Atomic Energy in van of nuclear privatisation

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The Independent Online
THE Government's plans to privatise the Atomic Energy Authority later this year, will be the first effort in a renewed attempt to sell the nuclear generating industry. The move follows the Government's aborted effort to dispose of nuclear power with electricity privatisation.

Timothy Eggar, the energy minister, is seeking tenders from consultants to advise on the feasibility and options for privatising the AEA, which carries out research and consultancy work. The decision follows a report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission last year which recommended taking the authority's business activities out of the public sector where possible.

The Atomic Energy Authority, known as AEA Technology since 1989, has been under pressure to earn more revenue from non-nuclear customers and to seek business outside the state sector. Customers are now drawn from a range of industries, such as aerospace, defence and pharmaceuticals. Almost 40 per cent of the AEA's pounds 400m turnover last year came from non-nuclear businesses. But its main client remains the Government. AEA has liabilities of between pounds 3bn and pounds 4bn which relate mainly to former prototype nuclear reactors, research reactors and nuclear testing units.