British Nuclear Fuels Ltd

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British Nuclear Fuels Limited
PredecessorUK Atomic Energy Authority Production Division
FateBroken up
HeadquartersWarrington, United Kingdom
ProductsNuclear Fuel
ParentUK Government
DivisionsNuclear Sciences and Technology Services

British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) was a nuclear energy and fuels company owned by the UK Government. It was a manufacturer of nuclear fuel (notably MOX), ran reactors, generated and sold electricity, reprocessed and managed spent fuel (mainly at Sellafield), and decommissioned nuclear plants and other similar facilities.

It was created in February 1971 from the de-merger of the production division of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

Until 2003, its headquarters were at Risley, near Warrington, England. BNFL's headquarters were then moved to Daresbury Park industrial estate, also near Warrington. On 1 April 2005, BNFL formed a new holding company and started a rigorous restructuring process which would transfer or sell most of its entire domain, divisions. In 2005, it transferred all of its nuclear sites to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It then sold its Westinghouse Electric Company subsidiary in February 2006. Later, BNFL sold the separate companies that made up its major subsidiary, British Nuclear Group, leaving a decommissioning and reprocessing organisation which became Sellafield Ltd. By May 2009, BNFL had completed the sales of all its assets and had no remaining operational activities or businesses.

BNFL continued to exist only as a legal entity to meet all pension liabilities and any obligations arising from disposal programmes. However, on 14 October 2010, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, announced that BNFL would be abolished along with a number of other government organisations.[1]


British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) was set up in February 1971 from the demerger of the production division of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). In 1984, BNFL became a public limited company as British Nuclear Fuels plc, wholly owned by the UK government.

US subsidiary BNFL, Inc. was established in 1990 and specialised in decontamination and decommissioning of nuclear sites.

In 1996, the UK's eight most advanced nuclear plants, seven advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR) and one pressurised water reactor (PWR) were privatised as British Energy, raising £2.1 billion.[2] The oldest reactors, the Magnox sites, were not attractive for commercial operations and remained in public ownership as Magnox Electric. On 30 January 1998, Magnox Electric was merged into BNFL as BNFL Magnox Generation.[3][4]

Quality data falsification crisis[edit]

In 1999, it was discovered that BNFL staff had been falsifying some MOX fuel quality assurance data since 1996.[5] A Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) investigation concluded that "the level of control and supervision ... had been virtually non-existent."[6] BNFL had to pay compensation to the Japanese customer, Kansai Electric, and take back a flawed shipment of MOX fuel from Japan.[7] BNFL's Chief Executive John Taylor resigned,[8] after initially resisting resignation when the NII's damning report was published.[9][10]

As a consequence of this crisis, a possible partial privatisation of BNFL was delayed by two years.[11][12][13]


In 1999, BNFL acquired Westinghouse Electric Company, the commercial nuclear power businesses of CBS (Westinghouse acquired CBS in 1995 and reoriented itself as a broadcaster), for $1.1 billion. Westinghouse's businesses are fuel manufacture, decommissioning of nuclear sites and reactor design, construction and servicing.[14] Westinghouse was acquired as a possible core for the privatisation of a portion of BNFL.[15]

In 2000, BNFL also purchased the nuclear businesses of ABB for £300 million. This company, which was merged into Westinghouse, had nuclear interests in the United States, Europe and Asia.[16] In June 2000, BNFL took a 22.5% stake in Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty) Ltd in South Africa.[17]

In January 2003, the research and development arm of BNFL was relaunched as Nuclear Sciences and Technology Services (NSTS).

