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Radiological hazard on all Magnox nuclear sites across UK set to reduce by 99%

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UK's earliest nuclear power stations

Map showing the location of Magnox reactor sites
Map showing the location of Magnox reactor sites

Back in the 1950s, Calder Hall, on the Sellafield site in Cumbria, was the first in a series of Magnox nuclear power stations, so-called because the fuel cans were made of magnesium alloy. Eleven stations were eventually built, producing 10 per cent of Britain’s electricity.

These early nuclear power stations are all now closed. The last to stop generating electricity was Wylfa in Anglesey, north Wales, which had been producing power for almost 45 years by the time of its closure in December 2015.

While operating, fuel was loaded into reactors as required, and a corresponding quantity of spent fuel was removed and transferred to Sellafield for reprocessing, following a period of storage on site to allow for the cooling and decay of fission products.

More than 5 million Magnox fuel elements were manufactured in total, almost all destined for the UK. Magnox-type plants were also built in Italy and Japan.

Decommissioning phase

The Magnox sites in the UK have now all moved into a phase of decommissioning, which begins with removal of the remaining spent fuel, referred to as “defueling”.

Fuel is removed from the reactors and then stored on-site, a process lasting several years. As was the case in the generation phase, ultimately this fuel is transported off site in flasks to the Sellafield site in Cumbria for reprocessing.

Once the fuel has been sent off site, 99% of the site's radioactive inventory is removed. It is the most important hazard reduction activity on our reactor sites and a crucial step in the transition towards decommissioning.

Find out more about the phases of work at Magnox reactor site

The nuclear fuel journey (Magnox Operating Programme 2012: MOP9)
The nuclear fuel journey (Magnox Operating Programme 2012: MOP9)

Progress in defueling

Of the 11 UK sites that host Magnox reactors, only 2 are still defueling:

Both Wylfa and Calder Hall sites continue to benefit from the learning gathered from the other Magnox sites that have already defueled.

Magnox Ltd and Sellafield Ltd are working together to ensure that the defueling and reprocessing is delivered in a safe and compliant manner, as soon as practicable, with least cost to the UK taxpayer.

Defueling progress at nuclear sites with Magnox reactors
Defueling progress at nuclear sites with Magnox reactors

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We would like to hear if you have views on our work to decommission 17 nuclear sites across the UK.

Comment on our current Business Plan for 2017 to 2020 before 3 February

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Carlos Miranda posted on

    Es muy importante el programa de tratamiento y desmantelamiento de instalaciones nucleares fuera de servicio que preven implementar, como asi tambien el alto nivel de descontaminacion previsto.

    Cumbres SA Cia Minera, la empresa que represento trabaja desde 2005 en un Programa Integral que no solo reduce casi totalmente el peligro de contaminacion en los sitios donde se instalaron instalaciones que son desmanteladas, sino tambien reducen el peligro de acontaminacion producido por centrales nucleares en funcionamiento.

    Por otra parte representa soluciones de fondo que evitaria riesgo de contaminacion regional. Que Gran Bretaña lidere a nivel mundial un programa de salvaguarda de comtaminacion, lo que representa contar con una herramienta fundamental de relaciones con otros paises y el ingreso de importantes financiamientos por sus servicios. Cordialmente, Carlos Miranda - Pte. Cumbres SA.

    Se tiene previsto Participar de la Convocatorio de GOV UK en el Programa sobre Innovacion, cuya apertura de inscripcion esta prevista para el 30 de enero de 2017.

    Google translates to:

    It is very important the program of treatment and dismantling of nuclear facilities out of service that it is planned to implement, as well as the high level of decontamination envisaged.

    Cumbres SA Cia Minera, the company that I represent since 2005, has been working on an Integral Program that not only reduces the danger of contamination at sites where facilities are being dismantled but also reduces the risk of contamination produced by operating nuclear power plants .

    On the other hand it represents fundamental solutions that would avoid the risk of regional pollution. That Great Britain leads a worldwide program to safeguard comtamination, which means having a fundamental tool of relations with other countries and the entrance of important financing for their services. Sincerely, Carlos Miranda - Pte. Cumbres SA.

    It is planned to Participate in the Call for GOV UK in the Innovation Program, whose registration is scheduled for January 30, 2017.