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Departmental Contingent Liability Notification (UKAEA Fusion Liabilities)

Volume 689: debated on Monday 22 February 2021

I am tabling this statement for the benefit of hon. and right hon. Members to bring to their attention the details of an amendment to the contingent liability for the fusion activities of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, hereon referred to as UKAEA.

UKAEA operate experimental fusion reactors at Culham, Oxfordshire. Under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, UKAEA is required to meet any third-party liabilities arising from an onsite incident resulting in exposure to ionising radiation.

A remote and unquantified contingent liability is in place which provides cover for such liabilities above £2.25 million. UKAEA’s captive insurer previously provided cover for such liabilities up to £2.25 million. This was wound up in 2019 as it did not provide good value for money to the taxpayer. Commercial arrangements to replace the captive insurer and cover nuclear liabilities—either in part or in full—would not provide good value for money. The best value for money for taxpayers would be to amend the existing remote unquantified contingent liability held by BEIS to include all costs arising from exposure to ionising radiation due to the fusion activities of UKAEA.

This contingent liability will remain remote and unquantified. There is no expiry date so it will be reviewed annually to ensure it continues to be good value for money for the taxpayer.

The Government will be subject to a new contingent liability for all liabilities from UKAEA fusion activities that lead to exposure to ionising radiation, and I will be laying a departmental minute today containing a description of the liability undertaken.