Nuclear body rebuked over redacted report

Government backs MPs over authority’s blackout of public information on running of Sellafield

The Government has admonished the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for “inappropriately” withholding information from the public, after backing the findings of a heavily critical MPs’ report into the management of Sellafield.

Overseeing the Cumbria nuclear facility is one of the most hazardous detoxification jobs in the world and the NDA has entrusted a US-led private sector consortium, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), with managing the clean-up. However, the House of Commons’ influential Public Accounts Committee was dismayed to find that costs have been soaring, with the final price-tag estimated at over £70bn.

The NDA stunned the industry when it handed NMP a five-year extension to its contract in October – it was widely thought the group would be axed for poor performance. A review by accountants KPMG only seemed to confirm how badly NMP had managed Sellafield, stating that the project was run in the interests of the consortium’s shareholders rather than those of the taxpayer.

But great swathes of the highly detailed, 292-page document – obtained in a Freedom of Information request by nuclear-issues expert Dr David Lowry – were blacked out. PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge was furious that the NDA had redacted pages of vital information on the basis of commercial confidentiality.

In the committee’s own report earlier this year, it concluded: “The Authority should revisit its approach to disclosing information to ensure it does not use grounds such as commercial confidentiality inappropriately to withhold information on performance on its sites and by its contractors.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has said it agrees with this, and other committee recommendations, such as asking the National Audit Office to investigate whether there has been any improvement in the management of Sellafield a year into the contract extension.

Ms Hodge said: “I welcome the Government’s recommendation, but what is important is that real progress is made, urgently, to deal with nuclear waste. The taxpayer must not be seen as a bottomless pit for extra money.”

The NDA has agreed to review how it responds to FoI requests. This is not the only problem the Authority, which ultimately owns 17 historic civil nuclear sites, has suffered with this law. In November, a member of the public applied for information on the Dounreay site in the Highlands. The NDA did not give an answer until March and had to apologise “unreservedly” for failing to respond within the accepted time frame. The NDA pledged to strengthen the department that administers the requests.

Dr Lowry said: “I am pleased the NDA has been embarrassed by the PAC’s trenchant criticism of its recourse to absurd self-protective secrecy to commission a review of its approach. The NDA should take its responsibility to public accountability seriously, and not black out of released documents anything of use to FoI applicants. It is a pity it has taken a firm corporate bottom-smacking ... to force them to do this.”

An Energy Department source said: “There were a few criticisms in the committee’s report and we have accepted them.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

Special Needs Teaching Assistant

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Educational Needs Teach...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London