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UK's nuclear clean-up programme to cost billions more than expected | Guardian.co.uk

The public body charged with overseeing the dismantling of Britain's network of atomic power and research stations will reveal on Monday that its estimates for the lifetime cost of the programme has risen by billions of pounds.


Despite this, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will say in its annual report that it is getting to grips with the clean-up problem because the rate of cost growth is slowing year-on-year.


Yet the soaring costs will alarm industry critics at a time when the government is trying to encourage construction of a new generation of atomic power plants while plans to construct a permanent home for high-level radioactive waste are stalled.


In the NDA's 2011 annual report the provisional cost of dealing with the UK's nuclear legacy was put at £53bn, compared with a 2010 figure of £49bn. The new number in the 2012 set of accounts is expected to be around £55bn. But under previous accounting methods, the figure historically used has risen to well over £80bn with some predicting the final bill could exceed £100bn.


Soaring costs have already caused serious tensions with the private contractors who manage the NDA's most financially demanding site, Sellafield in Cumbria, and put pressure on a second private clean-up contract for old Magnox power stations scheduled to be awarded next year.


The NDA declined to predict the latest figure for lifetime clean-up costs, saying only "we are publishing these numbers on June 24 with our annual report", but it confirmed it is looking at the future of the Sellafield clean-up contract with fresh eyes.


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