will be required to put money aside from day one to meet future clean up and waste costs and we intend to substantially increase operators’ third party liabilities.”
Professor Gordon MacKerron said: “The history of managing and funding our nuclear legacy has, until very recently, been dire. Funds collected from consumers for decommissioning and waste management were diverted to other ends. And for decades minimal attention was paid to deteriorating nuclear facilities - and the cost of remediating them is consequently now much higher, probably by several billion pounds, than it would have been had serious work started up to two decades ago. Continuing commitment to separating plutonium from spent fuel, long after any economic justification had ceased, compounded the problem.
“The establishment of the NDA in 2005 was a substantial step forward — for the first time a single body focussed entirely on managing the nuclear legacy. Unsurprisingly this has led to the discovery that the (discounted) costs of managing our nuclear liabilities will be over £20 bn. more as at 2011 than expected in 2005. And there are indications that, when affordable, speeding up the work of remediation may offer good value for money. Government has learned lessons from history and the funding regimes for the UK’s current reactors, as well as any future reactors, are much more robust.”