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Bechtel to help solve nuclear conundrum

CONSULTANT BECHTEL has been appointed to advise the government's newly formed Liabilities Management Unit for the nuclear industry on how best to tackle the UK's £44bn legacy of redundant power stations, decaying silos and radiologically contaminated land.

The US firm, currently overseeing the project to make safe Chernobyl's stricken reactor No 4, will be auditing assets owned by generating and reprocessing giant British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

It will be handing the information over to the newly formed Liabilities Management Unit, which sits within the Department of Trade & Industry.

Projected costs of cleaning up and making safe nuclear liabilities owned by BNFL and UKAEA were last week raised by £5bn to £44bn amid growing fears that the scale of the task ahead is greater than previously envisaged.

Removing radioactive waste from defunct and decaying structures, storing it, and demolishing the irradiated structures themselves, is projected to take nearly 150 years.

Making all nuclear liabilities the responsibility of the taxpayer - a cost equivalent to 1p in every pound of income tax - and hiving off the debt caused by liabilities from BNFL will pave the way for part-privatisation of BNFL.

BNFL and UKAEA will be in a position to bid for clean up contracts put out by the Liabilities Management Unit.

The Unit is expected to be an interim organisation while an independent Liabilities Management Agency is set up.

INFOPLUS The government's white paper 'Managing the nuclear legacy' can be found at www. dti. gov. uk

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