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BNFL is set to sell its nuclear decommissioning unit

LONDON: British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) is all set to sell its independent division that handles tasks relating to decommissioning of the country’s redundant nuclear power stations.

According to newspaper reports, BNFL’s board of directors has taken a firm decision to sell the business, called British Nuclear Group and which employs 15,000 people. The division ensures the safety of 12 nuclear power stations in the country and other six sites outside.

It is a politically sensitive issue. Prime minister Tony Blair had declared recently that he is open to building more nuclear power stations in order to meet the increasing energy needs of the country.

Analysts pointed out that as the government owns BNFL, the board can only communicate its recommendation to the government. A final decision is left with secretary of the department of trade and industry Alan Johnson.

BNFL later admitted it is reviewing its options for the unit. It had already publicised its plans to sell its U.S.-based nuclear power station-building unit Westinghouse. And once the British Nuclear Group sale too is accomplished, BNFL will be left with Nexion, a small research and technology business. The break-up of BNFL was made possible with the government deciding to set up the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency early this year.

The country’s labour unions have not taken lightly to the sale proposal. They said they cannot digest the prospect of a foreign-owned company handling the sensitive operations of the country’s nuclear installations.
Mike Graham, a Prospect union official, said the unions would be very concerned about the health and safety record and the environmental background of any potential bidder for the business.

BNFL too has clarified that any decision to sell the unit will have to be discussed with its constituents, mainly the trade unions.

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