04 January 2006, www.westpress.co.uk

Cleaning up the West's old nuclear power stations will cost almost £4billion . . . and experts predict the bill will rise. Campaigners hit out at the scale of the costs, which will fall heavily on taxpayers, and claimed it proved nuclear energy should be consigned to history.

Early estimates predict the bill will be at least £1.4billion to sort out Oldbury in South Gloucestershire, £1.1billion for Hinkley Point A in Somerset, £823million for Berkeley in Gloucestershire, and £461million for Winfrith in Dorset.

But the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which is overseeing the clean-up of state-owned nuclear plants, said yesterday the final cost may well be even higher.

The region's predicted bill so far, £3.784billion, is just a small slice of the national £56billion charge for 20 power stations, a cost of over £900 for every adult and child in the country.

Campaigners yesterday said the true cost now being paid for power produced long ago should make the Government think twice before authorising more nuclear power stations.

The expected costs for dealing with the West's atomic legacy are revealed in a draft strategy being put together by the NDA.

The authority was set up last year to supervise the gradual clean-up of the UK's oldest nuclear power sites, mostly built in the 1960s and either closed or nearing the end of their working lives.

These include the Magnox nuclear power stations at Oldbury, Hinkley Point A and Berkeley, and the reactor research centre at Winfrith, near Dorchester.

All of these sites are now closed except for Oldbury, which is due to finally finish producing power in 2008. The latest plan is to have the Magnox sites cleaned up within 25 years of the end of their working lives.

The NDA is working out how much the clean-up, which nationally will not be finished for 150 years, will cost and launched its strategy as part of the process.

Its final version is expected by the end of March, and a spokesman warned yesterday the final costs were expected to be higher, as more detail was known of what was required at each site. "Our expectation is that the costs will go up rather than down, " he said.

The news about rising costs did not come as a shock to Jim Duffy, who lives in West Somerset and is involved with the anti-nuclear Stop Hinkley Campaign.

"People have expected that with anything that seems to happen with the nuclear power industry, " he said. "Costs down the line end up being more than people expected them to be." He added that the true costs of the clear-up could not be judged in purely financial terms.

Villagers in Cannington, near Hinkley A, had recently been warned there could be up to 180 more lorry movements a day because a new waste store was being built as part of the decommissioning process, he added. "That is going to be replicated at the other power stations, I imagine, because they are all going to need these stores, " he said.

Also unimpressed with the soaring bill was Philip Booth, of Gloucestershire Green Party, which has campaigned against Oldbury and Berkeley stations. "These figures have been going up for goodness knows how many years, " he said. "We are now talking nuclear clean-up costs rising upwards of £900 for each person in the country." Money for the clean-up is coming from the NDA's annual £2.2billion budget, partly financed by the Treasury and partly from the profits of power and reprocessing, rather than from a central fund.

Nationally, by far the biggest slice is for sorting out Sellafield, on the north-west coast, which is expected to cost £31.5billion to clean up.

Not included in the NDA's clean-up bill is the eventual cost of decommissioning privately owned power stations such as Hinkley Point B, which is run by British Energy. The hefty bill when it finally stops producing power, in 2011, will be footed through a special fund into which the firm has been paying for many years.

Berkeley, Hinkley A and Oldbury were in the first wave of British nuclear power stations, brought online in 1962, 1965 and 1967 respectively. Berkeley closed in 1989 and Hinkley A in 2000.

The reactor research centre at Winfrith opened in 1957. From 1967 until 1990, it had one functioning reactor that produced enough electricity for a town the size of Salisbury.


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