UK reprocessing plant to end operations

17 May 2022

The Magnox reprocessing plant at Sellafield will end its operations in July, marking the completion of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA) Magnox Operating Programme.

The Magnox Reprocessing Plant (Image: Sellafield Ltd)

The plant, which began operations in 1964, had been scheduled to close in 2020 but disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant the schedule was moved back. The plant will now enter a new era of clean-up and decommissioning, the NDA and Sellafield Ltd said.

Over its operating lifetime, the Sellafield Magnox plant received and reprocessed nearly 55,000 tonnes of used nuclear fuel from the UK's 11 Magnox power stations as well as from plants in Italy and Japan.

The end of reprocessing at Magnox is the culmination of decades of hard work to safely, securely, and cost-effectively manage the UK's nuclear legacy, NDA CEO David Peattie said. "Sellafield can now move from the reprocessing phase of its life into a future focused on decommissioning and clean-up," he added.

"This is a landmark moment for Sellafield," Sellafield Ltd CEO Martin Chown said. "When these operations end, we will have fulfilled our promise to conclude our reprocessing programme in a safe, secure, and environmentally-conscious manner.

"It's a clear demonstration of us delivering our purpose to create a clean and safe environment for future generations."

The UK operated a fleet of 26 graphite-moderated and gas-cooled Magnox reactors between 1956 and 2015, when the last operational Magnox unit - Wylfa 1 - closed after almost 45 years of operation. Used fuel from the UK's current fleet of AGR (advanced gas-cooled reactor) nuclear power stations will continue to be sent for storage at Sellafield. The site's commercial Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) plant ceased reprocessing in 2018 after 24 years of operation.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News