Burges Salmon advises on transfer of historic nuclear facility
01 December 2011
Burges Salmon has advised the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) on its agreement to transfer an NDA-owned site at Capenhurst in Cheshire to URENCO, a major uranium enrichment supplier which currently occupies an adjacent nuclear-licensed site.
When it was first built in 1952, Capenhurst was the world's first uranium-enrichment facility. It ceased operations in 1982 and since then the focus has been on plant decommissioning and nuclear clean-up.
It is anticipated that this agreement will reduce NDA’s net liabilities for managing and clearing the site, while also paving the way for URENCO to invest in new facilities as required in order to meet future customer demand. There are 32 hectares of vacant land at the site and 800,000 square metres of flexible internal storage capacity.
A multi-disciplinary team from Burges Salmon, led by specialist nuclear partner, John Houlden, is advising the NDA on a comprehensive transition programme which has been established to ensure a seamless integration, while taking into account legal requirements for re-licensing and regulatory approval. It is anticipated that the full legal transfer is likely to take place during 2012.
The NDA’s chief executive, Tony Fountain, said: “For the NDA, this represents a major milestone in maximising the value from our commercial assets and achieving excellent value for the UK taxpayer while reducing NDA liabilities. The agreements also allow NDA to continue discharging its ongoing obligations and reducing hazard at the site.”
Burges Salmon partner, John Houlden, said: “Having worked closely with the NDA last year to support their arrangement with Westinghouse on the long-term lease of the Springfields fuel manufacturing site, we are delighted to be playing another significant role in this latest transaction. We have put together an experienced legal team to help this longstanding client fully release value from their assets and, ultimately, help reduce the burden for taxpayers.”
The transfer will result in the disposal of a proportion of NDA-owned land on and adjacent to the site, enabling the Capenhurst site to transition to single licensee status. Existing decommissioning and storage operations currently undertaken by Sellafield Ltd will transfer to URENCO.
NDA and URENCO have also signed an agreement for the processing of government-owned by-product/legacy material from uranium enrichment (known as “Tails”) through URENCO’s Tails Management Facility. Most of this material is currently stored at the NDA site at Capenhurst.
Recently described by the Chambers legal directory as having lawyers who "bring in-depth commercial and strategic knowledge to the table”, Burges Salmon’s Energy & Natural Resources team has a leading national reputation and a recognised international presence in the nuclear legal market. The firm has worked in some capacity on almost all the UK's public nuclear licensed sites.