British Nuclear Group

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British Nuclear Group (BNG) was a major subsidiary of BNFL, a nuclear energy and fuels company owned by the UK Government until 2009. It specialised in the management and clean-up of nuclear sites. It employed some 14,000 people and was responsible for plants in the UK, Bulgaria, Italy, Russia, Sweden and the US - including the controversial Sellafield site in northern England. [1]


Sellafield is a two square mile site on the West Cumbrian coast just north of the village of Seascale. British Nuclear Group (BNG) said it 'represents the most challenging nuclear site management programme in the world'. [2]

It has been owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) since 2005 but was managed by BNG and then Sellafield Ltd. In 2008 the NDA contracted the management of Sellafield Ltd to the private Nuclear Management Partners consortium. The site is home to the Thorp and Magnox reprocessing plants, the Sellafield Mixed Oxide Fuel manufacturing plant and a range of waste management and effluent treatment facilities. More than 200 nuclear facilities are located at Sellafield. [3]

Leaks, accidents and incidents

Sellafield has been the site of numerous nuclear leaks, most recently a leak at the Thorpe plant. According to The Guardian, workers ignored more than 100 warnings over six weeks that it had sprung a leak. [4] [5]

On February 15, 2006, Sellafield was warned by the European Commission that it was in breach of EU rules. It was urged to tighten controls to ensure that nuclear materials "are not diverted from the peaceful uses for which they have been declared." The warning followed EC inspections of Sellafield, which lead inspectors to conclude that "accounting and reporting procedures presently in place do not fully meet Euratom (EU) standards". [6]

One of the most notable incidents came in 1999, when BNFL admitted falsifying documents relating to uranium and plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel destined for Japan. The scandal was a major embarrassment for BNFL. Japan refused to accept a shipment of the fuel that was already en-route, which meant it had to be returned to Sellafield. [7]

The government's Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment has consistently denied any link between Sellafield and a nearby cluster of childhood leukaemia. [8]

Paving the Way to Privatisation With a £5 Billion "Sweetener"

In April 2006, Labour prime minister Tony Blair's plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations were said to have "received a significant boost" when the European Commission cleared the £15bn transfer of assets and liabilities from the BNFL to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

According to the Guardian: "The controversial decision, which had been delayed three times in recent months because of political sensitivities, helps clear the way for BNFL's £1bn sale of its clean-up business, British Nuclear Group, to private companies within the next 18 months". [9]

The EC's decision was announced just days after the British government admitted it had given BNFL a £5 "sweetener" to manage and clean up the Sellafield site for another five years as part of plans to sell it off. [10]

Who ran British Nuclear Group?

BNG's website listed the company's senior executives: [11]

UK sites

It also provides a list of all sites where BNFL operates: [12]

  • Berkeley (being decommissioned)
  • Bradwell (being decommissioned)
  • Calder Hall (being decommissioned)
  • Capenhurst (being decommissioned)
  • Chapelcross (being decommissioned)
  • Dungeness A (in operation but due for closure in 2006)
  • Hinkley Point A (being decommissioned)
  • Hunterston A (being decommissioned)
  • Littlebrook (research and test facility in Dartford, Kent)
  • Low-level waste repository (UK's national waste repository, at Drigg in Cumbria)
  • Oldbury (in operation but due for closure in 2008)
  • Sellafield (comprises more than 200 nuclear facilities)
  • Sizewell A (in operation but due for closure in 2006)
  • Trawsfynydd (being decommissioned)
  • Wylfa (in operation but due for closure in 2006)


  1. BNG website: About us and BNG website: Operations portfolio, undated, accessed February, 2006.
  2. BNG website: Sellafield , undated, accessed February, 2006.
  3. BNG website: Sellafield , undated, accessed February, 2006.
  4. BNG latest news: 'Thorp Feed Clarification Cell - Latest Update', 10 February, 2006.
  5. Paul Brown, 'Sellafield staff ignored 100 warnings about leak', The Guardian, 16 July, 2005.
  6. European Commission Press Release: 'European Commission issues nuclear safeguard obligations warning to British Nuclear Group Sellafield', 15 February, 2006.
  7. Paul Brown and Jonathan Watts, 'Japan launches inquiry into BNFL', The Guardian, 15 September, 1999.
  8. Michael Meacher, "Returning to nuclear power could prove a deadly U-turn", The Guardian, 1 February, 2006.
  9. David Gow, "EC Paves Way for UK Nuclear Privatisation", The Guardian, 5 April, 2006.
  10. Terry Macalister, "BNG Given £5bn Sweetener to Help Sale,", The Guardian, 31 March, 2006.
  11. BNG website: 'Meet our leaders', undated, accessed February, 2006.
  12. BNG website: UK locations, undated, accessed February, 2006.