back to article UK government told to tighten purse strings or public will have to foot the bill for nuclear decommissioning

The UK government is being warned that taxpayers will have to make up a multibillion-pound shortfall to decommission nuclear power stations unless a history of overspending is reversed. French firm EDF Energy runs seven Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) stations in the UK, part of eight second-generation reactors set to be …

  1. Binraider Silver badge

    Ahhh, yes, privatisation. EDF could just walk away and what could one do about it?

    Central planning with an agenda further than the end of one's nose are not without its disadvantages

    1. DevOpsTimothyC

      Ahhh, yes, privatisation. EDF could just walk away and what could one do about it?

      How about seize Hinkley Point C?

      1. R Soul Silver badge

        Seize Hinkley Point C

        What would be the point? Hinkley Point C is just a great big hole in the ground for burning UK taxpayer money. It's literally a gigantic hole in the ground. It's never going to generate electricity. EDF would be delighted if they got shot of Hinkley Point C. The project's costing them billions. It's late and over budget too, just like the new nukes they're trying and failing to build elsewhere.

  2. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Great funding model

    The French state pockets the profits from selling electricity whilst they're operating, then the British taxpayer pays to clean up the waste!

    (Not blaming France for doing this, rather it's one of the many consequences of UK governments trying to pretend that nuclear power was part of a free market, rather than being something that needs to be paid for by the state - precisely because you can't just convert the power stations into luxury flats afterwards like they did in Battersea)

    1. ShadowSystems

      Re: Great funding model

      You can turn them into flats AND save money in the process by not installing lights. You won't need them given that everything glows in the dark. =-)p


  3. ThatOne Silver badge


    > Reverse this trend of overspending, says watchdog

    Wait a second, how do we scratch the backs of all our mates if we don't overspend? Being rich and influential costs money!

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Dilemma

      > 2 thumbs down

      Hey look, we have two career politicians among the commentators...

      Unless it's some starry-eyed idealist youngsters who still believes their father can't possibly be wrong or do bad things, and that their sacred filial duty is to blindly trust him whatever the circumstances.

  4. Oh Matron!

    The Lakes with Simon Reeve

    Has a great segment on Sellafield. Gets to go in and has a tour where we've not seen before. Somewhat terrifying that there's containers at the bottom of tanks just rotting away.... :-(

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Re: The Lakes with Simon Reeve

      That's in the "legacy ponds" that are related to the early days of the nuclear weapons program; all that was important then was recovery of plutonium.

      Things are much better when you look at current spent fuel processing and reactor decommissioning. BBC 4's "Britain’s Nuclear Secrets: Inside Sellafield" gave some great coverage of this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Lakes with Simon Reeve

        In what way is it much better? Has Sellafield stopped discharging radioactive water into the Irish Sea? Have all the billions spent there produced a solution for long term radioactive waste? Have any of the nation's dead nukes - OK they're not at Sellafield - been decommissioned on time and on budget? Has the multi-billion THORP plant been transformed into a success story yet?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Lakes with Simon Reeve

          Why would the British government take care?

          It is the Irish Sea, not the English Channel!

  5. tiggity Silver badge

    store the fuel safely at Sellafield

    When they really mean "store the fuel at Sellafield" - safely not really a part of that sentence

    A lot of people are uneasy about nuclear not for reasons of "huge scary nuclear explosion" (though 3 mile island, Chernobyl etc. not good for nuclear PR) but because of ever increasing expense of decommissioning, the costs always seem to increase and increase unfettered (and as other commentards have said, the station builders / designers walk away inconvenienced by those costs), and that there is no genuinely safe way* to get rid of the nuclear waste - just hoping that future generations have a better solution to the problem is far from ideal.

    *I'm aware various proposals exist, all I have seen are flawed. Please point me to a viable solution I may have missed as would love to see one.

    1. Velv

      Re: store the fuel safely at Sellafield

      "Nuclear power is cheap ..."

      comparatively, to build and operate on a per unit produced basis.