However, BNFL's financial difficulties increased, and the prospect of partial privatisation diminished.[15][18][19]


On 1 April 2005, the company was reorganised as part of the restructuring of the wider nuclear industry. BNFL became British Nuclear Group (BNG) and a new holding company was established and adopted the British Nuclear Fuels name.[20] This new BNFL operated largely through its major subsidiaries of Westinghouse and BNG as well as Nexia Solutions, its commercial nuclear technology business formed out of NSTS.[21]

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was established on 1 April 2005 and took ownership of all of BNFL's nuclear sites, including the Sellafield site. The NDA then opened up the decommissioning of the different sites to tender to drive down costs. BNFL became one of a number of decommissioning contractors through BNG. BNFL's nuclear waste transfer companies, Direct Rail Services and International Nuclear Services, were also both transferred to the NDA.[22]

On 19 April 2005, BNFL, Inc. was renamed BNG America and made a subsidiary of BNG.[23]

Sale of Westinghouse[edit]

In July 2005, BNFL confirmed it planned to sell Westinghouse, then estimated to be worth $1.8bn (£1bn). However the bid attracted interest from several companies, including Toshiba, General Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and when the Financial Times reported on 23 January 2006 that Toshiba had won the bid, it valued the company's offer at $5bn (£2.8bn).[24] On 6 February 2006, Toshiba confirmed it was buying Westinghouse Electric Company for $5.4bn and announced it would sell a minority stake to investors.[14][25]

Break up of British Nuclear Group[edit]

On 3 February 2006, BNFL announced it had agreed to sell BNG America to Envirocare to form EnergySolutions.[26]

In March 2006, BNFL announced its intention to sell BNG. With the sale of Westinghouse, BNG America and BNG this was to effectively bring BNFL to an end. Mike Parker, CEO of BNFL, said: "By the end of 2007... there will be little need for the BNFL corporate centre from this time".[27] On 22 August 2006, BNFL announced that instead of selling BNG as a going concern it would instead sell it off piece by piece.[28]

In January 2007, BNFL announced that it would sell BNG's Magnox reactor sites operating business, Reactor Sites Management Company Ltd.[29] It was later sold in June 2007, along with its subsidiary that held the operating contracts with the NDA, Magnox Electric, to EnergySolutions.[30][31] All UK Magnox power stations are due cease operation by the end of 2015.

BNG Project Services, BNG's specialist nuclear consulting business, was sold in January 2008 to VT Group, which was itself later acquired in 2010 by Babcock International Group.[citation needed]

BNG was renamed Sellafield Ltd and became the NDA's Site Licence Company (SLC) for the decommissioning contract at Sellafield. In November 2008, the NDA contracted the management of Sellafield Ltd to Nuclear Management Partners Ltd, a consortium of URS, AMEC and Areva.[32]

Formation of the National Nuclear Laboratory[edit]

In July 2006, the UK Government stated its intention to preserve and develop key research and development capabilities potentially as part of a National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). In October 2006, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling confirmed the NNL would be formed out of Nexia Solutions and the British Technology Centre at Sellafield.[33] The NNL was launched in July 2008 as a Government-owned company, and initially was managed under contract by a consortium of Serco, Battelle and the University of Manchester; this is known as a GOCO (Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated) arrangement.[34]

Final disposals[edit]

Control of BNFL's one third stake in Urenco was transferred to the Shareholder Executive in April 2008 through Enrichment Holdings Ltd while the government explored the possibility of selling the stake.[35]

BNFL's one third stake of AWE Management Ltd was sold to Jacobs Engineering Group in December 2008.[36] AWE is responsible for the support and manufacturing of the UK's nuclear deterrent.

As BNFL was wound down it was converted back to a private limited company on 31 December 2008 and regained its original name, British Nuclear Fuels Limited.[37] The final sale transactions for BNFL's former businesses were completed in May 2009.


BNFL's 18 UK sites

BNFL formerly had operations at 18 sites in the UK:

Visual identity[edit]

