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Statement in response to Guardian Online Article
18 November 2008
Title: “Ed Miliband to exempt Sellafield firms from Freedom of Information Act” published on Monday 17 November 2008
The NDA would like to correct misunderstandings and inaccuracies reported in the above Guardian Online article.
Sellafield Ltd, the company carrying out decommissioning and operational work at the Sellafield and Capenhurst sites, will transfer to private sector ownership on 24 November 2008 following a two year competition. However, ownership of the sites will remain with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) which, as a Non-Departmental Public Body, continues to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The article goes on to allege that “a decision by Malcolm Wicks, the former energy minister to make the taxpayer liable for any accidents at Sellafield exempting the firm from the national requirement to pay the first £140m of any bill for leaks or radiation contamination”. This is simply not the case. In addition to the Site Licence Company having insurance for the £140m mentioned in the article (and a requirement of the Nuclear Installations Act), through the competition for the ownership of the company each bidder was asked to nominate a monetary sum above the £140m that it would be responsible for in the unlikely event of an incident of this magnitude occurring. All the bidders including the winner – Nuclear Management Partners Ltd - offered to meet some of these potential costs. Formerly, when these sites were in the public sector, all costs in relation to a major incident were to be met by the state purse. Now, the new private sector owners will share an element of the costs thus reducing the potential burden to the UK taxpayer.
The “exemption” in the article refers to companies from other countries that are part of the winning consortium and who are potentially exposed in their home courts despite the UK Government picking up costs above the £140 million limit established under the scope of the Nuclear Installations Act. In order to provide those companies with the same level of comfort as that established by law for UK-based companies the UK Government established an indemnity through Parliament.