UK nuclear firm pays dearly for false data

BNFL slumps to largest ever deficit, one-quarter of loss attributed to MOX fuel scandal

UK nuclear firm BNFL has slumped to its worst ever annual financial performance, the company announced yesterday, with fall-out from a scandal over falsified quality data for reprocessed nuclear fuel rods contributing heavily.

The revelation led to a hail of criticism of BNFL this spring, eventually forcing the firm to agree to take back fuel shipments supplied to Japan (ENDS Daily 11 July). The scandal also further dented the environmental image of BNFL and of nuclear reprocessing, which environmental NGOs and some European governments want to phase out.

In 1999/2000, BNFL lost UK£337m (euros 550m), having reported a clear profit the previous year. One-third of this was directly due to the data falsification scandal, the company admitted - UK£40m in compensation to Japanese client Kansai Electric and UK£73m earmarked to pay for the fuel's return to Britain.

Environmental groups have pounced on BNFL's financial results as further evidence that nuclear reprocessing is not economically viable. The firm was forced to close a "demonstration" plant producing reprocessed fuel rods following the data falsification scandal. It remains far from clear whether the firm will secure enough custom to start running a much larger plant currently mothballed and waiting for final regulatory approval.

Other contributors to BNFL's record-breaking loss were a reassessment of its nuclear liabilities and an underestimate of the costs of cleaning-up a US nuclear site. Reassessment has led to a 26% increase in estimated total nuclear liabilities.

Follow Up:
BNFL, tel: +44 1925 832 000.

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