Nuclear firm chairman attacks delay over waste

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the leaders of Britain's nuclear industry yesterday launched an outspoken attack on government delay and indecision over nuclear waste disposal.

According to James Hann, chairman of Scottish Nuclear, electricity consumers will have to pay nearly pounds 1m a week extra because the Government has postponed a decision on his company's scheme to store nuclear fuel at its power stations rather than send it for reprocessing.

Mr Hann voiced the frustration ofthe industry when he told a press conference in London that 'every time our industry tries to take a step forward, it is being halted in its tracks as a result of operating in the public sector'.

He was speaking as Scottish Nuclear announced a 9 per cent increase in net profits last year to pounds 72m from pounds 66m. In the past, Scottish Nuclear has been diplomatic in its dealings with government.

It has also been reluctant to embrace privatisation, believing that issues of nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning need to be addressed first.

But Mr Hann yesterday demanded the freedom 'to do what we were asked to do - to run our companies in the most commercial, and safest, ways possible. If remaining in the public sector is going to seriously hinder our progress then partial or even full privatisation may indeed be the best way forward.'

Scottish Nuclear put forward in 1991 its idea that spent nuclear fuel should be kept in 'dry stores' next to its two nuclear power stations in Lothian and Ayrshire, rather than being sent to British Nuclear Fuel's Sellafield plant for reprocessing. The company estimated this would save pounds 45m a year. The proposal was investigated by a public inquiry 18 months ago.

Mr Hann said: 'Although the reporter to the inquiry stated our plans were sound on both engineering and safety grounds, the Secretary of State for Scotland has decided that the Department of the Environment's waste review should consider whether there should be one national dry store or stores sited at each nuclear power plant.'