WARNINGS have been issued that a “perpetual” lack of knowledge around the condition of the UK’s nuclear sites means decommissioning will not be completed for another 120 years and cost billions of pounds.

The UK’s civil nuclear sites including Torness Power Station in East Lothian and the Hunterston B Power Station in Ayrshire will cost taxpayers around £132 billion to decommission and not be completed for another 120 years, according to a new report.

The SNP said the report was a warning "the UK Government should cease its obsession with nuclear power" and called on the Tories to "commit to scrapping any new nuclear projects".

Decommissioning sites in Scotland are located at Dounreay, Chapelcross Power Station and Hunterston A Power Station, but the new document warns the process will have significant impacts on the lives of nearby residents.

In the stark report, the UK Government’s Public Accounts Committee has blamed a “sorry saga” of massive failed contracts, “weak” Government oversight and “perpetual” lack of knowledge of state of nuclear sites.

Its report said decommissioning of retired civil nuclear sites was an “afterthought” when the UK’s pioneering nuclear industry was established.

Decades of poor record-keeping of the state and location of hazardous and toxic materials has left the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) with the legacy of a lack of knowledge about the condition of the sites it is responsible for making safe, warned the report.

The NDA acknowledges that it still does not have full understanding of the condition of the 17 sites across its estate, including the 10 former Magnox power stations, according to the committee report.

According to its most recent estimates, it will cost current and future generations of UK taxpayers a staggering £132 billion to decommission the UK’s civil nuclear sites, and the work will not be completed for another 120 years, with significant impacts on the lives of those who live near the sites, the report said.

The NDA’s estimate of the cost just to get the sites to the care and maintenance stage of the decommissioning process has increased by between £1.3 billion and £3.1 billion since 2017, to between £6.9 billion and £8.7 billion.

The PAC said past experience with the NDA suggests these estimates will soon be out of date and costs may increase further.

The committee said the NDA was not doing enough to exploit the technical skills and new technologies in the nuclear industry, for the benefit of local communities or the UK economy.

Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said: “The UK went from leading the world in establishing nuclear power to this sorry saga of a perpetual lack of knowledge about the current state of the UK’s nuclear sites.

“With a project of this length and cost we need to see clearer discipline in project management.”

Deputy chairman Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, added: “Although progress has been made since our last report, incredibly, the NDA still doesn’t know even where we’re currently at, in terms of state and safety of the UK’s disused nuclear sites.

“The NDA, with stronger, better oversight from Government, must make a clear break with the incompetence and failures of the past and step up to maximise these assets, and the astronomical sums of taxpayers’ money it has absorbed, for the benefit of local communities and the post-Covid recovery of the UK economy as a whole.”

The SNP's energy spokesperson, Alan Brown, said: "This is yet more evidence that the UK Government should cease its obsession with nuclear power and commit to scrapping any new nuclear power projects - including those announced last week – which could cost another £50 billion. This is money that could be spent on cost-effective renewable energy projects.

"It also shines a light on the Tories' incompetence that these costs had not been considered when they were falling over their feet to jump on the nuclear bandwagon.

"Nuclear energy simply cannot be delivered - and then decommissioned - without eye-wateringly high cost. We have already seen decommissioning costs spiral out of control.

"In these difficult economic times, the last thing people need is to see their money wasted on nuclear white elephants that are significantly more expensive than renewable options."

In August, EDF announced it would begin closing its Hunterston B operation no later than January 2022 – ahead of the initial timescale following a string of safety issues in its reactors.

The move followed a major, two-year inspection and investment programme “to prove that the station can respond safely to a range of earthquake scenarios, far worse than the UK has ever experienced or expects to occur”.

That came after cracks were found in the graphite bricks in a reactor.

The energy company said that given the age of the power station, it has decided that the Hunterston B site will be moved into the defuelling phase no later than January 7 2022.

This is subject to a further inspection in spring 2021 and then regulatory approval for a final six months of operation.

EDF’s other plant at Torness near Dunbar is expected to remain open until 2030 at the earliest.

An NDA spokesman said: “We welcome the Public Accounts Committee’s report and the scrutiny it brings on our work to provide value for money for the taxpayer.

“We are pleased that the committee recognises the inherent uncertainties and challenges involved in our mission to clean up 17 of the UK’s oldest nuclear sites and the progress being made.

“This includes increased learning on our sites, their facilities and the nature of the waste within them.

“Safety is our priority and we do not accept the committee’s suggestions that we may not understand the safety of our sites. Our work is tightly and independently regulated to ensure we uphold the highest standards of safety.

“Our focus remains on ensuring that we deliver this work of national strategic importance safely, effectively and efficiently. We will be looking carefully at the PAC’s recommendations.”