The governments of the USA and UK have agreed a contract modification that will pass the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant (AMWTP) in Idaho to the DoE ahead of schedule.

BNFL Inc, a subsidiary of the UK’s state-owned BNFL, built and operate the AMWTP which processes transuranic waste from the DoE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL). To date, over 136,000t of processed waste has been shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

Under a $300 million contract signed in 1997 the DoE was to gradually buy the facility from BNFL Inc, but a strategy review at BNFL in the UK prompted managers to move out of ‘high financial risk’ activities and begin negotiating a new contract. BNFL was recently forced to prepare for losses totalling over $800 million on the AMWTP and a $1 billion clean-up contract at the DoE’s Oak Ridge site.

The DoE will now pay BNFL Inc $500-550 million and take control of the plant from 1 May. A new, unnamed contractor will take over operations.

UK trade and industry minister Patricia Hewitt told the House of Commons: “In addition to the immediate cash receipts, BNFL will eliminate its considerable exposure to further losses on these contracts while the US DoE will be able to pursue its overall clean-up programme more effectively.” BNFL’s chief executive, Mike Parker, said the company would still pursue clean-up work in the USA, but as a sub- rather than main contractor.

John Christian, COO of BNFL Inc, said that the new deal represents over a year of negotiation: “Everybody is relieved and happy that the negotiations have been concluded and the contract modifications are in place.”

Christian added that the 450-or-so workers at the AMWTP should not be worried about their job security: “No matter who the contractor it, the workforce has work to do and the DoE is committed to doing that work. The workers are the best trained and the only people available. I think their jobs are safe.”