The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today published its report, Taking forward decommissioning, examining the progress of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). It criticises heavily the uncertainty surrounding the cost of decommissioning both Britain's existing and future nuclear power stations.
"Decommissioning the UK’s first generation of civil nuclear sites and running the remaining sites still operating will cost an enormous amount of money," said PAC chairman Edward Leigh.
"The latest estimate, prepared last year, puts the cost at £73bn over the coming decades. We cannot be confident, however, that even this figure will not be significantly upped when the estimates are next revised.
"Estimating costs far into the future is of course a precarious business; but elements of cost that might be expected to be more predictable – such as for work expected to be undertaken over the next five years – have risen steeply."
The report also attacks the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) for failing safeguard taxpayers from paying for the decommissioning of future nuclear plants.
"An important lesson is that, when new nuclear facilities are built, plans for decommissioning them should be already in place," said Leigh.
"The Department [BERR] is unable to provide complete assurance that the costs of decommissioning new nuclear power stations will not fall back on future taxpayers."
In response, a BERR spokesman said: "This is the first government to have risen to the challenge of establishing the scale and cost of cleaning up the UK’s nuclear legacy. The NDA is already succeeding in providing greater clarity, but we have always acknowledged that the cost estimate would increase in the short term as the NDA gained greater understanding of what it is dealing with.
"As for the building of new nuclear power stations, we've been clear from the very start that energy companies - not taxpayers - must meet the full costs of eventual decommissioning of new nuclear power stations and their full share of waste management and disposal costs.
"Government is putting in place, through the Energy Bill, one of the most robust regulatory frameworks in the world to ensure that nuclear generators will meet these costs."