Britain's ageing Magnox nuclear reactors are likely to be sold off to private buyers within the next six months under recommendations put to ministers by their owner, British Nuclear Fuels.
The BNFL board is understood to have recommended that the disposal of its 11 Magnox stations, only four of which are still in service and producing electricity, should be fast-tracked alongside the sale of its engineering consultancy division and its stake in the consortium which runs the Atomic Weapons Establishment's Aldermaston site.
BNFL is also thought to have agreed to a plan devised by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to keep the operation of the Sellafield waste reprocessing site in Cumbria in public ownership, but bring forward the date at which private-sector firms can compete for the work to 2008.
The Government's original plan was to privatise British Nuclear Group (BNG), the division of BNFL which encompasses everything from Sellafield and the Magnox stations to the Aldermaston contract and engineering consultancy, as one. The successful bidder would then have been given a contract to run Sellafield until 2012.
But in August that plan was scrapped in favour of a decision to proceed with a piecemeal sale of BNG. Fluor, the US engineering company, then made the Government a £400m offer for the whole business.
Unions attacked the latest sell-off plans for BNG yesterday, warning that it could put at risk confidence among the 6,000 staff.Reuse content