Delay confirmed in privatisation plans for British Nuclear Fuels

The day before representatives from British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) addressed the Trade and Industry Select Committee on the viability of the company's partial privatisation, the Government told MPs that any public-private partnership will not take place before the end of 2002.

Answering a question in the House of Commons on 29 March, Helen Liddell, energy minister, said that: “Recent events at BNFL have clearly been a set-back for the company. It is important that BNFL now responds positively to the Health & Safety Executive’s reports [see related story] on the Sellafield site and works to achieve necessary improvements in its safety and commercial performance. This will take time. As a result, it now appears that the earliest possible date for the introduction of any public-private partnership into BNFL could not be before the latter part of 2002. The introduction and timing of any PPP remains subject to BNFL’s performance against the targets set by Government as well as the further work being undertaken by Government and their advisors”.

Earlier this month, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), which is the body within the Health & Safety Executive in charge of nuclear safety, told members of the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee that it would not oppose partial privatisation of BNFL. The NII representatives said that they would be concerned, instead, by any type of management – public or private – that was overly complicated and that involved the shedding of too many staff (see related story).

The delay in the privatisation of BNFL has been expected since the scandal surrounding BNFL’s safety record at its Sellafield site came under fire, beginning last September (see separate stories in the North American and European sections of this edition of edie news).

BNFL says that it will restore confidence in its safety management and continue reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. BNFL’s chairman has threatened that an end to reprocessing would lead to substantial job losses in Cumbria.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie