Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 15:01 UK

Group chosen for Sellafield job

Sellafield
Sellafield was the site of Britain's first nuclear power station

A consortium, including the UK's Amec, has been named as the government's preferred choice to clean up and run the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria.

The UK's Amec, URS's Washington Division of the US, and France's Areva have been shortlisted for the 1.3bn-a-year contract.

Unions had feared that the change of operator could lead to job cuts, but they welcomed the decision.

The government move comes as it embarks on a fresh nuclear strategy.

For years, Sellafield was the source of much ire from environmental campaigners and local residents, who have been concerned about the health risks posed by living close to radioactive waste.

Last year, the first steps in its decommissioning process were taken when the four cooling towers at Calder Hall were demolished.

The importance of achieving world class performance throughout the Sellafield sites cannot be underestimated
Stephen Henwood, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

But the government has been keen to speed up the process and attract world-class management to run the site in the most cost-effective manner.

The other contenders for the contract were US engineering firm CH2M Hill Nuclear Services, Fluor in partnership with Japanese electronics giant Toshiba and another consortium - SBB Nuclear - consisting of Serco, Bechtel and Babcock & Wilcox.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will continue to own the site's assets, while the winner of the bid will take over its operations and its workers, of which there are currently about 12,000.

'Significant contract'

If confirmed, the consortium - operating under the umbrella title Nuclear Management Partners - will take up the contract in October.

It is initially for a period of five years with the potential of further extension periods to a total of 17 years.

WHO ARE THE FIRMS IN THE WINNING CONSORTIUM?
Amec is a UK engineering group with interests in industries from oil and gas to nuclear power, counting British Energy as a key client
Areva is one of the world's largest makers of nuclear power stations and it also manufactures and recycles nuclear fuel
URS's Washington Division - formerly Washington International - is the leading nuclear decommissioning contractor to the US government

"This competition involves one of, if not the, most significant public sector procurements for UK Plc," said Stephen Henwood, NDA chairman.

"The importance of achieving world class performance throughout the Sellafield sites cannot be underestimated."

The NDA also said that there was the opportunity for the winners of the contract to earn up to 50m a year if they use the 1.3bn given to them by the government efficiently.

Jobs safe?

Unions had expressed concerns that these efficiencies could come from reducing the work force.

But the Prospect union, which has about 15,000 members in the nuclear industry, called the NDA's decision "welcome news".

"Sellafield makes up the most complex nuclear organisation in the world so good relations between the management and the workforce will be key to its successful future," its assistant general secretary Mike Clancy said.

The degree to which the NDA has bent over backwards to accommodate foreign companies taking over Sellafield beggars belief
Ben Ayliffe, Greenpeace

"We have already been involved in regular dialogue with the Nuclear Management Partners during the lengthy competition period and look forward to building on that relationship."

However campaigners at environmental charity Greenpeace were not so cheered by the news.

Ben Ayliffe, head of nuclear campaigns, said: "Looming large over this deal is the spectre of further public subsidies for nuclear.

"The degree to which the NDA has bent over backwards to accommodate foreign companies taking over Sellafield beggars belief."

And he said that the further potential 50m efficiency payments annually for the contract winners was "corporate speak for cutting corners and jobs".



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SEE ALSO
Nuclear clean-up costs 'to soar'
27 May 08 |  Science & Environment
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10 Jul 08 |  Northern Ireland

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