Back onto the nuclear tip with this blog!
Sellarfield is centre stage for this diatribe, as it exemplifies the problems that persist for nuclear energy, in the perceptual, economic and technical context.
My comments are based upon the report from the National Audit Office and an article in the guardian on the subject, which provides some great graphics to support the underlying data.
In essence, Sellarfield is a complex site dealing with a range of complex waste, from spent nuclear fuel to decommissioning and weapons waste. This has an advantage of allowing the UK to develop marketable high tech solutions to radioactive problems, however most of these projects are running over budget and behind schedule!
The NAO report flags these failings and places a significant amount of emphasis on the spiralling costs. This will have the unfortunate consequence of undermining the credibility of Sellarfield as a World leader in these technologies and will also taint public confidence, both in the site and and the wider industry.
It does beg the question as to how much costs might run out of control for the whole decommissioning process? The Government appears not to be overly concerned as the overall cost will not have a significant impact on the unit cost of nuclear generation, and anyway, it looks as though the taxpayer will bear much of the cost for legacy plant!!
Nonetheless, there has to be some concern, because the numbers we are talking about are still quite large, large enough even, to stifle enthusiasm amongst investors and operators. alike
Another concern that I have are around the decommissioning process itself, as Sellarfield is being prosecuted for not following the rules on proper disposal of low level radioactive waste. This should be met with disbelief, when you consider how long this has been going on and the processes and expertise that are in place!
Once the wider scheme of decommissioning starts to roll out, it is probable that costs will again start to spiral and work schedules stretch, as has been the case with Sellarfirld. My worry with this, is not so much who will bear this additional cost, but what will happen with the management of the process and handling of the waste. Experience dictates that it is always in these areas where time constraints and cost overruns, lead to poor practice and corner cutting. Not something you would wish to see when dealing radioactive waste (albeit very low level).
Link to Guardian article:
Link to NAO site: