Bechtel sparks row with bid for nuclear clean-up

Channel Tunnel engineer invaded by 82-year-old nun's blood-spattered protest

Union leaders are calling on the Government to block an engineering giant from bidding for a £6.1bn nuclear waste contract after alleged "serious lapses" on security and safety in America.

San Francisco-based Bechtel, which managed the construction of the High Speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel, suffered high-profile embarrassments on two of its nuclear projects over the summer.

In July, three nuclear protesters – led by 82-year-old Catholic nun Megan Rice – infiltrated the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, which enriched the uranium used in the Hiroshima bomb. The protesters splashed the walls with human blood.

Bechtel co-manages the facility, though security is mainly provided by a division of G4S, the UK-based group which so spectacularly failed to provide enough guards for the London Olympics that very same month.

At the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, where Bechtel is the clean-up contractor, the group was accused of 34 failings in a leaked memo from the Department of Energy's engineering director on the project. Gary Brunson said that Bechtel was "not competent to complete" its role working on a $12.3bn facility at America's most contaminated nuclear site. Two months later, Bechtel was awarded only half its maximum potential contracting fee for Hanford, after the energy departments awarded it a string of poor marks against its performance criteria.

However, Bechtel is in the running for the UK contract to decontaminate 12 nuclear sites, nine of which are Magnox stations that are obsolete in the rest of the world. Most of the bid teams are understood to be major US engineers, as they typically have the greatest experience in this type of decommissioning work.

Gary Smith, the GMB union's national secretary for energy and utilities, said: "It's absolutely inconceivable that the Government can award Magnox contracts to Bechtel after these incidents in the US. The most important things are safety and security and these look like very serious lapses by Bechtel."

An infrastructure industry source said that it was an "absolute joke" that Bechtel should be allowed to bid for Magnox in light of its recent record. The company has worked in the UK on major projects for 60 years.

A spokesman for Bechtel, which is led by billionaire Riley Bechtel, said:  “During our 12 years at the Y-12 National Security Complex, our focus on delivering safe, effective, and efficient management and operations has been positively recognised by the US government.  After a recent incident involving three anti-nuclear protesters we have fully engaged with the Department of Energy.  DOE removed its security contractor from the project immediately following the incident and transferred responsibility for security to B&W Y-12 (our management partnership with Babcock & Wilcox). We are supporting the customer and project team in the investigation and response, and are leading the improvements.”

"The issues in the [Hanford] memo are not new—in fact, Bechtel identified many of the issues and Bechtel is actively working with DOE to resolve them. As a company and as individuals, safety is our priority."

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

£27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

IT Operations Manager - London - £55,000

£50000 - £55000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Relationship M...

Banking Solicitor NQ+

Highly Attractive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NOTTINGHAM - BRILLIANT FIRM - You wil...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past