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Government accounting adds to nuclear hazard

News :

HAZARDOUS NUCLEAR structures, including the Windscale piles, have been neglected for decades because they are 'one-off' problems, a leading engineer claimed this week.

Rather than tackling these difficult decommissioning projects, government cash has been poured into strategies to wind down the nuclear industry's growing portfolio of defunct reactors, said independent consultant John Large.

The result, he claimed, is that less common, yet often more dangerous nuclear problems have been set aside, escalating the decommissioning risks.

All reactors owned by nuclear generators BNFL Magnox, BNFL and British Energy will have stopped operating by 2040.

Major decommissioning projects currently under way are aimed at giving the nuclear industry lessons which can be applied in future.

But because there are no other reactors like the two Windscale piles, Large said, research and development work to develop a decommissioning strategy has been starved of cash.

Environmental campaigners claim that the government's accounting system encourages neglect of one-off decommissioning projects.

Under the system, the longer the wait until decommissioning, the smaller the financial provision set against it. Projects have been put off to reduce the apparent cost of decommissioning, critics say.

But a source close to government said the recent creation of a Liabilities Management Agency (LMA) to oversee nuclear decommissioning was a major step towards turning the situation around.

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