British Nuclear Fuels has been disqualified from the largest contract yet put out to tender for the clean-up and shut-down of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.
BNFL, through two of its subsidiaries, submitted a bid last month to build the storage facility for the spent fuel that will need to be removed from the three intact reactors at the plant. The cost of the project has been estimated at £48m.
However, the project management for the job is led by Westinghouse of the US, whose global nuclear businesses BNFL and Morrison Knudsen agreed to buy at the end of June for £750m.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which administers western grant funding for Chernobyl projects, decided there would be a conflict of interest and ruled out the BNFL bid. The company is expected to challenge the ruling.
However, there could still be UK involvement in the project, as a consortium led by AEA Technology has submitted a rival bid.
BNFL’s disqualification is the latest in a series of problems that have delayed the £690m Chernobyl clean-up project. Meanwhile, wreckage in the ruined reactor gets less stable by the week.
Further difficulties have arisen with the initial contracts on the project to strengthen the steel and concrete sarcophagus which was hastily erected around the wreckage of the number four reactor after it exploded.
Only one of these projects has been signed Contract A, worth about £5m, for the civil engineering studies, which went to the ICC consortium of Morrison Knudsen, BNFL, Nukem and Technipatom.
It is also believed that this group has been selected for Contract B, covering operations and monitoring, but this has yet to be signed.
A consortium led by France’s SGN and including AEA, selected for Contract C (emergency systems), also faces a problem because US member Lockheed Martin is unwilling to accept joint and several liability.
Contract D (to ascertain what fuel-containing materials are at each location inside the shelter) has been earmarked for Ukrainian company Technocenter.
Its nominated subcontractors include BNFL Instruments. This could cause further problems for BNFL, as the tender rules forbid any company from holding an interest in more than one bidding consortium.