BNFL to slash 3,000 contractors' jobs at Sellafield

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BRITISH Nuclear Fuels is to cut 3,000 contracting jobs at its Sellafield site in Cumbria.

Neville Chamberlain, the chief executive, said that two-thirds of the contractors' staff were local and that the impact on the area would be significant.

The cuts come as the company's current construction programmes at Sellafield near completion. Future projects will not provide as many jobs.

Among the potential new projects is the construction of a plant to reprocess 100 tonnes of plutonium a year from spent nuclear fuel to make new fuel for pressurised water reactors such as the one under construction at Sizewell in Suffolk.

BNFL said it was discussing with the Government and local authorities how it could alleviate the impact of the job losses on the local community. Mr Chamberlain said that almost all the large building contractors were represented at Sellafield but that the hardest-hit were likely to be small local firms.

BNFL has already announced plans to cut 750 design engineering jobs from its own workforce at Risley in Cheshire, where staff had been working on projects at Sellafield.

In a separate development, it will shed at least 350 jobs from the commercial uranium enrichment site at Capenhurst in Cheshire.

A further 500 to 600 jobs will transfer from Capenhurst to Urenco, a joint venture with Dutch and German companies in which BNFL will have a one-third stake.

BNFL, which is government- owned, said that pre-tax profits rose to pounds 161m last year from pounds 156m in 1991. Turnover increased to pounds 1.08bn from pounds 1.04bn the previous year. The dividend paid to the Government was pounds 52m compared with pounds 50m in 1991.

John Guinness, the chairman, said that BNFL could not take future profit for granted - the company had had to adapt to a recent shift away from cost-plus contracts to fixed-price agreements with Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear, its main customers.

He said that overseas business, which now accounts for a quarter of the total, would be increasingly important.

'Under the new regime, every penny will have to be earned the hard way. It will be vital to establish new markets overseas and to develop new products and services,' he said.

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