Sellafield to fire at least 45 of its supervisors

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At least 45 supervisors at the British Nuclear Fuels plant at Sellafield are expected to be sacked this week, as part of a major purge of the company's middle management.

The dismissals are likely to follow the publication of a report into the safety scandal at the plant, which was exposed by The Independent last year.

The management review, which has been ordered by the Government, is aimed at persuading both domestic opinion and foreign clients that BNFL has responded seriously to criticism of its operations. Both Japan and Germany suspended contracts with the company after it was revealed that workers had falsified data on reprocessed fuel.

A report into the affair by Norman Askew, the new chief executive of BNFL, was due to be published more than a week ago, but is now expected to be released tomorrow. The firm is due to announce that as many as 45 staff will be fired as part of the changes demanded by Helen Liddell, the Trade and Industry minister.

Five shop floor workers were dismissed following the falsification of data last year and Mrs Liddell told the House of Commons last month that she wanted middle managers to accept responsibility too. The minister insisted that there should be no "hiding in any corner" after the mistakes that had jeopardised millions of pounds worth of foreign business.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, is due to decide in the next few weeks whether BNFL can go ahead with a new £300m mixed oxide plant at Sellafield. The planned privatisation of BNFL was suspended last month and will not now go ahead until the latter half of 2002, well beyond the next general election, at the earliest.