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Nuclear Waste Storage Facilities “Intolerable”

Nuclear waste stored in run-down facilities poses an “intolerable risk;” long-term planning has faced “historic neglect” and decommissioning costs have spiralled out of control.

That’s the damning conclusion of a report by the National Audit Office into the Sellafield nuclear power station, the largest and oldest in the UK.

Sellafield site including nuclear waste facilities

Nearly 20 million gallons of nuclear waste are stored on the site in ponds and silos for the 50-year period needed for nuclear waste to cool down. Many of these are themselves over 50 years old and have “deteriorated so much that their contents pose significant risks to people and the environment”.

There have been many plans to improve the facilities, the latest of which came to a halt last year because it was “unrealistic,” with 85% of the improvements attempted failing to achieve what they were meant to achieve.

One of these was meant to fully encapsulate the nuclear waste silos on the site but was scrapped in 2008 because construction had started before the design process had completed.  Work has now restarted on the project with costs rising 92% to over $2 billion.

The estimated cost of decommissioning the entire site by 2120 has risen by over 40% in just 3 years, and currently stands at $107 billion.

Co-incidentally, that’s exactly the same amount (40% that is) which Green Alliance and WWF estimated the UK could cut its energy demand by if it gave proper incentives for householders and businesses to generate their own renewable energy.

Instead, the UK Government made an unbelievable decision in 2008 to return to nuclear power and revealed plans last year to build another eight new nuclear power plants by 2025.

I just hope British children and taxpayers of the future will forgive them.

Picture Credit: Postcard of Sellafield by Leonora Enking (some rights reserved).

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Written By

is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.


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