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UKAEA's Pensions Administration Service, based at Thurso, Caithness, could be given the opportunity to further develop as a public service pensions provider following the introduction of a Government amendment to the Energy Bill now before Parliament.

The 30-strong Pensions Office has also received a boost with the decision by the Trustee of the BNFL Group Pension Scheme to award a five-year contract to UKAEA to carry out the administration and payroll of the Scheme. The BNFL Group Pension Scheme covers BNFL and its subsidiary companies and has a membership of 1600 with around 1300 active members.

UKAEA currently administers nuclear sector public service pensions in a scheme which covers 46,000 members across five main employers ? BNFL, UKAEA, the National Radiological Protection Board, the Ministry of Defence, and some research councils.

If finally passed into law, the new amendment to the Energy Bill would give UKAEA the opportunity, to bid to provide pension services for a wider range of UK public service organisations, subject to Ministerial consent.

Dipesh Shah, UKAEA Chief Executive said: "These two decisions bring very welcome recognition for the highly professional service that our pensions team provides. The provision of pension services within the public sector is one of UKAEA's growth areas. Now, with the addition of the BNFL Group Pension Scheme and the possibility of widening its range of public service work UKAEA has the opportunity to realise its potential in this important area."

The UKAEA Pensions Administration Office at Thurso provides a range of  pension administration services including benefits, payroll and accounts.  It operates a commercial pensions software system provided by Heywoods.

The current UKAEA Pension Scheme began in the early 1950s when UKAEA was the sole employer. It has a total membership of 46,000 of which 25,000 either are or have been employed by BNFL.

The BNFL Group Pension Scheme was formed in 1995. The administration service to the Scheme was previously carried out by Mercer HR Consulting Limited. The Scheme covers employees in BNFL and its subsidiary companies including Direct Rail Services Limited and Deva Manufacturing Services Limited.

Public service pension schemes are those that have a statutory basis. The main ones are the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, the NHS Pension Scheme, Teachers Pension Scheme, Armed Forces Pension Scheme, Judicial Pension Scheme etc. The exceptions are those that belong to statutory corporations such as the BBC and the Royal Mail.

The Government amendment states that "The functions of UKAEA shall include power to carry on a business of providing services for the administration of  -
(i)   nuclear pension schemes
(ii)  such public service pension schemes as may be approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection."