Nuclear industry sets sights on privatisation: Government review could clear the way for early sale
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.
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Scientists ‘incredibly concerned’ for fate of banana as plagues and fungus infections spread across world’s supplies
- 1 Tim Sherwood challenges Daniel Levy to set out vision for Tottenham Hotspur’s future
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 5 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer (WPF...
£45000 - £65000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Year 6 Teacher - Gilli...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Teacher of English - S...