PRESS NOTICE PN98
THE NUCLEAR DECOMMISSIONING AUTHORITY
Publication of Report
The Trade and Industry Committee today published its Seventeenth Report of Session 2002-03: The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority: pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Nuclear Sites and Radioactive Substances Bill.
The draft Bill (Cm 5858), which was published on 17 July 2003, is intended to implement the Government's plans for an independent Authority to manage the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK's civil nuclear liability, responsibility for which currently rests with British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). The Government's intentions were set out in a White Paper, Managing the Nuclear Legacy - a strategy for action (Cm 5552), which was published on 4 July 2002.
In summary, the Government has proposed that the NDA would be a statutory non-departmental public body, accountable to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It will have financial responsibility for all civil public sector nuclear liabilities and be responsible for the delivery of the Government=s nuclear clean-up objectives and the planning and prioritisation of the decommissioning and clean-up of nuclear sites. The NDA will not undertake clean-up activities directly, but will operate through management contracts or licences specific to each site. The site licensees will be responsible for safety and site management; the development of site clean-up plans are to be agreed with the NDA. Ownership of assets such as the remaining Magnox reactors, the Sellafield MOX Plant and the THORP reprocessing plant will be transferred to the Authority. Initially, site management contracts would be let to the incumbents, BNFL and UKAEA. However, the Government intends to introduce competition into the market for decommissioning and clean-up services to enable the importation of project management skills available in other sectors, improve the quality of management available to the nuclear liabilities sector and improve the prospects for cost savings.
Commenting on the Government's original plans last year, the Committee had welcomed the proposals in the White Paper, and felt that they "should result in the development of a focussed, long-term clean-up programme and provide transparency in the way the nuclear legacy is to be managed which the current arrangements lack."
In the current Report, the Committee concluded that it was broadly content that the draft Bill will provide the correct framework to give effect to the Government's plans for a coherent decommissioning and clean-up strategy, and was satisfied that most of the issues identified in its previous Report had been addressed, either in the text of the draft Bill or in the supporting documentation which was published alongside it. In arriving at this conclusion, the Committee made a number of comments on the Government's plans, including:
It is essential that the NDA is provided with the resources that it needs to carry out its responsibilities. While the Government has provided assurances that the necessary support will be forthcoming, it cannot provide more than a rough estimate of the resources that will be needed annually. However, before the Bill is presented to Parliament the Government should finalise and publish the process by which the level of its initial and annual contributions to the NDA's Segregated Account will be determined.
The development of the NDA's Research and Technology programme is an essential component of the Authority's work to which higher priority should be given when the NDA management statement is developed further.
While it is understood that the Government is still establishing the framework for stakeholder involvement and transparency within which the NDA will work, the proposed requirements for stakeholder consultation by the NDA and its contractors strike a reasonable balance between prescription and the need for flexibility in order to adjust the consultation arrangements to suit the individual problems posed by any particular nuclear site.
The performance of the NDA and its contractors will depend heavily on the quality and skills of their workforce. The creation of a nuclear industry pension scheme, providing benefits of membership equivalent to those provided by the existing industry schemes, could provide an incentive to join and remain in the decommissioning and clean-up industry.
Commenting on the Report, Martin O'Neill MP, Chairman of the Committee, said "We welcome the Government's proposals for the establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage the UK's civil nuclear liability and feel that, in general, the draft Nuclear Sites and Radioactive Substances Bill will implement the proposals set out in last year's White Paper. The Government has been prudent in widening the remit of the NDA to take account of the possibility that if British Energy were to cease trading (or another private firm in the industry) then it would be necessary for the Government to intervene in the interests of public safety.
"However, it is essential that, from the outset, the NDA receives clear instructions from the Government as to the waste management strategy that it will be required to implement. Given the central role that the Government envisages for Nirex in the development of this strategy, the uncertainty over the future funding and management of the organisation should be resolved without delay."
28 October 2003
Note to Editors
The Committee is appointed under Standing Order No. 152 of the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Trade and Industry and associated public bodies. It has the power to send for persons, papers and records.
The Members of the Committee are:
Mr Martin O'Neill MP (Chairman), (Lab, Ochil)
Dr Ashok Kumar MP, (Lab, Middlesborough South and East Cleveland)
Mr Henry Bellingham MP, (Con, North West Norfolk)
Mr Andrew Lansley, MP, (Con, Cambridgeshire South)
Mr Roger Berry MP, (Lab, Kingswood)
Mrs Jackie Lawrence MP, (Lab, Preseli, Pembrokeshire)
Mr Richard Burden MP, (Lab, Birmingham, Northfield)
Mrs Linda Perham MP, (Lab, Ilford North)
Mr Jonathan Djanogly MP, (Con, Huntingdon)
Sir Robert Smith MP, (Lib Dem, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
Mr Lindsay Hoyle MP, (Lab, Chorley)
Previous Reports and Press Notices (from 1996 onward) can be viewed on the Internet at: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/t&ihome.htm