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ScrapTrident


Secret Contract for Sellafield Waste

left A WELSH Labour MP has accused the UK Government of covering up a deal that will land taxpayers with a multi-billion- pound liability in the event of a nuclear accident while a private consortium will reap the profits.

Newport West MP Paul Flynn discovered that details of a contract to privatise the management of waste from the controversial Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria should have been placed in the House of Commons library in July. If they had been, MPs would have had 14 days in which to raise questions about the deal.

In fact, the contract was not put into the library until last week, by which time the opportunity to scrutinise it had gone.

 

The MP said: �Here is a clear example of how the Government�s own policy that all forms of energy should be treated on an equal basis is being broken. Nuclear energy has always been very expensive, largely because of the cost of dealing with the waste. The latest estimate is that it will cost �93bn to clean up the waste from existing nuclear power stations.�

The Government has decided to privatise the future management of the waste, and a consortium called Nuclear Management Partners consisting of an American company (URS Washington), a French company (Areva) and a British company (Amec) has been awarded the contract at Sellafield.

Yet it has now emerged that the liability in the event of a nuclear accident is to remain with taxpayers. Details of the contract containing that information were only put into the Commons library on October 14.

Mr Flynn said: �If there were a nuclear accident at some time in the future, taxpayers would have a liability that could run into billions of pounds. It is completely unacceptable that a contract of this kind should be entered into by the Government without any kind of parliamentary scrutiny.�

Instead of putting details of the contract into the Commons library and alerting all MPs, former Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks simply notified two Conservative MPs � Edward Leigh and Peter Luff � who chair the Public Accounts Committee and the Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee. Mr Luff in particular is a vocal supporter of the nuclear lobby. Neither of the MPs raised concerns about the terms of the contract or alerted their parliamentary colleagues generally.

Mr Flynn said: �What has happened does seem to be very suspicious. The Government doesn�t want the true cost of nuclear power to get any public attention. I accept that the waste produced at Sellafield has to be treated, but I think taxpayers deserve to know that while the profits from treating it will go into these three companies, two of which are foreign, it is the taxpayers who will be left with the liability of having to pay up if there is a future accident.�

The MP now plans to seek a Commons debate on the matter before the consortium takes over responsibility for managing Sellafield�s waste on November 24.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: �An indemnity was necessary to ensure that the competition to clean up Sellafield attracted the largest number of world-class bidders as none of the bidders would have been able or willing to continue without one. There is only an extremely small possibility of the indemnity ever being used and so the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority assessed the benefits of engaging the contractor would far outweigh the small risk that the indemnity may be called upon. The process demonstrates our commitment to the cost-effective clean up of the UK�s nuclear legacy. Due to the urgent commercial nature of the process and the timing of summer recess, it was not possible to lay the Departmental Minute in the House.

�Instead, the Department sent the Minute to the Chairs of relevant Parliamentary committees asking them to raise any concerns within 14 working days.