NMP set to lose £9bn deal to clean up Sellafield

NMP was given a 17 year contract in 2008 in one of the UK’s biggest ever public procurement deals

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The Independent Online

A private consortium is set to lose a multi billion pound contract to clean up the nuclear waste site at Sellafield.

The Government is today expected to announce the termination of the £9bn contract awarded to Nuclear Management Partners (NMP).

The consortium, led by the US engineers URS, has run the site for more than six years, and was granted a five-year extension in 2013, despite criticism from unions of its performance. The British engineers Amec and French nuclear experts Areva are junior partners.

NMP was given a 17 year contract in 2008 in one of the UK’s biggest ever public procurement deals. The deal included break points where the contract could be continued, cancelled or modified.

Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB union, said yesterday: “The termination of the NMP contract is welcome. We could not limp on any further.

“We said the contract should not have been extended in 2013. We understand the Tories overruled the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA). The Government needs to be held to account.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been squandered as NMP has simply failed to deliver time and time again. They have been big on promises but not on delivery.”

An Energy Department spokesperson said: “Ed Davey [the Energy Secretary] has been very clear that he’s wanted to see more effective progress in decommissioning the biggest and most complex nuclear site in Europe, providing the best outcome for the taxpayer.

“The NDA and Government have been working with industry experts on alternative options.”

Labour MP Jamie Reed, whose Copeland constituency includes Sellafield, tweeted: “Hearing Sellafield NMP contract terminated. Inevitable, necessary and overdue.”

Sellafield is one of the world’s most hazardous and complicated places to decommission. The Cumbrian plant was the first nuclear site in Britain, dating back to the 1940s and 50s when it was called Windscale, and NMP has been overseeing more than 10,000 workers there, who have more than 1,000 buildings to deal with and demolish. The total clean-up is currently expected to cost about £80bn over the next 120 years.

NMP’s general manager Iain Irving said yesterday: “We understand that the NDA has been considering whether there are alternative options to the current arrangements for managing Sellafield. It is not possible for us to make any further comment at this time.”