Nuclear Privatisation: Risk Transfer Research

Newly-published research by Dr Robert Jupe discusses the role of risk transfer in the failed privatisation of the UK’s eight nuclear power stations.

Hist findings are published in Accounting, Organizations and Society (2012, Vol 37, No 2) in an article titled ‘The privatization of British Energy: risk transfer and the state’. A summary of the project and its conclusions can be found below:

Following the development of the new right agenda, Conservative governments in Britain introduced incrementally an extensive privatization programme. This paper focuses on the failure of the last privatisation of the Conservatives: British Energy, the company established to run the eight most modern nuclear power stations. A key argument used to justify the privatisation of British Energy, the transfer of risk from the state to the private sector, is analysed using the conceptual framework of the risk society thesis. The privatisation led to the apparent transfer to the company of interrelated risks, particularly the nuclear liabilities risk. New Labour’s rescue of British Energy confirmed the reality, which was that residual responsibility for risk, especially the nuclear liabilities risk, remained with government. Despite the company’s collapse the Labour Government sought a market-based outcome, and in 2008 British Energy was sold to EDF, the French state-owned energy company. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the failure of risk transfer for public policy, drawing on insights provided by the risk society thesis.

For more information, please contact Dr Robert Jupe (

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