British Nuclear Fuels chairman Hugh Cullen, yesterday described the UK government’s energy review as an excellent opportunity for the nuclear industry to put its case, in a statement accompanying the atomic services group’s annual results. Pre-tax losses for the year improved from £337 million to £66 million but exceptional gains taken this year, masked an underlying trading loss of £210 million compared with a profit of £74 million the preceding year.

The BNFL chairman said that the long-term picture for the global nuclear industry was brightening. He said the future for the business was also encouraging.”It is imperative that in the UK we have a balanced energy policy that takes account of the role that nuclear energy can and must play,” said Cullen. “If the full potential of the changes in favour of nuclear energy is realised, we will be well positioned to provide the technology, services and equipment needed.”

Tony Blair dampened expectation that the UK energy review, chaired by pro-nuclear energy minister Brian Wilson, might recommend additional nuclear capacity when he told parliament on Wednesday that expanding nuclear power was not on the agenda. Industry insiders interpret this as limiting any new nuclear facilities to the current generating capacity – around 25 per cent of UK electricity production.

British Nuclear Fuel Limited (BNFL) is currently state-owned. It has had to delay plans for an initial private offering due to lack of confidence among the public and potential investors. This follows a scandal concerning falsification of records in its reprocessing division. BNFL insist that significant progress has been made in rebuilding customer confidence but admitted that a float was still three to four years away. “We realise the current state of business and it would not be appropriate to go forward with a public-private partnership,” said Cullen.

The trading deficit was attributed to a 40 per cent loss of output from the Wylfa Maxnox power station due to a long-term closure as a result of engineering works. BNFL also admitted that performance had been poor at its downstream waste treatment plants at Sellafield and that it had to raise standards of operational delivery.

Total output from the group during 2000 was 13 TWh, which included record outputs from its Sizewell and Oldbury power stations.

Commenting on the business performance, Norman Askew, Chief Executive, said, “We are focused on serving our two major customer groups – nuclear utilities and governments – and on managing the programme of closing our Magnox stations. “The performance of Westinghouse was good, and the operational performance of our clean-up contracts in the US is improving,” said Askew. “However, our results are adversely dominated by the poor financial performance of Magnox Generation.”