Company in nuclear waste row has links with BNFL

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The Independent Online

Government proposals to allow British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to make hundreds of millions of pounds by storing foreign nuclear waste permanently in Britain were mired in further controversy yesterday.

NAC International, the firm of consultants which drew up the consultative document on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), also earns fees from BNFL for private consultancy work. Geoff Varley, the lead author of the document, was also an employee of BNFL for 13 years between 1975 and 1988.

The disclosure of NAC's links with the state-owned BNFL drew condemnation from opposition parties. Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrats' frontbench environment spokesman, said: "Instead of regulating the nuclear industry, the Government is being driven by it. If the DTI is independent, it should withdraw these proposals and commission a new study from an independent body."

The DTI document, issued on Friday, recommended that BNFL should be allowed to store intermediate level radioactive waste left over from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at its Sellafield plant, rather than sending the waste back to its country of origin.

It estimated that this would benefit BNFL by up to £650m. But the document also pointed out that this would raise problems over where to store the waste because a deep underground repository might not be built until the next century.

BNFL pays NAC about £20,000 a year for consultancy services and fuel tracking. In a statement at the front of the report, NAC denied that Mr Varley's links with BNFL constituted a conflict of interest. It read: "These circumstances do not, in any way, impinge on his ability or the ability of his colleagues to give views on the matter in hand, because it is fundamental to the long-term survival and success of NAC's consulting practice that NAC provides an informed and up-to-date service with the qualities of independence and impartiality."