Reprocessing nuclear fuel
We have more than 50 years’ experience in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield.
My teams are responsible for taking spent fuel and reprocessing it. In simple terms, we separate out the reusable uranium (96%) and plutonium (1%) from the high level waste (3%), allowing 97% of the used fuel to be recycled.
The uranium is then made available to customers who can manufacture new fuel from it.
2018: THORP reprocessing operations will end
Sellafield’s Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) began reprocessing operations more than 20 years ago.
THORP reprocesses the oxide fuels from EDF’s power stations and overseas customers.
The decision was taken in 2012 to close THORP in 2018, once reprocessing of the current contracts is complete.
It would have taken billions of pounds to upgrade THORP and its support plants to allow it to continue running beyond 2018. This was not a viable option. Instead, funding will be directed towards work to decommission and remediate the site.
Once the plant stops operating, it will enter into a Post Operations Clean Out phase. This is the stage of the plant's life prior to dismantling and decommissioning, where the remaining radioactive and non-radioactive materials are removed.
Not all of THORP will close in 2018. The receipt and storage pond will continue to receive and store the fuel from the UK’s operational reactors for many years to come.
2020: Magnox Reprocessing Plant to close
The Magnox Reprocessing Plant began reprocessing fuel from Britain’s early nuclear reactors in 1964. It is scheduled to complete its operations in 2020 once all of the Magnox fuel has been reprocessed.
The closure is scheduled to follow the defueling of the final Magnox station, Calder Hall, in 2019. This will mark the completion of a complex, logistical and procedural process, as outlined in the Magnox Operating Programme.
Like THORP, Magnox reprocessing relies on the availability of a number of ageing plants and support services across Sellafield.
Reprocessing operations produce a series of products, which will be placed in interim storage until further decisions are made on the disposal or reuse of these materials.
The conclusion of reprocessing also benefits the environment and complies with the UK Strategy for Radioactive Discharges.
Tell us what you think about our plans
We would like to hear if you have views on our work to decommission 17 nuclear sites across the UK.