Select Committee on Trade and Industry Written Evidence


Annex 2

NEW BUILD AND DECOMMISSIONING

INTRODUCTION

  2.1  UKAEA's focus is on decommissioning and environmental restoration. We have no plans to finance, build or operate new nuclear stations, and no corporate policy to promote new nuclear build.

  2.2  We believe that the key to meeting the challenges posed in the energy review will be to assess all options, both for energy supply and energy efficiency, on an equal footing. The emotional debate between "no nuclear" and "pro nuclear" is a sterile one. We need to develop a mix of energy technologies that meets this country's needs, and there is no doubt that nuclear power has the potential to make a significant contribution towards the key goals of:

    —  Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.

    —  Security of energy supply.

    —  Affordability in an increasingly expensive energy environment.

DECOMMISSIONING AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

  2.3  However, there are a number of difficult challenges which the nuclear industry must address if it is to win public confidence for a new build programme. Not the least of these is the need for a successful demonstration that the previous generation of nuclear facilities can be successfully decommissioned in a way which is safe and secure, environmentally responsible, and cost effective.

  2.4  UKAEA sites account for some 10% of the country's civil, public sector nuclear liabilities, which are now the responsibility of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. We have progressively reduced these liabilities over the past 10 years from some £9 billion in 1994 to £7 billion in 2003, through:

    —  The complete dismantling and removal of 15 out of our 26 original research reactors.

    —  The management and minimisation of radioactive wastes.

    —  Remediation of contaminated land and freeing-up land and buildings, which are guaranteed free of nuclear contamination, for alternative use.

  2.5  In 2004, UKAEA developed new accelerated decommissioning plans, bringing forward the end date for decommissioning our sites by up to 35 years, and further reducing the long-term costs to the taxpayer to a total today of some £5 billion.

  2.6  The successful restoration of our sites for future use should contribute to public confidence in any future programme of nuclear construction.

DESIGN FOR DECOMMISSIONING

  2.7  Many of the facilities which make up Britain's present nuclear legacy date from post-war initiatives in the 1940s and 50s, when the priority was to build and commission them as quickly as possible. Their eventual decommissioning was not a significant consideration in their design—a significant factor in the complexity and cost of decommissioning them today.

  2.8  Modern plant will be much easier to decommission, and it will be important to build ease of decommissioning, and minimisation of resulting wastes, into any new nuclear stations from the start of the design process. With more experience than anyone else in the UK in decommissioning and waste management, UKAEA will be well-placed to provide an independent assessment of the cradle-to-grave performance of alternative reactor designs.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  2.9  Maintaining the current focus on decommissioning previous facilities will be important in building public confidence in a new generation of nuclear power stations.

  2.10  Ease of decommissioning, and minimisation of waste, should be significant factors in assessing new reactor designs.



 
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