NDA may transfer Capenhurst site to Urenco

29 October 2010

The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is considering transferring management and operation of its Capenhurst operations to Urenco, which already owns and operates a centrifuge uranium enrichment plant on part of the site. 


The Capenhurst site is currently split into two parts. One part – a former diffusion uranium enrichment plant that shut down in 1982 - is owned by the NDA and operated by contractor Sellafield Ltd. While most of the plant has now been decommissioned, uranic material (primarily depleted uranium and uranium hexafluoride) is expected to be stored on the site until 2120. The other part of the Capenhurst site comprises Urenco's operating 1.1 million SWU per year enrichment plant.


Capenhurst aerial (Sellafield Ltd)
Urenco to take on entire Capenhurst site? (Image: Sellafield Ltd)


The NDA and Urenco have announced the signing of a set of non-binding commercial principles to support a potential transfer of the NDA portion of the site to Urenco. Under the proposed transaction, NDA-owned land and operations would be transferred to Urenco under a long lease and services contract.


The NDA said, "This is anticipated to reduce NDA's net liabilities for managing and clearing the site, provide continued employment opportunities for the site workforce and pave the way for Urenco to invest in new facilities as the nuclear renaissance begins to take shape."


In a joint statement, Urenco and Sellafield Ltd said: "There are still a number of detailed issues to close out from a commercial perspective and to the satisfaction of our many stakeholders. If negotiations are successful, implementation of new arrangements will commence in 2012, subject to licensing and other approvals."


Urenco is planning to build a 7000 tonne per annum deconversion plant at Capenhurst, with operation expected from 2014. It will treat tails from all three European Urenco sites: Capenhurst, Almelo in the Netherlands and Gronau in Germany. Tails from Capenhurst have previously been sent to Techsnabexport (Tenex) in Russia for re-enrichment, but this arrangement concluded at the end of 2009.

Urenco's shares are ultimately held one-third by the UK government, one-third by the Dutch government and one-third by the German utilities RWE and EOn. The UK government "continues to explore options for realizing value" from its stake.


In March, it was announced that Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse will assume the long-term management of the Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing site in the UK under an agreement with the NDA. The agreement transfers responsibility for the commercial fuel manufacturing business and the workforce to Westinghouse. In addition, the NDA land at the site will be leased to Westinghouse. The new arrangements, the NDA said, "will give Westinghouse the freedom to invest in the site and develop long-term employment opportunities."


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News