David Peattie didn’t know quite what to make of being asked if he might like to lead the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. His initial response was: “I don’t know anything about nuclear, I’m an oil and gas guy.” It might also have been: “I’m supposed to be retiring.” Yet serendipity was calling, as well as the governmental body charged with the £3 billion-a-year clean up of Britain’s nuclear waste. Mr Peattie was, indeed “an oil and gas guy”, having spent 34 years at BP, rising to head its hugely important Russian business. He’d left in 2013 after the oil major’s mega-deal with Rosneft, but had remained in the industry to run the North Sea-focused Fairfield Energy. Then came the oil price crash and, with his ambitions at Fairfield suddenly and consequently frustrated, he’d sought a quieter life of non-executive roles and semi-retirement. John Clarke, the authority’s previous chief executive, announced his intention to leave in August 2016, only a week after the High Court had ruled that the NDA had bungled the awarding of a £6 billion contract for cleaning up Britain’s 12 Magnox nuclear reactors and had given the work to the wrong company. Despite a catalogue of errors, the authority decided to appeal against the ruling and to fight compensation claims from the wronged bidders. One of Mr Peattie’s first acts when he took on the job in March last year was to cut the NDA’s losses and settle the claims. The final cost to taxpayers was at least £122 million, a large sum by any standards but still a fraction of what the wronged bidders had sought. He also decided that the contract with Cavendish Fluor Partnership, the winning party, required so many changes that it would have to be terminated. The National Audit Office accused the NDA of “fundamental failures” and said that its commercial strategy for dealing with nuclear waste was “wholly inappropriate”. MPs on the public accounts committee said that the debacle had “caused untold reputational damage to the NDA” and questioned “its credibility as a strategic contracting authority”. In 2015, before the Magnox debacle, the NDA chose to terminate a similar contract, for the clean-up of Sellafield, after numerous failings there. It brought that work back in-house as a subsidiary of the NDA, a model that Mr Peattie says has worked well, giving more flexibility to adapt strategies as work progresses and as the nature of the challenge becomes clearer. Doing the same for Magnox seems the most likely option, subject to discussions with the government.
Times 21st April 2018 read more »