Clean-up fines at National Power: Contractors may be made liable

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The Independent Online
NATIONAL POWER is considering introducing rules requiring contractors to pay millions of pounds in clean-up costs should they damage the environment when working on the generator's sites, writes Mary Fagan.

The rules are already in operation at Thorpe Marsh power station in South Yorkshire. One contractor has been asked to put up an 'on demand' bond of pounds 10,000 which National Power can call on up to 25 times to a total of pounds 250,000.

The company says that the policy of transferring liability to contractors could eventually operate at all its sites. The money would vary according to the type of work being carried out.

A spokesman for the company said: 'If people are careful enough it should not be a problem - this sort of thing concentrates the mind.' He would not say who is putting up the bond at the Thorpe Marsh pilot. The contract involves the handling of coal and ash, which can give rise to 'blow' incidents.

The initiative is spelled out for the first time in National Power's environmental report. The document also shows that environmental regulations are forcing National Power to spend pounds 1bn in producing cleaner power from its existing stations. The bulk of the expenditure is on equipment to scrub out sulphur emissions at the 4,000-megawatt Drax station in Yorkshire.

The company is concerned that sulphur limits will be tightened still further in an attempt by the European Community to cut acid pollution. There are also fears over potential future measures to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

John Baker, chief executive, warned that the huge expense of cleaning up coal-fired plant means that the first weapon in fighting the environmental cost battle is to build more gas-fired plants. National Power has a programme worth up to pounds 1bn for the building of combined-cycle gas turbines, which produce around half the carbon dioxide of a coal- fired plant and almost no sulphur dioxide.