New Sellafield firm exempt from Freedom of Information laws

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The new operators of Sellafield are to be exempt from Freedom of Information (FOI) laws, it has been revealed.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband has ruled that Nuclear Management Partners (NMP), a US-led consortium that will take control of the site on Monday, will not be subject to the legislation.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said the decision was taken because NMP is a private company.

A spokesman added: “Since the NDA still owns the land and buildings, people will still be able to make requests through us about Sellafield. They will not be able to request information directly from the consortium.”

The Government has also ruled that the taxpayer will be liable for any accidents at Sellafield by exempting the firm from the national requirement to pay the first £140m of any bill for leaks or radioactive contamination.

The Guardian newspaper has since reported, though, that Bill Hamilton, the head of stakeholder communications at the NDA, posted a comment on a blog on the issue last month suggesting that some liabilities might be met after all. He wrote: “All the bidders for the Sellafield contract offered to meet some of these potential costs (these are still confidential as we have not yet transferred the shares to the winning consortia).

“But, the principle has been established that these consortia will take initial responsibility for liabilities … outside the £140m they are required by law to have insurance for.”

NMP will be handed £1.3bn a year to run Sellafield, described as the most complex nuclear site in the world, on Monday. It will be awarded a five-year contract initially, with another 12 years on offer subject to performance.

NMP’s contract covers the decommissioning of the former nuclear power stations at Calder Hall and Windscale on the Sellafield site plus the management of the Thorp and Mox reprocessing plants.

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