Final shipment of new Magnox fuel

19 December 2011

The UK's Wylfa nuclear power plant has taken delivery of the last Magnox fuel elements ever to be manufactured. Meanwhile, Magnox Ltd aims to assist its staff in finding new opportunities in the nuclear industry.


Wylfa pile cap (Magnox)
The fuel will be loaded into the reactor using Wylfa's refuelling machine
(Image: Magnox)

The last consignment of Magnox fuel left the Westinghouse-operated Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing site, near Preston in northwest England, on 15 December and has since arrived at the Wylfa site. The fuel will now be checked and inspected before being loaded for power generation.


Since September 1955, when the initial 1000 fuel elements for the first Magnox plant at Calder Hall were delivered, the Springfield site has manufactured some 5.5 million Magnox fuel elements, including more than 600,000 for the Wylfa plant. The facility has supplied fuel for a fleet of 13 Magnox plants located in the UK, Italy and Japan. The pioneering work on Magnox fuel helped the development of the fabrication processes for Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fuel and light water reactor fuel, which are both manufactured at Springfields.


Although the manufacture of Magnox fuel was completed in 2008, Springfields noted that it continues to provide a fuel storage, delivery and technical support service to Magnox Ltd.


Commenting on the final fuel shipment, Wylfa site director Nick Gore said: "This is a significant event for Wylfa and the nuclear industry as a whole - it marks the end of an era."


Neil Longfellow, managing director of Springfields Fuel Ltd, said, "The Magnox power stations were the first generation of commercial nuclear power stations in the world and have been a major success story in the UK's nuclear industry." He added, "For over 55 years they have provided electricity safely, reliably and efficiently. Magnox production was for many years the backbone of fuel manufacturing at Springfields."


Wylfa and Oldbury are the last remaining operating Magnox plants. While unit 2 of the Oldbury plant was eventually shut down in June 2011, unit 1 is expected to close in February 2012. The two 490 MWe Magnox reactors at Wylfa are currently scheduled to shut down at the end of 2012. However, subject to safety case approval, it is planned to operate one of the units until 2014 in order to fully utilize existing stocks of fuel.

Staff transfer deals

As the shutdowns approach, Magnox Ltd has signed a number of agreements with other nuclear-related companies to support its mission to help staff during its transition from generation to decommissioning activities.


Staff numbers will be reduced in line with Magnox's decommissioning program, which will see its ten sites brought to a state of 'care and maintenance.' This means all electricity generation has ended, the fuel safely removed from the reactors and initial decommissioning activities completed.


The company has signed an agreement with Lloyd’s Register to "support the strategic recruitment needs of the expansion-minded members of the Lloyd's Register Group, while allowing Magnox to transition its workforce from power generation to the various decommissioning projects it has on the horizon."


Magnox managing director Neil Baldwin said, "Signing this employee-transfer protocol with Lloyd's Register for the transfer of staff is a great way to support the nuclear industry's skills base by providing on-going opportunities for our employees."


The company has recently signed similar agreements with utility EDF Energy and engineering company Amec. The company said that, by carefully managing this release of staff, it will be able to retain essential skills for as long as they are needed whilst still providing career opportunities for its employees.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News