BNFL in $600m US contract

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The state-owned nuclear waste reprocessor BNFL was yesterday celebrating its biggest ever overseas order - a $600m (pounds 387m) contract to clean up a huge nuclear site built originally as part of the United States arms programme, writes Michael Harrison.

BNFL is part of a five-member consortium awarded a $6bn contract to treat, store and dispose of nuclear waste at the massive Savannah River site in South Carolina, which was used to manufacture weapons grade plutonium from the 1950s.

The contract, awarded by the US Department of Energy, brings the amount of work won by the group's US subsidiary, BNFL Inc, to almost $1bn since its formation six years ago. BNFL Inc is already a member of a consortium awarded the clean-up contract at the Rocky Flats site near Denver, Colorado, worth some $56m a year.

The other members of the consortium chosen for the Savannah River project are Westinghouse, Bechtel and Bancock and Wilcox. Apart from waste recycling and treatment, BNFL will also provide technical support and personnel.

In recent years BNFL has been targeting the US, Western Europe and the Far East for export orders as a strategy to reduce its dependence on the nuclear power generator British Energy, privatised a month ago.

Graham Watts, BNFL's international group director, said: "Last year we were named as Britain's fastest growing exporter in an independent survey. Our performance this year demonstrates that our growth record will continue."