Augean gets the go-ahead to handle nuclear waste

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HAZARDOUS waste group Augean has hailed Government approval of its plans to handle low-level nuclear waste as a “significant milestone” for the group.

Despite fierce local opposition to its scheme to store radioactive material at its East Northants Resource Management Facility in Northamptonshire, the Wetherby-based company’s appeal was last month upheld by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Addressing the group’s annual shareholder meeting yesterday, chairman Roger McDowell said: “This is a significant milestone for Augean and we expect that the site will be able to start receiving low level waste from the fourth quarter of 2011 and into 2012.

“We are conscious that the subject has provoked significant debate and the group is committed to engaging with local communities on an ongoing basis to address any concerns.”

In April, in a locally-organised poll, people living close to the facility overwhelmingly rejected the LLW scheme.

Augean said Mr Pickles’ decision was in line with the Environment Agency and the county council planning officer’s recommendations, which supported the company’s initial planning application.

The site is expected to handle construction and demolition materials, such as rubble, soil, crushed concrete bricks and metal.

Augean, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market, added it has continued trading in line with its expectations, and is making good progress in line with its strategy.

“The board remains optimistic about delivering our original expectations for the remainder of the year,” said Mr McDowell. “In the event that commercial contracts for low-level waste (LLW) disposal are signed the board will then review the forecast for the year.”

Analysts at Singer Capital Markets said winning Government approval has the potential to be “transformational”.

They said: “If any commercial contracts for the handling of LLW are signed, there would be potential for upgrades to forecasts. On our assumptions, each 1,000 tonnes of LLW could add close to £0.5m to forecasts.

“Although no commercial contracts have yet been signed, we believe a number of discussions are ongoing and a positive outcome looks likely at some point this year.”

Singer analysts expect Augean to report adjusted profits of £1.3m in 2011 on sales of £36.9m.

Adjusted pre-tax profits in 2010 came in at £400,000, above expectations, but below the previous year’s £1.3m.

Revenues, excluding the flattering impact of rising landfill tax charges, rose three per cent to £29m.

Shares in Augean edged up 0.12p to 30.75p.