Green campaigners have expressed concern that the Government's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is using the same lobbying consultancy as a firm that often bids for major nuclear decommissioning contracts.
The NDA is charged with cleaning up the UK's nuclear waste - and in particular with decommissioning the Sellafield site. It has employed Bell Pottinger Public Affairs (BPPA) since 2005.
In the past few weeks BPPA has also taken on the major engineering firm Jacobs as a client. Jacobs' 2007 annual report makes clear that the firm is keen to land big-money nuclear decommissioning contacts in the UK.
A Greenpeace spokesman said: 'If the NDA is employing the same lobbyists as people that are trying to win contracts with it then that is a cause for concern. It looks slightly underhand and there could be a conflict of interest.'
But NDA spokeswoman Pip Hatt downplayed the issue. She said: 'We are aware that BPPA has been appointed to do some work for Jacobs. The nature of the work has nothing whatsoever to do with the NDA's remit, furthermore the contract we have with BPPA contains strict confidentiality clauses. None of the BPPA team members who work on our account are involved with Jacobs.'
Hatt also insisted: 'Jacobs did not form any part of the consortia bidding for the Sellafield contract. There are no contracts in place between the NDA and Jacobs. BPPA is required to advise us of any potential conflicts of interest in its new business opportunities and if we have any concerns we would not hesitate to express them.'
However, in March 2008, Jacobs won a major contract to pride 'resource enhancement services' to the Nuclear Decommissioning and Major Projects Department of British Nuclear Group Sellafield.
Jacobs' 2007 annual report states: 'In the UK, the near and long-term market outlook for decommissioning and cleanup of civilian nuclear facilities remains robust as the Government continues its divestiture of the British Nuclear Group. This is a growing market in the years to come and we are well-placed to capitalize on it having won a number of major framework contracts this year at the two highest-hazard sites.'