      Total cost of ownership from concept through to returning a green field, not so much. Some of the waste has a half life in the thousands of years, not just your grandchildren who are going to be paying to look after it.

    2. Bartholomew

      Re: store the fuel safely at Sellafield

      Watch a 2010 documentary film called "Into Eternity", it is mostly about Phase 1 of a facility being built on Olkiluoto Island in southwest Finland, where they plan to store 65 tons of spent nuclear fuel for a minimum of 100000 years. They started building the tunnels for the Onkalo spent nuclear fuel repository in 2004 and expect to begin storing waste in 2023 when Phase 4 is complete. KBS-3V storage does require that the waste is stored for 30 years to become less radioactive (For the 'hot' material to decay through their chain, eventual producing less neutrons) before it can be stored permanently, well for 100000 years hopefully all going well.

      It could actually work as envisioned, at least on paper it is the best attempt at long term nuclear storage that I've seen. And it is duplicating what was found in nature.

      But it is probably time for Finland to start selecting the site to build the next spent nuclear fuel repository, because there is only enough room for about one hundred years of waste.

    3. Rol

      Re: store the fuel safely at Sellafield

      A thorium reactor would happily munch its way through the bulk of the spent fuel leaving them with nothing but a few years of half-life left before they are deemed safe, compared to the ten's of thousands of years they would otherwise take.

      Problem is, there is no political will behind sane choices such as molten salt reactors, as they can't produce weaponiseable materials. Best we stick to what we have and keep up pretending we're only ten years away from developing fusion.

      1. Bartholomew

        Re: store the fuel safely at Sellafield

        > A thorium reactor would happily munch its way through the bulk of the spent fuel

        What is the solution to the high intensity gamma ray emissions produced as it munches through that waste. Do not get me wrong I think thorium reactors are great, but even they need their waste stored for a few centuries. Every solution has some problem.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: store the fuel safely at Sellafield

      Three Mile Island was not a scary explosion. The radioactivity released was roughly equivalent to half that you'd get from a chest X-ray. The incident was certainly a major screw up, but it wasn't remotely like Chernobyl.

  6. bombastic bob Silver badge

    why can't they just do some upgrades instead?

    why can't they just do some upgrades instead?

    Wouldn't it cost LESS to do some refits, repairs, and upgrades to EXISTING systems?

    'Shirley' it makes a LOT more economic sense for the electricity to pay for the retrofit over a couple of decades (including the storage of radioactive 'old reactor parts' and nuclear waste) than to just tear it down and pay for it all through tax money...

    The refit/repair/upgrade path means it PAYS FOR ITSELF and continues to supply needed electricity. Win-Win

    And yes, I HAVE operated nuclear reactors. I pretty much know how they work, I've worked with radioactive material, done many contamination surveys with radiacs and swipes, worked in high radiation areas, and wore different types of dosimeters depending on the conditions. And I'll yell it from the cheap seats if I have to, that NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY MAKES SENSE. It should not just be "decomissioned" because SOME people FEAR it.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Re: why can't they just do some upgrades instead?

      The problem with the AGRs is that the graphite core has reached end-of-life in four reactors (2 closed, 2 closing this year), with the others getting closer. There is no practicable way to replace the graphite. The reactors have all run well beyond their design life as it is.

      There was a proposal to build a Thorium reactor at Wylfa (an old Magnox site) and use it to extend the life of the generators and transformers, but it was not possible to get funding.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: why can't they just do some upgrades instead?

        It's not just the graphite core. The fundamental structural problem is nuclear embrittlement of the pressure vessel (the reactor itself); this [so far] has not been solved by science, only reduced. It is a structural weakness & property of the steel material itself, and why all nuclear reactors have a service life specified

        You simply can't run a nuclear reactor forever. At least, not one using any form of metallic pressure vessel.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Don't worry, all those electric cars that are being planned are going to ensure that coal-based generators will be severely swamped, and as for wind, well I'll get a kick out of seeing how many people have to stay home because their car didn't charge enough during the night.

