BNFL set for US deal victory

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The Independent Online
THE TREASURY was last night believed to have dropped its objections to a multi-million pound deal between British Nuclear Fuels and an American company involved in the nuclear power industry.

There were fears the Government would veto the deal between BFNL in Cumbria, and Westinghouse, the US conglomerate. The prospect of the deal caused outrage among anti-nuclear groups who last night warned it could lead to Britain taking more nuclear waste for recycling.

Alistair Darling, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, passed the decision to the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, for a final decision, which was not confirmed by the Treasury, although there were strong rumours at Westminster that it would go through.

The pounds 600m deal would make BNFL one of the largest British employers in the US, and could pave the way for its eventual privatisation, if it goes through. Ministers were wary of agreeing to the deal, ahead of the comprehensive public spending review, but giving BNFL the freedom to operate like a commercial company fits in with the Mr Brown's adoption of private and public partnerships.

Friends of the Earth, the anti-nuclear campaigners, last night said they had heard reports that the Treasury had dropped its objections, a message that was reinforced in Washington. Whitehall departments were refusing to confirm the deal. Ministers know they would face an angry backlash for sanctioning the deal.

FoE last night said the deal would be sealed to bring more nuclear waste to Britain from the US. "Why does BNFL want to buy a reactor company? It is because they need to win more orders cleaning up nuclear waste from the US," said a spokesman for then group.