nuclear energy - bailing out the privateers


The saga of British Energy, Britain's privatised and bankrupt nuclear electricity industry, sees new twists and turns. Rebel shareholders trying to undermine the rescue deal agreed with the government are seeking an extraordinary shareholders' meeting.

The company has responded by threatening to "de-list" the shares on the Stock Exchange. Effectively this would put BE into administration and bring on the formal insolvency.

The government has not only underwritten the company's £1.5 billion debt but is also underwriting decommissioning costs - estimated at over £4 billion. So in a further bizarre twist, the company's debts have been transferred to the government's accounts. We have a nationalised industry originally given away, which then promptly goes bankrupt, is bailed out by the government and then becomes the first private company to appear on the register of state assets.