Blair to lobby Japanese PM in bid to secure the future of Sellafield

A A A

Tony Blair will lobby the Japanese Prime Minister today to help British Nuclear Fuels win crucial contracts for its beleaguered Sellafield plant.

Tony Blair will lobby the Japanese Prime Minister today to help British Nuclear Fuels win crucial contracts for its beleaguered Sellafield plant.

Mr Blair will use a bilateral meeting ahead of the G8 summit in Okinawa to reassure Yoshiro Mori that BNFL has overhauled its management since the scandal over falsified safety records. The Prime Minister will tell his counterpart that the Government believes the two countries can build on last week's agreement to return a shipment of flawed nuclear fuel from Japan to Sellafield.

In his most direct intervention to date in the controversy, Mr Blair will make clear that he has full confidence in the plant's safety and will support BNFL's attempts to win enough contracts to make viable its £300m mixed-oxide (Mox) fuel plant.

His decision to lobby on behalf of the company will dismay environmentalists, but trade unionists and business leaders in Cumbria were delighted last night that they had his support.

BNFL managed to settle the Japanese crisis last week by agreeing to give Japan £40m in compensation and to take back the suspect fuel shipments, at a total estimated cost of £100m.

The Mox plant, which has remained idle for a year, is still awaiting the consent of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and final approval from the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, to operate commercially. However, senior government sources indicated that if the NII gives the go-ahead, Mr Prescott is likely to grant approval because he shares Mr Blair's fears about the jobs of 10,000 BNFL workers.

"Tony is very, very pro-Sellafield, he knows how many jobs are at risk in one of the most deprived areas of the country," a source said. "We know the Japanese have domestic political problems, but we are confident that we can make progress."

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: "We are committed to BNFL sorting out their act and we believe they are doing that and in those circumstances we believe the Japanese have no reason to exclude BNFL from contract negotiations."

Jack Cunningham, the former cabinet minister, led a delegation of Cumbrian business leaders, councillors and union leaders to meet the Prime Minister and Helen Liddell, the Trade minister, at No 10 on Tuesday. He told BBC Radio Cumbria: "Mr Blair made it clear that when he's in Japan he is going to speak to the Japanese government about new business for Sellafield, which is key for reprocessing of course, but for the future of the Mox plant as well."

The Prime Minister's involvement has angered anti-nuclear campaigners. Pete Roche, of Greenpeace, said: "On the one hand, the Government talks about leaving commercial decisions to BNFL and its customers but Blair seems ready to intervene to promote a dangerous trade in plutonium, which nobody really wants."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high