      Without nuclear, we as a society can kiss goodbye to all the power-hungry amenities we have grown used to. There will not be enough juice to power the fridge, the freezer, the aircon, the TV box, the laptop and two smartphones per person, and on top of that, two electric cars per household.

      Because people don't want nuclear, but they do want all the gadgets and "smart" doorbells and all the rest.

      In 1950, people had a fixed-line telephone, a TV set, a radio, a fridge and, maybe, a washing machine and a dryer. Plus a few lightbulbs. If we go back to that, we could probably do without nuclear. But today ? And IoT on top of all the stuff we have ?

      There's no way we can make do without nuclear. Fusion would be better, but that's 30 years away, as we all know.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "coal-based generators will be severely swamped"

        That will be difficult. We don't have any coal-based power stations - and almost no operating coal mines either.

        Fusion reactors would be great. But they're about as unlikely as Boris Johnson ever telling the truth.

        1. JohnMurray

          We still have two coal-fuelled power stations...generating 670MW at this moment in time.

          1. Binraider Silver badge

            Not for much longer. Neither of them have very many running hours left on them - unless we tear up the rules concerning them.

            I would suggest most will have to start getting used to Britain being energy poor unless there is a dramatic change in the direction of our government and funding mechanisms. Doing without is, contrary to popular opinion, an option.

            Not saying I'm happy about this of course but turkeys keep voting for christmas.

    3. druck Silver badge

      Re: why can't they just do some upgrades instead?

      Cracking of the graphite core of the AGRs is the main restriction of the reactors lifetime, and it isn't realistically possible to refit or upgrade these. You would basically have to build an entire new reactor, but first having to wait until the old one is decommissioned. It's quicker and cheaper to build the new one next door, and take the time to decommission the old one, which is what is being done.

  7. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

    Ah the grand old Tory mantra

    Privatise the profits, socialise the losses

    aka I own this pile of turd and profit from selling it to rose gardeners, you pay to clean up after they stop buying me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah the grand old Tory mantra

      You prefer the Labour approach of exploit the workers, tax the in owners?

      1. tea junkie

        Re: Ah the grand old Tory mantra

        as opposed to the tory exploit the workers, dont tax the capitalisys exploiting the workers, and corruptly hand them money you taxed off the exploited workers? See the NHS for details.

  8. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Transportation of fuel to Sellafield

    If you ask me, the best thing for the NDA to do would be to subcontract the fuel transportation to Hermes. The packages with the fuel would then just vanish off the face of the earth and we'd not have to worry about it ever again.

    1. Dr. G. Freeman

      Re: Transportation of fuel to Sellafield

      The problem with that is all the fuel would end up at their main depot for weeks on end before being "lost", turning that site into a uninhabitable radioactive cesspool, dangerous to life.

      Hang on it's already in Leeds, nevermind.

    2. Tom 7

      Re: Transportation of fuel to Sellafield

      Sellafield would be lit at night from the radioactive glow from Workington's landfill site! Well until that went critical!

  9. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Kindgom of Wind

    When we decommission nuclear power, expect sales of baked beans to soar exponentially.

  10. clyde666

    The Name that cannot be spoken

    This whole article on nuclear, with lots of mention of Sellafield.

    But not one reference to ... Windscale

  11. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Is there any major project that didn't end with cost inflation?

    There must be one, because there's always an exception for every rule, but still....

  12. fpx

    My dad was an engineer at one of the earliest commercial nuclear power plants in Germany. He retired early in 1995 along with the plant. The plan was to return the site to its prior state, i.e., back to a "green pasture." Now, 27 years later, most of the structures are still standing (except for the cooling towers, which would have crumbled without maintenance), and engineers are still trying to figure out how to dismantle 3 meter thick concrete foundations of the strongest concrete available at the time. Some low-radiation remains are still on site, because Germany, like everywhere else, still hasn't found a place willing to accept radioactive waste. No idea what the original budget for the build-back was, but they must have exceeded it 10x by now with no end in sight.

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