Sellafield starts controlled shutdown of Magnox facility

23 March 2020

Since the global outbreak of COVID-19, Sellafield Ltd says it has taken some precautionary actions at its site in north-west England, including the controlled shutdown of the Magnox Reprocessing Plant. The reprocessing plant is approaching its 60th year and is a complex chemical facility designed to process and separate plutonium and uranium.

The Sellafield site (Image: Sellafield Ltd)

The Magnox plant is to close permanently this year. It began reprocessing used fuel from Britain’s first nuclear reactors in 1964 to separate the uranium and plutonium, which can still be reused. Turning the facility off quickly in a response to reduced manning could create unnecessary maintenance or repair work, the company said, whereas a controlled shutdown leaves the plant in the optimum condition to be restarted.

Mark Neate, the company's director of environment, safety and security, said: "Our response has been deliberately structured so that we have dedicated resources to manage the ongoing situation while also maintaining our management and control of the Sellafield site and our nuclear facilities ... As you would imagine, many of our roles simply cannot be delivered from home. We have a critical mission at Sellafield and so our response must ensure the continued safety and security of our workforce, the public and the protection of the environment."

Additional response measures so far also include making access to the site easier for those who need to get into Sellafield to do their work, and setting up a dedicated helpline and email account for employees.
Sellafield is a large multi-function nuclear site close to Seascale on the coast of Cumbria.

Sellafield Ltd has four value streams: retrieval of nuclear waste, fuel and sludge that are stored inside its legacy ponds and silos; remediation of the hundreds of nuclear and non-nuclear facilities at the site; reprocessing used fuel; and storing special nuclear materials.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News