British Nuclear Fuels stands to make a £70m plus short-term gain if the new German government adopts a proposal to stop reprocessing spent fuel from the country’s nuclear plants.
BNFL has signed contracts to reprocess over 1,000 tonnes of German fuel at its Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) at Sellafield. The contracts’ cancellation would incur enormous financial penalties.
The exact compensation figures are one of the most closely guarded secrets in the nuclear industry. However, some believe they are equivalent to the value of the reprocessing contracts.
‘I suspect that the cancellation rate is as good as the buying rate,’ said John Large, a nuclear consultant.
This would imply that compensation is payable at roughly £720,000 a tonne Thorp’s initial 10-year workload is worth in the region of £5bn.
The company would only say that ‘the operators had to pay substantial cancellation fees’.