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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August, 2005, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Bid to speed up nuclear run-down
Chapelcross power station
Chapelcross began production in 1959
Scotland's oldest nuclear power station could be decommissioned almost a century earlier than planned.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has published its draft strategy for all the UK's plants.

Under the current timescale Chapelcross - which opened in 1959 - should be cleared by 2128, while work should be completed at Hunterston A by 2090.

But NDA chairman Sir Anthony Cleaver said the two Magnox stations could be decommissioned within 25 years.

Chapelcross, near Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, only ceased production in June last year.

Site clearance

The current plans would see the site return to brown field status in 2128, but Sir Anthony said there was now thought to be a "better approach".

In its strategy, the authority said: "The NDA believes there is a strong case to abandon this approach in favour of defuelling, decommissioning and release of the site for alternative uses within 25 years or less.

"This could mean site clearance could be achieved before 2030."

We want to achieve decommissioning and clean up more quickly, more cost effectively, more safely and in a more environmentally-friendly manner
Sir Anthony Cleaver
NDA chairman

A similar timescale is forecast for Hunterston A, which is currently due to return to green field status by 2090.

The decommissioning process is already well under way at the Ayrshire plant, which ceased operation in 1989.

The NDA said the approach for the Magnox sites - which was based on work carried out in France - had found support in the local communities.

Further consultation will be carried out on the plans as work continues to establish the costs of such an approach.

There are no plans to speed up the decommissioning of Dounreay, which is the biggest employer in Caithness and northern Sutherland.

Spent fuel

The clean-up is due to be completed in just over 30 years' time, and Sir Anthony said that was a "realistic" timescale.

The NDA acknowledged that dealing with the intermediate level waste held at the plant would be "a considerable challenge".

The authority said it would evaluate alternative approaches for storing the spent fuel and material.

Dounreay Nuclear Power Plant
The Dounreay nuclear plant poses a "considerable challenge"

The NDA strategy sets out a national plan for the decommissioning and clean-up of the 20 civil nuclear sites in the UK.

The public consultation period will run until 11 November, with the final proposals due to be submitted to ministers by the end of the year.

Sir Anthony said: "We believe this first draft strategy is ambitious and challenging but we are also confident it is deliverable if we can gain regulator, government and stakeholder support.

"Put simply, we want to achieve decommissioning and clean up more quickly, more cost effectively, more safely and in a more environmentally-friendly manner."

Rising cost

However, Lorraine Mann, an anti-nuclear campaigner, was unconvinced by the earlier deadlines.

She said: "If this is a benchmark that is being set, I think we have to query if they are possibly being a little gung-ho about things."

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, hit out at the rising costs of nuclear clean-up operations.

He quoted a report which showed an 8bn increase to 56bn in estimated costs of cleaning up Britain's decommissioned nuclear power stations.

He said: "The sooner Scotland has control of its own energy future the better, so we can kick nuclear into touch for good and invest in the sort of clean, green energy sources where Scotland has huge natural advantages.

"The authorities are struggling to deal with current sites, never mind burdening future generations with even more deadly waste."

Plans for 20m Dounreay complex
05 Aug 05 |  Scotland
Nuclear waste plans are rejected
10 May 05 |  Cumbria
Plan to ease nuclear job losses
06 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Opposition to nuclear waste plan
03 Mar 04 |  Cumbria

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