Scottish Nuclear calls for rapid privatisation: Chief executive plays nationalist card in urging generator's independence

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The Independent Online
SCOTTISH NUCLEAR, the state-owned company which generates half of Scotland's electricity, yesterday played the nationalist card in its bid for privatisation.

Robin Jeffrey, the company's chief executive, urged the Government to press ahead with privatisation before the end of 1996.

The Government's nuclear review, which will report by the end of the year, should not amalgamate Scottish Nuclear with Nuclear Electric, its English counterpart, he said.

At the publication of the company's submission to the nuclear review, Dr Jeffrey said: 'We believe Scottish Nuclear is a Scottish company of expertise and excellence.

'We are Scottish, but privatisation would broaden the company's base so that we are not limited to nuclear power in Scotland. We should be free to pursue business elsewhere in the UK and abroad.'

Privatisation was also important, Dr Jeffrey said, to give his company the freedom to compete with the two existing privatised utilities north of the border, Scottish Power and Hydro-Electric.

He believes Scottish Nuclear could build new nuclear plant that would be commercially competitive with fossil-fuelled power stations. Nuclear Electric, in contrast, is on record as saying that it could build new nuclear plant only if the Government chipped in with a subsidy.

Scottish Nuclear's proposals envisage that the Government would retain in the public sector more than pounds 2bn of liabilities, mainly for decommissioning the old Magnox reactors at Hunterston-A on the Clyde coast in Ayrshire.

Hunterston-A closed before Scottish Nuclear came into existence but the company inherited liability for its costs as well as a share in the cost of knocking down parts of British Nuclear Fuels' reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

It is having to meet these liabilities out of the cash being generated by its more modern Advanced Gas- Cooled Reactors at Hunterston-B and Torness in Lothian.

Dr Jeffrey criticised as 'very unfortunate and unnecessary' the Government's decision to delay approving the company's pounds 100m investment in dry-fuel storage at its reactors. Building dry-stores instead of sending fuel for reprocessing to British Nuclear Fuels at Sellafield would save the company around pounds 45m a year, he said.

Dr Jeffrey said the company should be restructured immediately to separate the Magnox liabilities from the rest of the business and advocated the establishment of a segregated fund to pay for decommissioning of the AGRs. The privatised Scottish Nuclear would make payments into this fund over the lifetime of the reactors and would carry out the early stages of defuelling, but would hand over the reactors to the ownership of the fund for eventual demolition. The fund would be independent of Scottish Nuclear and possibly also of government, he said.

(Photograph omitted)