Radioactive waste body Nirex in agency review

Nirex, the body with the highly sensitive role of determining the long-term disposal of radioactive waste, has put £400,000 of public affairs work up for grabs.

The move comes as Environment Secretary David Miliband this summer called for Nirex to be subsumed into the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, threatening the body's very future.

The NDA's role concerns the clean-up and decommissioning of existing nuclear sites, while Nirex deals with the longer-term management of radioactive waste.

Nirex was owned by the nuclear industry but became an independent public body on 1 April 2005 in order to boost accountability and transparency of its activities.

Nirex corporate comms manager John Dalton explained that the body's ­‘preferred approach' for disposal was ‘an underground facility 500 to 1,000 metres under surface in an area of suitable geology.' He added: ‘The only way to move forward [regarding the disposal of radioactive waste] is to gain public acceptance for what you're doing and how you're doing it. Decisions need to be taken in an open and transparent way.'

The selection of sites has been complicated by the devolution of power to Scotland and Wales. Moreover, identifying suitable sites, consulting local communities and excavating storage facilities is likely to take decades.

Nirex plans to award ­four-year contracts totalling £400,000 for political monitoring services in London, Scotland, Wales and the EU, plus strategic consultancy - provided since last October by Jefferson Communications. Fleishman-Hillard has for several years handled the bulk of its monitoring services, while Cardiff-based Bute Communications was taken on in May to provide monitoring of the Welsh Assembly. Good Relations has also worked for Nirex in the past.

The NDA is undertaking its own PR and PA review out of incumbent Bell Pottinger (PRWeek, 4 August).

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