Sellafield inspection after 'intolerable risk' report

Sellafield Nuclear Plant
Image caption Sellafield is the UK's largest and most hazardous nuclear site

Sellafield nuclear plant is to undergo a value-for-money inspection after a report found it posed a "risk".

Earlier this month the National Audit Office (NAO) found decommissioning projects were over budget and that storage buildings were "run-down".

Now members of the Public Accounts Committee will visit the site to ask "tough questions" on how taxpayers' money is being spent.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said it welcomed the visit.

John Clarke, chief executive officer at the Authority, which oversees the Sellafield site, said improvements had been made.

The Sellafield plant is the UK's largest and most hazardous nuclear site, storing enough high and intermediate level radioactive waste to fill 27 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The NAO report earlier this month found that hazardous waste was being stored in "run-down" buildings, and that the cost of decommissioning was spiralling out of control and was behind schedule.

'Tough committee'

It also concluded that operators had failed to plan how to dispose of radioactive waste and some of the older facilities had "deteriorated so much that their contents pose significant risks to people and the environment".

A long-term plan to clean up the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority-owned site, was agreed last year after an earlier one stalled because it was "unrealistic".

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the accounts committee, said she would be asking "tough questions".

"We are going to see the site to meet those dealing with problems, then we are going to have a hearing with all the accountable and responsible people.

"We are a value for money committee and so clearly we are going to be hearing whether the taxpayers' money is being spent properly.

"Looking at the NAO report I'm pretty shocked and appalled at delays in work and by how costs at the site keeps rising. We are a pretty tough committee and we will be asking searching questions," she said.

Around 240 of Sellafield's 1,400 buildings are nuclear facilities and so far 55 buildings on the site have been decommissioned.

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