Financial crisis at Sizewell B

STAFF at the Sizewell B nuclear power station were today facing uncertainty after the station's owner asked the Government to bail it out of a financial crisis.

SIZEWELL B power station must be kept operating despite its owner's financial crisis.

That was the view today from Suffolk MP and shadow cabinet member Tim Yeo as he called on the government to help the ailing British Energy company.

Mr Yeo, Conservative trade and industry spokesman, has written to trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt urging help for the company.

He said: "They could exempt British Energy from the greenhouse gas tax levy, which would save it £80million a year.

"And they could allow it to change its arrangements with British Nuclear Fuels to reprocess fuel, saving another £250m a year, which would go a long way to easing its problems."

The troubled nuclear group confirmed it was in talks with the government and warned it may have to take "appropriate insolvency proceedings" if they were unsuccessful.

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Shares in the firm were suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange yesterday as the scale of its financial troubles was revealed.

A company spokesman last night refused to comment on the future of Sizewell B, one of its eight nuclear power stations across the UK, which employs between 200 and 300 people.

Mr Yeo said the company could not simply shut down its nuclear plants – they had to continue operating to remain safe.

"You can't just turn Sizewell on and off like a radiator," he said.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the company's board had initiated discussions with the government "with a view both to seeking immediate financial support and to enable discussions about a possible longer-term restructuring to take place".

A spokeswoman said: "We don't believe there is any threat to safety and security of supply, but we are prepared to act to ensure safety and security of supplies are maintained.

"It is too early to say what we are going to be doing. There is a possibility of restructuring within the private sector."

A week ago, British Energy confirmed it was in talks with British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to take over running the firm's Magnox reactors, which was seen as providing short-term relief for the loss-making group. BNFL runs the Sizewell A power station.

The company said yesterday BNFL had delivered its formal proposals to the group and the terms offered "fell short" of those required.