Race begins for £6bn nuclear waste deal


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The Independent Online

The race for the contract to decommission £6.1bn of British nuclear waste will finally get under way at the start of next month.

Predominantly US engineers and consultants, such as URS, Bechtel and Fluor, are expected to put in bids when invitations to tender are placed in the Official Journal of the European Union. The deal would see 12 sites decommissioned, nine of which are the Magnox stations that are obsolete around the rest of the world.

The Queen switched on the world's first commercial nuclear reactor, which was the Magnox design at Calder Hall in Cumberland, back in 1956. The only Magnox station still in use is in Wylfa in Anglesey (pictured), though this is due to stop producing electricity in the next two years.

The teams, which also include the listed British engineers Serco, Babcock and Amec, have been circling the lucrative contract for months, and have already pre-qualified to bid. However, the protracted selection process means that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will not pick a winner until 2014.

The formal start of the competition, though, will provide yet another boost for the British nuclear industry, just weeks after the Government's new build programme appeared to lie in ruins.

Last month, the Horizon venture, which is due to build two new plants by 2025, was sold to Hitachi, which claims to be committed to the UK energy industry for the next 100 years.

France's EDF is also growing increasingly confident that it will soon agree a deal with the Government over the minimum price that will be paid for electricity generated at its forthcoming Hinkley Point nuclear project.

EDF needs to have what is called the "strike price" in place, as the French group can only then convince investors that pouring billions of pounds into British power stations would bring a decent return.