Nirex says DTI and nuclear giants are blocking clean-up

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The Independent Online

The nuclear industry and the Department of Trade and Industry have been accused of trying to sabotage a government policy aimed at improving the treatment of radioactive waste.

A plan to make the nuclear waste body, Nirex, independent of the nuclear industry was announced last July by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett, who said details would be released by the autumn. However, they failed to appear. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, told Parliament last week that she would produce them soon.

A spokesman for Mrs Beckett said civil servants had "found Nirex's legal structures and accounts meant that this would, unfortunately, take longer than expected".

They claimed the problem was partly caused by a £500m loan Nirex was said to owe the nuclear industry, along with £300m of unpaid interest. Both sums had, in fact, been written off.

Nirex, which has been lobbying to end its link with the nuclear industry, blames state-owned BNFL, the government supported British Energy and the DTI for the delay.

Chris Murray, the chief executive of Nirex, said "Certain individuals in the industry and DTIhave been fighting a rearguard action against Margaret Beckett's stated policy."

A DTI spokesman denied any delaying tactics.