US firms invited to bid for nuclear waste deal

Bechtel, Washington and Jacobs are set to compete for storage facility in the UK

US engineering firms Bechtel, Washington Group and Jacobs Group have been invited by the UK government to bid for the construction of a massive US $23 billion (£12 billion) factory to store the UK’s nuclear waste.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which is overseeing the project, will put the design, construction and operation of the factory out to tender early next year.

The bidding process is expected to take up to two years.

The move follows an announcement by the NDA in March this year to put out to tender $140 billion worth of clean-up and decommissioning and other contracts over the next 75 years.

Amec, which specialises in nuclear decommissioning and project services work, could be taken on as project managers, while Bechtel, which built a large nuclear waste storage factory at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is likely to go for the construction work.

The build and operate contracts could be worth at least $23 billion. Analysts estimate it would cost $3 billion to build a combination repository, which would store low-level and intermediate-level waste as well as spent fuel. Because the waste will be stored there potentially for thousands of years, operating the facility – and safely storing newly delivered nuclear waste – could cost $19 billion.

Around 470,000m3 of existing nuclear waste and future waste from reactors yet to be decommissioned needs to be safely stored. The waste is currently stored temporarily at 30 sites around the country.

The UK government will release the findings of its energy review in March and is expected to sanction the construction of a new generation of nuclear reactors. But it is anxious to find a solution to the problem of how and where to store existing nuclear waste before more reactors are built. Until now, the bulk of Britain’s nuclear waste has been stored above ground at 37 sites across the UK.

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