MPs say they are “not convinced” the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is delivering wider economic benefits during the clean-up of the Sellafield site.
In a report the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the NDA “does not generate all the local, regional and sectoral social-economic benefits which it could”, and such benefits would “help justify the vast amounts of public investment”.
The PAC said the NDA was obliged under the Energy Act 2004 to promote development and work with local communities, while a report from the committee in 2013 recommended performance targets should be set around this.
“Last year, the NDA spent £10 million on socioeconomic development activities,” said the report.
“However, the NDA accepted that its engagement with schools in the area is limited, despite recognising that education and pathways into developing skills and jobs in the nuclear industry are within its obligations.
“The NDA also told us that it is trying to encourage local suppliers into its supply chain by, for example, simplifying processes for applying for contracts to work on the site.
“The NDA and Sellafield Limited have an opportunity to lead and accelerate the development of the UK’s nuclear sector, creating skills, jobs and economic growth, especially related to the nascent new nuclear programme. The NDA accepted that does not yet do enough to maximise the potential socio-economic benefits of its expenditure on nuclear decommissioning.”
The report said the NDA had made progress in reducing risk at Sellafield, home to 40% of the world’s stock of plutonium, but “most major projects are still delayed and are expected to cost more than originally planned”.
MPs said there are 14 major projects at Sellafield with a combined lifetime cost of £6bn. The report said the NDA expected major projects to cost £913m more than originally budgeted, with delays of more than 13 years.
“The NDA has not systematically reviewed why these projects keep running into difficulties, or analysed properly the constraints it says prevent them from making faster progress,” said the report.
“Until this work is completed, we remain sceptical about its long-term strategy to decommission Sellafield.”
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