BNFL to replace its Mox plant managers

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The Independent Online

British Nuclear Fuels is to announce a management shake-up at its Sellafield reprocessing works in Cumbria in an attempt to restore confidence following the scandal over faked safety data.

The overhaul is expected to involve the sacking of some junior managers and supervisors, the removal of others to different jobs and the replacement of almost all the team at its mixed oxide (MOX) fuel plant where the falsification took place.

Hugh Collum, chairman of BNFL, is also finalising a review of the embattled company's senior management which could lead to more departures at board level. The finance director, Ross Chiese, could be forced out following savage criticism of BNFL's accounts last week by the chairman of the Commons trade and industry select committee, Martin O'Neill.

The moves came as the former cabinet minister and local MP for the Sellafield plant, Jack Cunningham, called for the BNFL board to be sacked.

Mr Cunningham, whose Copeland constituency includes Sellafield, accused board members of being more interested in getting rich through the privatisation of BNFL than in effective management.

"I think there has been far too cosy a relationship between some of the board and the present chairman," he said on the BBC's North of Westminster programme.

"I think there were one or two people on the board who were more concerned with share options and getting rich as a result of privatisation than effective management of their company." Mr Cunningham has been one of the strongest supporters of the nuclear reprocessing programme at Sellafield. His remarks underline the damage that safety lapses at the plant have done to BNFL's credibility.

The Government last week said it was shelving part-privatisation of BNFL until after the next election because of safety fears at Sellafield and a collapse of customer confidence.

Japan and Germany have suspended shipments from Sellafield and British Energy is demanding that reprocessing contracts be renegotiated.

Tony Blair told MPs last week that ministers had made it clear to the chairman of BNFL that the Government wanted to see "big changes" in the way that it was run and managed. "New senior management is now in place ... I am sure that ... BNFL can go back on a sound and secure footing for the future," Mr Blair said.

Mr Collum is due to report to the Department of Trade and Industry shortly on the plans for improving management.

BNFL has until 18 April to present an acceptable safety case to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) or face the threat of closure at Sellafield. A report in February by the NII accused BNFL of "systematic management failure".

Up to eight managers and supervisors at Sellafield face disciplinary action and two are thought likely to lose their jobs. Five process workers have so far been dismissed although one was later reinstated.