British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) announced that it is to pay the Scout Association pounds 30,000 over three years in return for its name to be carried on the popular scientist's badge.
But Friends of the Earth criticised the plans as a "cynical" exercise and an attempt to cash in on the scouts' good image. Tony Juniper, FoE campaigns director, said: "This is the typical strategy of a company which finds itself fielding fierce public criticism and turns to a cash- strapped good cause to buy an advantage through relatively small amounts of money. It is the most cynical PR one can imagine."
As part of the deal, scouts will be given access to BNFL's scientists, laboratories and visitor centre at Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria to help them complete the tasks needed to earn the badge.
John Fogg, spokesman for the Scout Association, said the movement's founder, Lord Baden-Powell, would have approved because of his interest in new technology. "As far as BNFL itself is concerned, we do not have a view or judgment that is adverse about this organisation.
Ann Johnson, spokeswoman for BNFL, said: "Our involvement with the project not only enables us to offer something to young people in the community but also may well encourage some of them to think about science and engineering as a future career."