Under the plans, British Nuclear Group (BNG) is to be auctioned off, and the successful bidder will inherit BNG’s five year contract to decommission the sprawling Sellafield site in Cumbria, from which BNG currently derives much of its profit. Likely buyers for the company include Fluor and Bechtel, both US-based heavy engineering giants.

But the BNG sell-off is becoming increasingly complex owing to the involvement of the government’s decommissioning executive and safety watchdog, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

It is intended that NDA and BNFL will jointly manage the sale, but despite assurances that the plans are on schedule, it now appears that there is no consensus between the two halves of the industry about the best way to dispose of BNG.

BNFL is reportedly keen to hurry the deal forward, but the NDA is more cautious. We would like to pursue a sale as soon as possible. But we have to get the Sellafield contract right. It is complex, says an NDA spokesman. Media reports suggest any sale could be delayed by as much as a year.