Nirex and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority step forward

27 July 2004

Nirex, the company charged with finding a long-term management strategy for the UK's radioactive waste, is to be owned by a new company independent of the nuclear industry.

Shares in Nirex are currently held by UK radwaste producers: BNFL, UKAEA and British Energy. The ministry of defence provides funds but is not a shareholder.

This arrangement is thought to impinge upon the independence essential for Nirex's role and a new government-owned company limited by guarantee (CLG) will be set up to hold the shares and oversee Nirex's business operations. The CLG will be set up by the government's department of environment, food and rural affairs and the department of trade and industry.

Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Margaret Beckett's written statement to parliament said the objectives of the changes were to "make Nirex independent of industry and bring the company under greater government control. The aim is to agree the detail by about October/November of this year and for the new arrangements to become fully operational from 1 April 2005." On the same day, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will take overall responsibility for the decommissioning of public sector civil nuclear sites – and begin funding Nirex.

Chris Murray, Nirex's managing director, said: "The conditions are now right to allow publicly acceptable progress to be made."

But this step is not the final one in the UK's preparation for a final waste storage solution. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, set up following the September 2001 Managing Radioactive Waste Safely consultation, is due to report in 2006. The government will then decide on a long-term strategy for waste management and for the future of Nirex.

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