Sellafield decommissioning to take over 100 years


It will take more than 100 years before the toxic nuclear site at Sellafield is safe, it was revealed today.

A report from Westminster’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that the cost of decommissioning all nuclear plants was likely to rise because successive governments and the industry found it easy to push costs on to future taxpayers.

Anti-Sellafield protester and South Down SDLP MP Eddie McGrady said: “The nuclear waste is a time bomb waiting to happen.

“They are not only producing but importing the dirty stuff from the rest of the world, it is incredible.”

Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is expected to end by 2020 but it will take years for radioactivity levels inside unused reactors to fall to safe limits. The buildings will have to be demolished and the site readied for possible redevelopment.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley said recently he is still committed to seeing the cessation of reprocessing operations at the Sellafield nuclear plant.

The minister's comments following the publication of a study published in May for Friends of the Earth which revealed Sellafield has the world’s largest stockpile of plutonium and uranium, and storage tanks containing radioactive waste “more dangerous” than the Chernobyl reactor. 

A spokesman for Sellafield Ltd said: “Sellafield isn’t a place that can just be closed down. It is about the removal of plant and equipment from the building, it is about decontaminating and knocking them down - that takes decades.

“A lot of work has been done but with a site as complex as Sellafield that will take a long time to do carefully and safely, which is the priority and can’t be compromised on.”

He said it would cost £73 billion (€91.3m) to decommission over the next 112 years.

The PAC report said estimates of decommissioning costs across the UK had risen by 41 per cent.

DUP Environment Minister Sammy Wilson predicts an increase in usage of nuclear power would reduce  dependence on foreign supplies of fuel, many of which currently come from volatile and unstable parts of the world.