The regulator’s reports have criticised safety procedures and management at Sellafield and UK daily The Independent has predicted that high-level resignations – up to board level – are expected.

In the last few years the MOX demonstration facility has been BNFL’s flagship site, used to show the Government that a profitable fuel re-processing industry is possible. BNFL’s plans for privatisation have hinged on its MOX fuel re-processing contracts with Japanese nuclear energy generators.

But cracks began to appear in BNFL’s plans before the first shipment of MOX fuel had completed its controversial journey by ship to Japan (see related story). Irregularities in safety datasheets accompanying the ship were discovered. A few months later more irregularities were found (see related story) and the contract with Japan’s Kansai Electric has since been lost.

Throughout, BNFL has argued that the irregularities are not all examples of falsification and that the errors were the work of a small number of employees. The opinion of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate seems to disagree with BNFL’s, placing the blame at the feet of management for a failure to implement adequate safety verification procedures.

Greenpeace which has opposed BNFL’s intentions to develop a nuclear fuel re-processing industry from the start, welcomed the regulator’s reports but said that “a mere management reshuffle would be like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic”.

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