5 July 2002 – The UK government revealed in a White Paper Thursday details of the body to be set up to assume responsibility for cleaning up Britain’s nuclear waste legacy. The Liabilities Management Authority (LMA) is to take over the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing complex, freeing up BNFL of unquantifiable liabilities, ahead of a planed privatization.

The latest estimate for the cost of clean up is nearly £48bn, an increase of about £6bn over previous estimates. Environmental groups have accused ministers of punishing taxpayers for past mismanagement.

The LMA’s remit will be to ensure that the clean up is carried out “safely, securely, cost effectively and in ways which will protect the environment”. Energy minister Brian Wilson said, “The LMA will have strategic management control of clean up across the UK, based on high safety, security and environmental standards, while maximising value for money for the taxpayer.”

The soaring cost of dealing with the UK’s nuclear waste has effectively bankrupted BNFL and let to the decision to separate the waste issue and liabilities from its business operations: nuclear fuel manufacture, fuel reprocessing, clean-up and Magnox generation.

BNFL has an annual turnover of £2bn and is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of nuclear services. The UK government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of BNFL and will be hoping to raise in the region of £2bn. Around one-quarter of the company’s work involves the operation of Magnox nuclear power stations in the UK.