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Sellafield shutdown costs 'to reach £70 billion'

MPs warn of huge delays and overspends on nuclear power station clean-up

Decommissioning Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria will cost taxpayers at least £70 billion as costs hit “astonishing levels,” senior MPs said yesterday.

And the government has rubber-stamped a five-year extension of the contract awarded to a consortium of private companies for the work — despite spiralling costs and missed deadlines.

The performance of Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) and the decision to extend its contract have been slammed by the Commons public accounts committee.

NMP was appointed in 2008 by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority “to help Sellafield Ltd improve its performance on decommissioning and reprocessing.”

Since the appointment costs have soared hugely over the original estimates.

Public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “We have seen big delays and huge cost overruns on a number of major projects on the Sellafield site.

“But despite this the consortium had its contract to clean up the UK’s largest and most hazardous site extended for five more years.”

She said costs for the work were “rising to astonishing levels,” with one clean-up operation’s costs almost doubling from £387 million in March 2012 to £729m in September 2013.

“Cleaning up the nuclear waste on this hazardous site is estimated to cost more than £70bn in cash terms,” said Ms Hodge.

“What’s worse is that the cost is likely to continue to rise.”

She called for termination of the consortium’s contract unless it improved its performance and for the National Audit Office to review the operation, reporting in a year’s time.

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