British Energy hires motivation experts to boost staff morale

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The Independent Online

British Energy, the embattled nuclear generator, has hired a team of motivational experts to help lift morale in its power stations as part of a drive to increase profits by £100m.

The experts, from the communications consultancy Rossmore, are part of a larger team brought in to conduct a root and branch review of all aspects of the company's operations. The other members of the consortium are the consulting engineers Ove Arup, Entergy, which is one of America's biggest nuclear generators, and the water company Severn Trent.

News of the review comes as British Energy faces a further setback following delays to the reopening of two of its biggest power stations. Heysham 1 in Lancashire had been due to be back in operation but will not return to the grid until the end of the month following repairs to a failed seawater cooling pipe.

The consortium will be paid according to results and has been given the target of helping British Energy raise output from its eight reactors from 80 per cent to 90 per cent, which would add £100m to its bottom line.

Between 10 and 15 specialists will be sent into each power station with a remit to review everything from working practices to maintenance procedures. They are due to start work in January. Mike Alexander, the chief executive of British Energy, said the aim was to overhaul the culture of the company. "They will help teach us to have a lack of tolerance for failure," he said.

British Energy is also about to bring in a senior executive from the US nuclear industry to head up a new technical oversight directorate that will be charged with monitoring the company's personnel, safety and financial performance.

The overhaul comes as the European Commission prepares to begin vetting the £3bn government rescue of the company that was finally approved by its bondholders and banks last month.

Brussels is investigating whether the rescue package conforms with state aid rules. One of the key areas for examination will be the fuel supply agreement which British Energy has reached with the state-owned British Nuclear Fuels. The deal has resulted in a £150m reduction in British Energy's fuel costs, which will lower its generating costs to £14-£15 per megawatt hour compared with a current spot price of £20.

Mr Alexander also said that British Energy was looking to expand its presence in the retail commercial market, by supplying customers such as banks and supermarkets direct in addition to its existing large industrial customers.