Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Nuclear clean-up contract chaos: a tale of collusion and calumny

Letter to The Guardian:


Your energy editor’s report of the very expensive consequences of what you characterize as theflawed tendering process for dismantling old reactors at 12 sites”  (“UK nuclear decommissioning debacle costs taxpayer nearly £100m,”  27 March, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/27/uk-nuclear-decommissioning-debacle-costs-government-100m) quotes my research colleague, Stephen Thomas, emeritus professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, as branding  the (Nuclear Decommissioning  Authority) NDA’s handling of the contract as “an immense screw-up.”
I fear it is much worse than that.
From my detailed experience of a previous failed management contract agreed by the NDA , also placed with an American company-led consortium, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) , which also led to the early cancelling of the contract, there could well be dubious collusion between the NDA and  the then responsible Government Department ( energy and climate change, DECC) under a Labour Government, at the expense of the long fleeced taxpayers.

The investigator appointed by business secretary Greg Clark to look into this scandal, Steve Holliday, needs to revisit this earlier Sellafield scandal  to assess why the public procurement lessons – especially the need for candour and transparency- that should have been learned, were not
The NMP contracts were awarded in a way that ministers and departmental officials demonstrably tried to circumvent Parliamentary oversight. A Parliamentary debate (www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm081119/halltext/81119h0009.htm#08111970000004)  led by Labour MP Paul Flynn  held on 19 November 2008 exposed  how the Public Accounts Committee ( then under a Conservative chairman) effectively colluded in the deal.

Mr Flynn was denounced by the then energy minister, Mike O’Brien, for traducing ministers with allegations of “some sort of cover-up.”
Actually, Mr Flynn’s allegations turned out to be under-estimations of calumny.
The PAC  only later  properly probed the procurement scandal  October 2013, (by then under a Labour chairwoman) using documents I  secured from the NDA  - via long running freedom of information application -  comprising hitherto secret internal KPMG audit of Sellafield’s operations.

I would be happy to provide these to Mr Holliday to assist this investigation.




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