Atomic energy body hunts PA agency for politics brief

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is seeking a public affairs agency to promote its modern function of decommissioning nuclear reactors and restoring their sites.

The organisation is keen to better communicate its programme of converting previously radioactive sites into business parks.

It expects to hire a new agency on a three-year contract by the end of the year. APCO has represented it in the public affairs arena for the past four years. The job involves contact with politicians at both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.

The UKAEA operates six sites scattered across the UK, including Dounreay in the north of Scotland and Harwell in Oxfordshire.

‘We’re not a nuclear energy organisation. Our job is to decommission and restore sites,’ said UKAEA deputy head of comms Andy Munn.

‘Anything to do with nuclear raises anxieties and fears so it’s up to us to explain what we’re doing and to ensure politicians have the facts in front of them. A lot of local MPs in particular are concerned about what is happening on our sites.’

Munn said the successful agency would be expected to ‘monitor the mood and opinions of people in and around Parliament,’ but added: ‘This is not a hard-edged lobbying task. It is about explaining our operations to political audiences.’

Harrison Cowley continues to act as the organisation’s media relations agency for the Harwell site, as well as Winfrith in Dorset. Media relations for Dounreay is handled in-house.

Dounreay came in for criticism in August, when a judge ruled it was bypassing safety rules and failing to protect the public from radioactive contamination.

Munn conceded that Dounreay’s location and higher levels of radioactivity made it less suitable for general commercial use.

The UKAEA is a non-departmental public body currently in its 50th year. Unlike its private sector counterpart British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), its activities do not include the generation of nuclear energy.

From 2005, both organisations will be overseen by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which is being set up by the Government to clear up the UK’s nuclear waste. It will be located in Cumbria near the Sellafield site, which is operated by BNFL.

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