BNFL logotype

The current graphic identity, including the BNFL logotype, was created in 1996 by Lloyd Northover, the British design consultancy founded by John Lloyd and Jim Northover.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Curtis, Polly (14 October 2010). "Government scraps 192 quangos". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 16 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Risk Management: The Nuclear Liabilities of British Energy plc" (PDF). National Audit Office. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  3. ^ "Nuclear firms prepare for merger". Physics World. 2 February 1998. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  4. ^ Battle, John (1997). "UK NUCLEAR POWER MERGER BNFL and Magnox Electric to Merge". Energy Exploration & Exploitation. 15 (6): 497–506. ISSN 0144-5987. JSTOR 43865247.
  5. ^ Watts, Jonathan; Paul Brown (15 September 1999). "Japan launches inquiry into BNFL". Guardian Newspapers. p. 9.
  6. ^ Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (18 February 2000). "An Investigation into the Falsification of Pellet Diameter Data in the MOX Demonstration Facility at the BNFL Sellafield Site and the Effect of this on the Safety of MOX Fuel in Use". Archived from the original on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 18 November 2006. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "BNFL ends Japan nuclear row". BBC. 11 July 2000. Retrieved 18 November 2006.
  8. ^ "Safety overhaul at Sellafield". BBC. 17 April 2000. Retrieved 18 November 2006.
  9. ^ "BNFL chief determined to stay despite damning safety report". Daily Telegraph. 19 February 2000. Archived from the original on 20 November 2002. Retrieved 18 November 2006.
  10. ^ Nolan Fell (1 April 2000). "BNFL in crisis". Nuclear Engineering International. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  11. ^ Janet Wood (1 May 2000). "Good business?". Nuclear Engineering International. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  12. ^ George Jones (30 March 2000). "Safety fear delays BNFL sell-off plan". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 20 November 2002.
  13. ^ Sophie Barker (30 June 2000). "Jaguar man to take BNFL private by 2002". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Toshiba buys BNFL firm for $5.4bn". BBC. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  15. ^ a b "Technology transfer – Selling Westinghouse is lucrative but controversial". Economist. 26 January 2006. pp. 30–31. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  16. ^ "BNFL to Acquire Nuclear Business of ABB" (Press release). BNFL. 29 December 1999. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  17. ^ "Nuclear Power in South Africa". World Nuclear News. 30 November 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  18. ^ "BNFL performance up, Westinghouse up for sale". Nuclear Engineering International. 1 July 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  19. ^ "What's happened to BNFL?". Nuclear Engineering International. 27 July 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  20. ^ "BNFL Annual Report and Accounts 2005" (PDF). British Nuclear Fuels plc. 2005. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 26 August 2006.
  21. ^ "Launch of Nexia Solutions Limited". National Nuclear Laboratory. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012.
  22. ^ "House of Lords - Science and Technology - Minutes of Evidence". Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  23. ^ "BNG America is launched". British Nuclear Group. 19 April 2005. Archived from the original on 22 March 2006. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  24. ^ Terry Macalister and Mark Milner (24 January 2006). "Toshiba to buy BNFL's Westinghouse". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  25. ^ "Toshiba Acquires Westinghouse From BNFL". Business Wire. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  26. ^ "BNG America to Join EnergySolutions". BNG America. 3 February 2006. Archived from the original on 22 March 2006. Retrieved 25 August 2006.; see also Jameson, Angela (3 February 2006). "BNFL sells American nuclear business for $90m". The Times. London.(subscription required)
  27. ^ Jameson, Angela (4 July 2006). "BNFL to be wound up by end of 2007". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  28. ^ Griffiths, Katherine (23 August 2006). "Anger as nuclear sell-off is shelved". Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 27 March 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2006.
  29. ^ "BNFL sale of reactor sites business". Nuclear Engineering International. 12 January 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2007.
  30. ^ MacAlister, Terry (8 June 2007). "Salt Lake City firm takes over UK nuclear sites". The Guardian. London.
  31. ^ "BNFL sells Reactor Sites Management Company to EnergySolutions". 15 June 2007.
  32. ^ Madslien, Jorn (24 November 2008). "BNFL is history as consortium steps in". BBC News.
  33. ^ "UK plans new nuclear research group". Nuclear Engineering International. Archived from the original on 19 March 2012.
  34. ^ "Consortium to run UK National Nuclear Lab". Nuclear Engineering International. Archived from the original on 19 March 2012.
  35. ^ "BNFL reaches its end". World Nuclear News.
  36. ^ "Jacobs Completes Purchase of Share in AWE". Nuclear Careers Online. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  37. ^ "British Nuclear Fuels Limited Company Details". Companies House.

External links[edit]