Private companies lose Sellafield clean-up contract

A multi-billion pound contract to clean up the nuclear waste site at Sellafield was scrapped by the Government due to “criticism of its performance”, it has been confirmed.

The contract awarded to Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) and worth £9bn was terminated in an official announcement by the Government today. The ownership will switch to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. 

"We understand that the NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) has been considering whether there are alternative options to the current arrangements for managing Sellafield. It is not possible for us to make any further comment at this time,” said Ian Irving, general manager of NMP, in a statement.  

NMP – including US engineering group URS, British firm AMEX and French energy firm AREVA – was allowed a five-year extension in 2013 to clean up the site, despite facing criticism from unions for its performance. NMP was given a 17-year contract in 2008 and an original deal that included break points to be continued, cancelled and modified.

"Notably, however, since the NDA awarded NMP with a five-year contract extension, the site has enjoyed one of its best ever periods of performance and progress. Importantly, over the last two years, we have consecutively achieved the site's best overall safety records," said Irving.

Sellafield's Thorp reprocessing facility had to be closed in April 2005 after acid containing 20 tonnes of uranium and 160kg of plutonium spewed onto a floor when a pipe fractured.

Gary Smith, national officer of Britain’s General Union (GMB), said in a statement: "The termination of the NMP contract is welcome. We could not limp on any further.

"Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money have been squandered as NMP has simply failed to deliver time and time again. They have been big on promises but not on delivery.”

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