David Peattie, the former boss at BP’s Russian operations, is the front runner to take over at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), according to reports in the Sunday Times.
Tasked with managing Cumbria’s Sellafield estate, the NDA is a state-owned body that receives £3bn a year in public money, which amounts to 25 per cent of the budget at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
A chartered engineer, Peattie spent 33 years at BP, starting out as a petroleum engineer before working through a series of technical and senior management roles. He left BP to take up a position as CEO at Fairfield Energy, an oil and gas firm owned by North American and European private equity interests.
Under Peattie’s tenure, BP sold 50 per cent of TNK BP to the Russian oil giant Rosneft in 2013, leaving BP with a 12.5 per cent stake in Rosneft.
Today he is chair of Independent Oil & Gas, an AIM-listed firm that is looking to expand through “enhanced development of hydrocarbon reserves and the acquisition, trading and monetisation of licence interests” in the North Sea.
If his appointment is signed off by the business secretary, Greg Clark, Pattie will join the NDA at a crucial time for the body. In July last year, the High Court ruled that the NDA had “manipulated” and “fudged” a tender for the cleanup of nuclear waste at 12 Magnox sites.
Last year, the BBC’s Panorama programme uncovered what it described as a “catalogue of safety concerns” at the plant, including radioactive material stored in degraded plastic bottles, and a lack of sufficient staffing numbers in certain parts of the facility. Sellafield said the plant was safe and had been improved through increased investment in the estate's infrastructure.
The Sellafield site employs 10,000 people and is the biggest nuclear decommissioning facility in Europe, receiving 80 per cent of the UK’s nuclear waste.
It comes with just days to go before voters head to the polls in the constituency of Copeland, which includes both Sellafield and a mooted power plant at Moorside.
Labour is hoping to retain the seat later this week, following the resignation of previous MP Jamie Reed, who went to work for Sellafield.
However, Jeremy Corbyn's party has faced a substantial challenge from the Conservatives, with Prime Minister Theresa May among those travelling to campaign in the constituency last week.