Unions and MPs have reacted with shock to yesterday’s announcement that the companies that have overseen cost overruns and delays in the clean-up of Sellafield have been given a new five-year contract.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, told The Independent that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will “have a job justifying” the decision to hand Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) a new five-year deal. The consortium – made up of Britain’s Amec, URS in America and France’s Areva – were found by the committee to have been behind schedule on 12 of 14 major projects at the Cumbria site last year.
The costs of the most complicated decontamination in Europe and North America are already above £70bn, and it was widely thought that NMP would be axed from the project.
NMP had been awarded a contract that could ultimately last 17 years, but the deal contained clauses that meant it could lose the deal in March 2014. In July, the accountancy firm KPMG looked into whether the NDA should bring the clean-up back into public sector hands, but it is believed there was a lack of staff and expertise for taking decontamination back in-house. Unions have demanded to see the contents of the KPMG review, the existence of which was revealed by The Independent on Sunday in July.
An industry source said: “It’s surprising that this decision has been reached given the well-documented failings of the consortium, which to date has provided questionable value to the taxpayer.”
Gary Smith, the GMB union’s national secretary for energy, added: “This is an ideological and a bad decision, but we need to move on and focus on [sorting out] the site.”
Ms Hodges’ committee will meet the NDA and NMP early next month to discuss the failings of the contract so far. This is expected to take a whole afternoon, when these sessions usually last around 45 minutes.
NMP’s chairman, Tom Zarges, said: “Over the past five years, NMP stabilised high-hazard facilities, began clean-up and retrievals years ahead of the original schedule, achieved the best safety performance in site history, and delivered hundreds of millions of pounds in efficiency savings.”