Consultancy firms working for the government on a potential multibillion-pound project to build a nuclear power station in north Wales are also advising its Japanese developer.
Arup, the engineering and design company, and PWC are advising the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Hitachi, which is developing the Wylfa Newydd project on Anglesey.
Details of the advisers were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and triggered concerns among politicians and environmental groups of a potential conflict of interest.
Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons’ public accounts committee, said that the problem stemmed from a lack of competition among consulting firms with the expertise to do the work and “to your average punter it looks a bit cosy . . . There are safeguards, but who is there to ensure the safeguards are in place?”
Wylfa has already been criticised for potentially exposing taxpayers to a risky project whose costs could spiral, but its supporters welcome what would be the biggest infrastructure project in Wales for a generation and key to generating new power as ageing reactors and old polluting coal plants close.
The government has been criticised over the deal for the new £20 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in Somerset being built by EDF, the French state-backed company.
Greg Clark, the business secretary, said last month that the government was considering taking a direct stake in the £16 billion Wylfa plant, despite long-established policy not to commit public funds to new reactors.
Tender documents submitted to the business department show that Arup is providing planning and environmental impact assessment for Wylfa. Arup is also advising on “seismic risk assessments and ground investigations”.
PWC, one of the Big Four accountants, is working for Horizon, but the nature of its contract was not specified beyond it stating “we are not providing any lead financial advisory services”.
John Sauven, UK executive director of Greenpeace, said there were serious concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding nuclear deals. “This sounds like the kind of cosy arrangement where one hand washes the other at the expense of both sound economics and the public’s interest,” he said.
Arup said that it had been fully transparent in its disclosure to the business department. “The involvement of our technical specialists with Horizon . . . was judged by BEIS not to present an irresolvable conflict of interest. Measures have been put into place to manage any potential conflicts.”
A PWC spokeswoman said it was “confident the robust ethical walls we have in place mean there is no conflict of interest in providing the different types of service to each organisation”.
A spokesman for the business department said: “When procuring for these services, the department ensured that any potential or declared conflicts were explored. Measures are in place to manage any potential or perceived conflict during the course of the contract.”
Sourced from The Times - Written by Alex Ralph