Nuclear advisers under pressure to quit after conflicts revealed

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A third of the members of an important government nuclear committee have serious conflicts of interests, an Independent on Sunday investigation reveals today.

A third of the members of an important government nuclear committee have serious conflicts of interests, an Independent on Sunday investigation reveals today.

Four of the committee's 12 members work for its largest suppliers, The IoS has learnt. One former government minister said this breached the code of conduct on public committees and urged them to resign.

The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has a £4.9m budget and a brief to advise the Government on the best way to store Britain's 470,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste; it is due to report by summer 2006.

The publicly funded committee will play a central role in the debate over whether to build new nuclear reactors. Ministers recognise that to gain public support for a pro-nuclear policy, they first have to resolve the problem of what to do with existing nuclear waste. This is currently stored in 30 temporary locations around the country.

But the revelations about its members' conflicts of interest will dent public trust.

Committee member Mark Dutton is a paid consultant for NNC, which won the £1m contract to project-manage CoRWM's work. The committee disclosed the NNC contract, and Mr Dutton's links to the consultancy, but some members say he should have cut all ties to it.

Fred Barker, another member, is an associate consultant for Enviros Consulting, which has a contract worth £50,000 to £100,000 from the committee. He has also been employed by The Environment Council, to which the committee has given over £100,000 of work.

Professor Lynda Warren is an associate of the IDM consultancy, as is another member, Pete Wilkinson, a former chairman of Greenpeace UK. IDM has carried out £10,000 to £50,000 of work for CoRWM.

Organisations employing Mr Barker, Professor Warren and Mr Wilkinson are understood to have bid for the £1m project won by NNC. None of their links to the committee's suppliers have been publicly declared.

Michael Meacher MP, the former environment minister, said: "They should either step down or be asked to leave. I find it disturbing that people who have employment relationships with the industry should sit on an industry committee and then award large contracts to companies they are connected to."

But Gordon MacKerron, the committee's chairman, said there would be no resignations. Potential conflicts of interest were "inevitable" on a technical committee, he said, and he denied that they affected decisions.

NNC was appointed by the Department for the Environment, he said, and the other three cases were oversights, "but not an attempt to conceal".

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