�73bn cost of nuclear clean-up 'spiralling out of control'
Campaign groups have warned that the cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations was "spiralling out of control" after an official admission that an estimate of £73 billion was set to rise.
The £73 billion figure, published in January, was an increase of £12 billion on the previous estimate made in 2003, but a senior official at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said today that he believed the cost would continue to escalate.
Director Jim Morse told the BBC: "I think it's a high probability that in the short term it will undoubtedly go up."
Environmental campaigners reacted with anger to the admission and said a "radical new approach" to energy generation was needed.
Friends of the Earth's nuclear campaigner Neil Crumpton said: "Nuclear and fossil fuel power generation pose an enormous threat to the environment - and their cost to the economy is spiralling out of control.
"The Government must come forward with a comprehensive programme of action to cut energy waste and exploit the UK's considerable potential for generating renewable power from wind, waves and the sun.
"The Government must seize the opportunity to make the UK a world leader in developing a low-carbon, nuclear-free economy - and create a safer and cleaner future for us all."
Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace's nuclear campaign, said: "The Government's own experts have no idea how much it will cost to clean up nuclear waste. All they can do is guess that the figure will grow by billions of pounds from an already eye-popping £73 billion.
"To make matters worse, there is no guarantee that potential operators of new nuclear power stations will be made to pick up the full tab for dealing with their radioactive waste.
"Waste from these new atomic plants would be at least three times as dangerous as the stuff currently sitting in places like Sellafield and once again the taxpayer would be forced to cough up.
"Yet, despite the taxpayer already propping up British Energy, the company has just announced a sharp fall in profits. Anyone thinking of investing in nuclear power must need their head examined."
A spokesman for the Business and Enterprise Department said: "It's vital that we invest appropriately in the safe and secure clean up of the UK's nuclear legacy. This is precisely why the Government set up the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority which is establishing a competitive market in nuclear clean up that will drive down the eventual costs and encourage innovative solutions.
"As the NDA continues its work to establish - for the first time - the scale of the challenge, the assessment of the costs involved will naturally need adjusting."
A total of 19 nuclear sites across the country are due to be dismantled in the next 100 years, including Magnox power stations at Berkeley in Gloucestershire, Bradwell in Essex, Chapelcross in Dumfries, Dungeness A in Kent, Hinkley Point A in Somerset, Hunterston A in Ayrshire, Oldbury in Gloucestershire, Sizewell A in Suffolk, Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd, Wylfa on Anglesey and Calder Hall in Cumbria, as well as fuel facilities in Sellafield, Cumbria and Capenhurst in Cheshire.
Image: Decommissioning nuclear power stations is going to cost the UK billions of pounds