We’re in for the long haul in UK’s nuclear clean-up via NewScientist

THERE are few engineering challenges more difficult than decommissioning nuclear infrastructure. And there are few decommissioning challenges more difficult than Sellafield. Cradle of the UK’s nuclear programme – and site of the 1957 Windscale fire, the world’s first major nuclear power accident – it is a cramped old site inhabited by 10,000 workers (see “Shocking state of world’s riskiest nuclear waste site“).

The UK government is doing some things right in its bid to clean up Sellafield. Not least, it is finally funding research into the site’s unique and complex problems. Inevitably, that turns up new problems, increasing the bill and setting back the timetable.


Half a century ago, the UK was rushing to build its nuclear deterrent and generate electricity. Short-termism then means we are in for the long haul now: the clean-up plan runs all the way to 2120. And you shouldn’t bet against that slipping further as unwelcome surprises inevitably crop up. Despite the assurances of whoever is at its helm, this one will run and run. And run.

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