by Rob Edwards and Terry Macalister
The government’s safety watchdog is cracking down on Britain’s biggest and oldest nuclear complex after a series of radioactive leaks and safety blunders, despite private sector managers receiving multimillion-pound “performance-related” payments from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has closed down a vital nuclear waste plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, and is taking legal action to force the site’s operators to improve their flawed safety procedures.
The HSE has also rejected a £40bn plan for cleaning up Sellafield because of proposed delays in dismantling ageing and potentially hazardous facilities.
The disclosures come at a critical time for the nuclear industry which is trying to convince Chris Huhne, the energy and climate change secretary, it is efficient enough to build a new generation of reactors.
But the crackdown is also embarrassing because Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) – a consortium involving Amec, URS and Areva – is believed to have made “profits” of up to £50m over a 12-month period.