NMP will continue to run the Sellafield site after the first five year period of its contract comes to an end next year

Sellafield operator's contract extended

The firm running the giant nuclear site at Sellafield has had its contract extended into a second five year period.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium comprising of URS, AMEC and Areva, will continue to run the site after the first five year period of the 17 year contract comes to an end in March 2014.

The news comes less than a month after Energy Minister Michael Fallon revealed that bosses received more than £6m in bonuses over the last three years, despite a series of failings and missed deadlines.

NDA chief executive John Clarke, said: "Sellafield is by far the most complex and challenging site in our portfolio, and we are determined to drive improved performance at the site.

“We have reviewed progress under the contract to date and concluded that the right decision is to extend the contract to give NMP further time to bring about the improvements in capability and performance at the site that we and they are looking for.

"Both NMP and the NDA now have a much better understanding of the issues and complexities that exist at the site and the challenges that lie ahead. Whilst progress is being made on a number of fronts we will require significant improvements during the next period.

"We will continue to monitor performance closely and remain focused on achieving our goal of safe, effective, value for money decommissioning at Sellafield, as we are seeing elsewhere across our portfolio of sites."

A report by the National Audit office in February found that costs had spiralled from £47bn, when it first started work on the site in 2009, to £67bn by 2012 after key deadlines were missed.

Energy minister Baroness Verma said: "Sellafield remains the Government's top priority in our nuclear decommissioning programme. We support this decision to extend the contract which will build on skills and expertise at the site and the progress made so far."

Workers at the Sellafield nuclear site have urged the Government to support a new nuclear power station at the site and have released a three-point plan to attract fresh investment and sustain and develop 10,000 jobs at the site.

Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB union, said: "We want the Government to start talking to us about a proper strategy for the nuclear industry in the UK, with Sellafield at its centre. It is imperative that the NDA and Government stop trying to kick the can down the road and lead the community and workforce by the nose."

Unite national officer Kevin Coyne said: "MNP must raise its game substantially from here on in. Unite is now looking forward to a genuine improvement in relations between management and the unions which have been problematic in the past.

"MNP must now co-operate with the workforce to deliver on its commitments because Sellafield is strategically important to the UK and it is crucial for the economic survival of Cumbria."

Prospect national secretary Gill Wood said: "This is welcome news. It means continuity for Sellafield staff, as change brings challenges and concerns that can unsettle the running of any business.

"It also ensures continuity for the funding the consortium provides to develop alternative employment opportunities for the local community once the decommissioning work comes to an end; an important strand of the decommissioning policy."

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