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June 25, 2003 12:00 AM
Ross Finnie MSP

Scottish Environment Minister Ross Finnie MSP

An agency is to be established to oversee the clean up of civil nuclear sites.

Environment Minister Ross Finnie (Lib Dem) today confirmed that the Scottish Executive would work with Westminster to establish the UK wide body.

The creation of a Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) is provided for in draft legislation published today.

The NDA will own and be responsible for the clean up of installations currently managed by British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) at Hunterston A and Chapelcross, and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) at Dounreay.

In addition to establishing the statutory framework for the NDA, the draft Nuclear Sites And Radioactive Substance Bill:

facilitates the introduction of competition in order to ensure the best possible skills are brought to bear on the task and are being used to best effect;

Confirming the Executive's role in establishing the new body, Mr Finnie said:

"The clean up of our nuclear legacy is one of the most important challenges we face. Following our collaboration on the White Paper, Managing the Nuclear Legacy, we have been working closely with the UK Government to take forward proposals on creating a body to deal safely, securely and cost effectively with that legacy.

"The scale of work, estimated at £48 billion across the UK, requires a single strategic body that can draw on the expertise of Britain's civil nuclear engineering sector. Its work will cover both reserved issues (the management of nuclear sites) and devolved functions (management of nuclear waste).

"The NDA will not be responsible for reviewing options on waste management. That work will be carried out by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, currently being established.

"The Scottish Executive will continue to work closely with Westminster colleagues to ensure full accountability. The agency will operate openly and transparently and we will ensure that it consults with a wide range of stakeholders in the operation of its work.

"We want to see a body that can draw on and bring together decades of expertise generated through the operation of and research at nuclear sites - whether that is through the public sector in the shape of UKAEA and BNFL or elsewhere.

"The NDA will be the first decommissioning authority of its kind in Europe and as such is well placed to become a world leader in the processes and technologies of decommissioning."

Introducing the draft bill, Energy Minister Stephen Timms, said:

"The completion of the clean up programme may well take over a hundred years but we have to grasp the nettle now and this draft legislation is a major step towards dealing with the challenges ahead."

The draft bill is published in conjunction with explanatory notes, a draft Memorandum of Understanding between the NDA and the Regulators and a draft Management Statement. The closing date for comments on the draft documents is Tuesday 16 September 2003.

If, following the consultation process, Scottish provisions on devolved matters, (covering the accountability of the NDA to Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament and amendments to radioactive substances legislation),are included in the Bill which is introduced at Westminster, a further Memorandum will be submitted and the Scottish Parliament will be invited to agree by means of a Sewel motion that the UK Parliament should consider these provisions.

The UK Government announced its intention to radically change its arrangements for nuclear clean up in the White Paper Managing the Nuclear Legacy - a strategy for action, published in July 2002. The white paper, prepared with the full involvement of the Scottish Executive and the other devolved administrations, set out proposals for a new authority to deal initially with the historic liabilities already funded by the taxpayer, which represent 85% of the total UK nuclear liabilities.

Subject to the agreement of the Scottish Parliament, the NDA will have functions which relate to both reserved and devolved matters and so will be similar to cross border authorities designated under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998. Amendments will be made to the draft Bill prior to introduction to reflect this and the responsibilities which the Scottish Ministers will have in relation to the operation of the NDA. Amendments will also be made to ensure accountability, where appropriate, to the Scottish Parliament as well as to Westminster. The draft bill and accompanying documents should be read against this background.

The NDA will be responsible for the clean up of the nuclear installations currently managed by BNFL and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). Those managed by UKAEA include: Dounreay, Windscale, Harwell and Winfrith. The installations managed by BNFL - the Magnox stations - are: Wylfa, Oldbury, Sizewell A, Dungeness A, Hinkley Point A, Bradwell, Hunterston A, Trawsfynydd, Berkeley and Chapelcross.

It is anticipated the NDA will be operational by April 2005.

At 31 March 2002 the total estimated undiscounted cost was £47.9 billion. This expenditure will cover the decommissioning and eventual demolition of irradiated plant and buildings; the processing, storage and final disposal of nuclear wastes; and carrying out any necessary environmental restoration. Annual expenditure is expected to be well over £1 billion in each of the next 10-15 years.

Once the NDA is operational, it will put site management responsibilities on a proper contractual basis, with appropriate performance targets and incentives. Contracts will be placed initially with BNFL and UKAEA but, over time, contracts could be placed with third parties following competitive tenders. Any change in site management arrangements would be made only after full consultation with the nuclear regulators and local stakeholders.