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Nuclear Power

Sellafield's Facilities are a Shambles

A shock Report, by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate  reveals that Sellafield's .facilities for handling nuclear waste are a shambles and that its safety procedures for preventing accidents – which could kill hundreds of thousands of Britons – are "not fully adequate".

After reprocessing, highly dangerous radioactive liquid waste is concentrated through evaporation and stored above ground in 21 giant steel tanks before being "vitrified" – bound into glass for disposal. But the Report shows that every stage of this process is in crisis.

Two of the three evaporators have been shut due to safety problems, and there are continuing "difficulties" with vitrification. But the most alarming issue is the failure of equipment needed to cool the waste, which could, at worst, lead to an explosion, scattering radioactivity across much of the country. Studies suggest that for every tank that exploded 210,000 people would die from cancer.

The Report also reveals "poor housekeeping standards" in the waste stores, that vital safety inspections are "not fully effective", and it condemns "lack of focus" on "emergency arrangements and fire safety".

Sellafield accepts the Report's findings, but says it has "strengthened management arrangements" and made "improvements" to the plant. This fails to impress the independent nuclear expert John Large, who said: "The Government wants to build new nuclear power stations, but the backend of the process, which deals with their waste, is a shambles."

Nuclear Decommissioning Costs Soar

The cost of decommissioning ageing nuclear power sites has risen "rapidly" in the past few years by £12bn to £73bn, according to an official report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said costs were rising, even for the most imminent work. It said the industry faced "significant challenges".

Greenpeace says the uncertainty makes building more reactors "reckless".

The estimated £73bn cost of decommissioning the UK's old nuclear sites is 18% higher than an estimate given in 2003.

The NAO report said the sum partly reflected "a more complete assessment of the range of work needed to be done".

Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, said while there was a better idea about "the scale of the task", the "estimates of costs to the taxpayer had continued to rise".

Geological Fault At Dounreay

Dounreay's operators have had to revise their plans to build a new low-level waste dump after discovering their preferred site lies on top of a geological fault-line.

They had been working on flawed information provided by the Nirex agency that drilled a series of boreholes in the early 1990s when Dounreay was being considered as the site for a national intermediate-level nuclear waste dump.

New research has led to the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) moving the location of the dump further north and revising the layout of the six underground concrete vaults.

The changes will prompt a new round of consultation over UKAEA's bid to dispose of up to 175,000 cubic metres of lightly contaminated solid debris, much of which comes from Dounreay.

Scottish Parliament Rejects Nuclear Power

MSPs have voted by 63 to 58 to reject nuclear power, exactly a week after Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, committed the UK government to a new generation of such stations.

The Holyrood vote was hailed by SNP ministers as signalling a clean, bright future for Scottish energy.

Jim Mather, the Energy Minister, said: "This vote transforms the terms of the energy debate in Scotland – we now have a Parliament and Government able and willing to take forward Scotland's clean, green energy future. Scotland's energy future is bright."

An alliance of the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens was enough to see the policy through, with the Tories and Labour voting to retain nuclear energy.

Hidden Subsidies for Nuclear Power

The Government's  go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations has sparked a fierce row over financial sweeteners to private sector operators. John Hutton, the Business Secretary, insisted there were no subsidies but the small print of the White Paper showed concessions had been given away.

Private companies who wanted to build new stations would have to pay for the entire cost while "meeting the full costs of decommissioning and their full share of waste management costs", argued Hutton who said atomic power was needed to reduce carbon and the growing reliance on energy imports.

But a campaign by French nuclear operator, EDF, and others to win Government help for an attractive financial framework which would make nuclear cost-effective against other forms of power appeared to have borne fruit.

· The Government is effectively making electricity generated by coal or gas more expensive by promising "greater certainty for investors" through unilateral action to underpin the price of carbon. Coal and gas power stations emit relatively large quantities of CO2 for which they will need costly permits.

UK Government To Pay Local Communities To Store Nuclear Waste

The operators of the controversial Sellafield nuclear complex have agreed to pay local people in Cumbria some £75m for expanding the only national dump for low-level nuclear waste.

The unprecedented deal – which is being called a "bribe" – is widely thought to be the precursor of a payment of at least £1bn to the community that agrees to take a much more controversial planned repository for infinitely more dangerous waste that will remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years.

The Government plans to invite communities across Britain to "express an interest" in hosting such a repository, and expects them to put forward proposals for inducements to take it that will "enhance "their "wellbeing".

Professor Gordon MacKerron, who until recently chaired the Government's official Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), said that the "totally surprising" move sets set a precedent for a much more expensive deal over a more controversial repository.

£4 Miilion Dounreay Clean-Up Cost

THE bill to deal with Dounreay's radioactive liquor spill within a waste plant is now expected to be over £4 million.

The job of recovering the fissile material which accidentally spewed on to the floor of a shielded cell in September 2005 has been much tougher than initially envisaged. A failure of management systems led to intermediate-level active liquid waste spilling over a steel drum after an automatic mechanism to release its lid failed to activate.

Before the flow was stemmed, 58 gallons had poured out, much of it mixing with a separate feed of cement powder.

It has also halted operation at the plant where the highly-active liquor – viewed as the site's highest hazard – is cemented in drums before being put in long-term storage.

Those dealing with the clean-up initially envisaged having the plant back in action in the summer of last year at a cost of about £1 million. But it has proved much trickier than anticipated.

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£500m extra cost of Dounreay clean-up

The cost of decommissioning Dounreay is set to rise by more than £500m and there could be further increases on the way.

Much of the increase is due to uncertainty over the fate of radioactive fuel and nuclear waste on the Caithness site The increase came to light as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) approved the latest long-range plan for the site's closure.

For a number of years the official estimate was £2.9bn. That had been scaled back to £2.1bn but has now been increased again to £2.7bn. Using real-term estimates, the cost will effectively rise to more than £3.6bn.

Nigg Dump Fears

Fears that an iconic industrial site in the Highlands could end up as a radioactive scrap yard have been re-ignited by news that a nuclear decommissioning company is set to buy the site.

The former Nigg Fabrication Yard on the Cromarty Firth is up for sale, and the Birmingham-based demolition company, DSM, has become the "preferred bidder". It specialises in breaking up large structures, include oil rigs, ships and buildings.

More Details

Scottish Ministers Reject New Nuclear Power Stations

Scottish Ministers have rejected new nuclear power stations as dangerous and unnecessary.

Energy Minister Jim Mather instead wants the billions of pounds that could be spent on nuclear power reallocated to make Scotland and the UK a world leader in clean, renewable technologies.