Green Week on Place North West, published in association with the Environment Agency, Envirolink Northwest and Hill Dickinson
▼Ian Parker, Environment Agency
With the proposed expansion of the UK's nuclear power industry it is important that at this stage its long term decommissioning and clean up are considered.
Currently the North West has the highest concentration of nuclear and nuclear-related support facilities in the UK, many of which provide key infrastructure for the rest of the UK nuclear industry.
It is essential that the infrastructure is in place to support nuclear legacy decommissioning and clean up in a safe secure and environmentally sustainable way. Much of the nuclear legacy lies at the Sellafield site, Cumbria, and the North West will play a very important role in its long term management.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced at the end of March that its expenditure across its estate of 19 nuclear sites will be £2.8bn in 2010/11. Supported by regulators, the spend will be prioritised to the most hazardous sites with £1.5bn spent at Sellafield. This is a clear opportunity to develop new techniques. But nuclear timescales are long so programmes need to be sustained over the long term.
Building new nuclear power stations and potentially any facilities that may also be needed to support legacy decommissioning and clean up can have a significant impact on our environment which could include the need for temporary port facilities and road or rail improvements, upgrade of national grid connections. All these infrastructure improvements can facilitate healthy competition and development of the supply chain but this needs to be done whilst minimising the impact on our environment.
Ian Parker is nuclear regulation group manager at the Environment Agency