Nuclear industry sets sights on privatisation: Government review could clear the way for early sale

BRITAIN'S nuclear power stations could be privatised by 1995 if proposals by the industry are accepted by the Government during its imminent review of nuclear power.

Over the weekend, senior nuclear executives set out an enthusiastic sales pitch to a meeting of industrialists, civil servants, and City financial analysts. Privatisation has suddenly leapt to the top of the nuclear industry's agenda.

Nuclear Electric, which owns and operates all the nuclear power stations in England and Wales, believes it will get the finance to build a new generation of nuclear stations only from the private sector and that, to attract private investment, it must be privatised.

Market analysts believe that, provided the liabilities for decommissioning old reactors are sorted out, Nuclear Electric could be privatised as it stands and could be a lucrative investment. Because of the way the company was set up, it could be sold without requiring new legislation.

Nuclear Electric needs to build new stations to replace the output from the ageing first-generation Magnox reactors which are coming to the end of their economic lives. At the beginning of this month, the company applied for planning permission to build a twin-reactor station, Sizewell C, adjacent to the new pressurised water reactor nearing completion in Suffolk.

But Sizewell C, even if granted planning permission, could not go ahead because the Government has placed a moratorium on building new reactors. Its previous attempts to privatise nuclear power, along with the rest of the electricity supply industry, foundered in 1989 on the issue of the cost of demolishing old reactors and reprocessing their fuel. It promised to review the moratorium in 1994.

Since 1989, the Treasury has become more willing to underwrite historical liabilities in nationalised industries such as British Coal and British Rail in order to ease privatisation, opening the way for a rethink on how to deal with the nuclear industry's liabilities.

A separate development means it may be possible for the state to take over these liabilities through the agency of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA).

The authority has already split itself into two divisions: one strongly commercial, which the Government is keen to privatise, and a second that will remain in the public sector responsible for the authority's own nuclear sites. Thus the privatisation of the AEA, which is being done for reasons unconnected with nuclear power generation, could open a route for handling historical liabilities from Magnox reactors, a route which would satisfy private investors interested in nuclear power.

Mark Baker, executive director of Nuclear Electric, said: 'We have given the Government the option of privatising us. Whether they take it up is up to them. We have made no secret of the fact that we hope they will.'

However, Scottish Nuclear, which owns the nuclear stations north of the border, appears more wary. James Hann, chairman of Scottish Nuclear, agreed that 'privatisation would be a better way to run the industry' but he believes there are major obstacles relating to waste disposal, decommissioning, and safety regulations to be sorted out first.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Java Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

SAP Functional Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000.

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Functional ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn