SWEDEN: Sellafield plans suspended as BNFL CEO resigns

Just days after BNFL CEO John Taylor bowed to pressure and stepped down over the company's poor safety record, Sweden's environment minister has announced a suspension of the country's activities with BNFL's Sellafield reprocessing facility.

The decision taken by Kjell Larsson, Sweden’s environment minister, relates both to a shipment of spent nuclear fuel that was to be sent to Sellafield for re-processing as well as to plans for importing already re-processed fuel from the facility.

A spokesperson for Sweden’s Environment Ministry told edie that Larsson’s decision was influenced by last week’s meeting in Copenhagen of the Nordic Council’s environment ministers (see related story). “First and foremost, there have been concerns about radioactive discharges from Sellafield into the North Sea,” says the spokesperson, who claims that the Nordic Council position against the continuing operation of Sellafield makes Sweden’s use of Sellafield’s re-processing services difficult.

“One thing has led to another,” says the spokesperson, referring to the multiple admissions by BNFL of falsification of safety data. Japanese and German companies have suspended or ended contracts with BNFL in recent weeks (see related story).

Prior to the scandal surrounding breaches in BNFL’s safety procedures at its fuel re-processing facility, Sweden had planned to ship 4.8 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel to Sellafield for re-processing. It also had plans to import fuel already re-processed at Sellafield. Now, these plans are under review and a decision is expected “some time this spring”.

Damning reports on BNFL’s safety standards from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate finally led its CEO, John Taylor, to announce his resignation on 28 February (see related story). In Taylor’s place, BNFL has appointed Norman Askew. Askew is the former CEO of Virginia Power, an American electricity company, which owns two nuclear power stations. Prior to his job in charge of Virginia Power, Askew was CEO of East Midlands Electricity.

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