Previous predictions put the cost of the difficult and lengthy operation at some £48 billion, but on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the chairman of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said he would like to see the ageing Magnox plants decommissioned over the next 25 years, not 125 as previously planned, and the job was likely to cost £56 billion rather than £48 billion.

The NDA’s Sir Anthony pointed out that the four operating Magnox stations Dungeness, Oldbury, Sizewell and Wylfa will all be closed by 2010 and current plans assume that after initial work for 10 or 15 years, the “more difficult pieces” would be tackled up to 70 years later.

“That’s leaving the problem for future generations and throughout that period you’ve got the problem of storage, safety, security,” he told Today.

“We believe it ought to be possible to complete the decommissioning of these stations over a 25-year period.”

He also stressed the bill would be spread over decades, so the £8 billion would not be too hard to swallow but former Environment Minister Michael Meacher said it once again drew attention to the fact that nuclear power was uneconomic and left a bitter legacy for future generations.

Mr Meacher said there was no argument for a new generation of nuclear plants and that the line most used by proponents of further development – that there was so much waste already out there that a little bit more wouldn’t hurt – was contemptible.

While he conceded Britain’s active reactors had a good safety record he said there were huge risks related to the future storage of waste.
“Nuclear is neither necessary nor desirable to meet our climate change targets,” he told the programme.

“It involves huge economic, military and environmental risks that should be avoided.

“Despite strenuous efforts over the last 30 years no government has yet solved the problem of safe long-term storage.”

Friends of the Earth has claimed the extra £8 billion bill is ‘further evidence that building new nuclear power stations would be an expensive mistake’.
The campaign group’s executive director Tony Juniper said: “Nuclear power is an expensive liability with a long track record of huge cost overruns.

“But it won’t be the nuclear industry that will foot the bill, it will be British taxpayers.

“It would be madness to increase our liabilities by building more nuclear power stations.

“Investment in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency is the only sane way forward.”

By Sam Bond

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