BNFL job for ousted Dow Chemcial boss

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The Independent Online

British Nuclear Fuels, the state-owned reprocessing and electricity generating company, will this week end months of speculation with the appointment of a new chief executive. Michael Parker, the former president and chief executive of the US giant Dow Chemical, will replace Norman Askew, who leaves at the end of July. An announcement could come as early as soon as tomorrow.

Mr Parker will take over at a sensitive time for BNFL, which is negotiating the transfer of £40bn of nuclear waste liabilities from its balance sheet to that of the Government. This will presage the company's part-privatisation, tipped for 2006. Hugh Collum, BNFL's chairman, will meet Patricia Hewitt, trade and industry secretary, today to enter talks concerning Mr Parker's appointment.

Mr Parker will oversee preparations for the new Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, an £85bn body that the Government is establishing to clean up Britain's nuclear power stations when they come to the end of their lives. He will join BNFL at a tough time financially for the company. Like British Energy, it has been hit by falling electricity prices and is expected to unveil losses of around £1bn next month. BNFL declined to comment on Mr Parker's appointment.

A Dow man since 1968, Mr Parker's career at the Michigan-based science and technology group came to an abrupt end in December after he was ousted on concerns about "disappointing financial performance". He officially retired from the company in February, pocketing a severance package of £3.4m. Mr Parker takes with him from Dow memories of the Union Carbide debacle, a bitter campaign which criticised Dow's £4bn acquisition of the company responsible for more than 14,000 deaths.