Britain's oldest nuclear power stations could be transferred to ailing private company British Energy, pushing the company's premiums up.

A government move to take six Magnox power plants away from state-run British Nuclear Fuels could help to provide British Energy with badly-needed cash flow during the remaining eight years of the reactors' working lives.

Despite the benefit from reliable management fees, the government plan would also increase the risk burden carried by British Energy's insurers as other factors combine to push rates up. Proposals to raise the amount of liability cover needed by nuclear operators are likely to increase the cost of nuclear cover even before the effects of capacity shortage and insurers' reluctance to enter areas of high security risk are taken into account.