£14bn fuel deal secures future for Sellafield


Science Editor

A deal worth about £14bn - one of the largest commercial agreements ever negotiated between two British companies - was signed yesterday by Nuclear Electric and British Nuclear Fuels. The package of contracts secures the future of BNFL's reprocessing facilities at Sellafield in Cumbria until 2009.

The deal comes hard on the heels of a separate package, worth £4bn, which BNFL agreed with Scottish Nuclear last month. Both represent guaranteed work for BNFL's controversial thermal oxide reprocessing plant (Thorp) well beyond the first 10 years of its operations.

Dr Robert Hawley, chief executive of Nuclear Electric, and, Neville Chamberlain, his counterpart at BNFL, signed a series of 14 individual contracts at Nuclear Electric's London offices yesterday. The deal has been broken down into separate contracts so that it would not be affected if the Government decided to privatise and restructure the nuclear industry.

Dr Hawley said that the deal "means the bulk of our future fuel costs are fixed and we've established a sound basis for future trading, especially if we're privatised".

Nuclear Electric is trying to persuade the Government to privatise it by splitting its nuclear assets. The ageing first-generation Magnox reactors would remain in public ownership, because of their inherited liabilities for decommissioning and reprocessing, whereas the newer advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs) and the pressurised water reactor (PWR) at Sizewell would be floated.

Nuclear Electric would offer to operate the Magnoxes under a management contract, even though it was no longer their owner. The company is actively trying to prolong the operating lifetimes of its Magnox reactors from 34 years to 37 and has hopes that the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate may permit it in principle to operate them up to the age of 40. Since all the capital cost has long since been paid off, they would be rich generators of cash for the company.

Pending life extension to 40 years, this means that Wylfa in Anglesey will be the last Magnox to close, around 2007, and that fuel will be sent to the older of the two reprocessing plants at Sellafield until 2009.

The series of contracts covers the supply of fresh fuel, as well as reprocessing services for both Magnox and AGRs, but it excludes any fuel services for the new Sizewell B PWR. (BNFL secured the order for the initial fuel loading under an earlier contract.)

BNFL is rumoured to be in negotiation with its German customers over the fate of plutonium separated from German spent nuclear fuel during the first 10 years of Thorp's operation. Instead of sending the plutonium back to Germany, BNFL would mix it with uranium to form fresh "mixed oxide" (MOX) fuel elements, which could then be used directly in German reactors.

A combination of public protests and objections by local government have led to the virtual mothballing of Germany's MOX fuel fabrication plant before it started operating. Since BNFL is already building a fabrication plant at Sellafield, this move would neatly solve the problem of unwanted plutonium for the German utilities.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style