First quarter of 2001

Magrox: BNFL's plutonium fuel project abandoned

WISE-Paris, 30 January 2001

[Posted 31/01/2001]

BNFL has announced on 25 January 2001 that it will abandon the development of plutonium fuel for MAGNOX reactors. This new type of fuel called MAGROX would have allowed to absorb some of the huge UK plutonium stocks. The decision to abandon the project is "following a detailed review of technical, financial and commercial issues", according to CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to Radioactive Environment.)

In reality, there has never been a real chance for the fuel to ever be developed and loaded into a reactor. The commercial fabrication of MAGROX fuel for the Wylfa (North Wales) and Oldbury (Gloucestershire) MAGNOX reactors would have required the construction of a new production line at BNFL’s Springfields plant at a cost estimated to be as much as 100 million. The option would also have necessitated the extension of the lifetimes of the already over 30 years old reactors. Currently their closure is planned in 2008/2009.

MAGROX fuel was meant to be reprocessed in the THORP reprocessing plant rather than in the also ageing B205 plant. An option to be considered now is the construction of a new Head-End for THORP. This would enable conventional MAGNOX fuel to be reprocessed there. However, given the low general interest in reprocessing, it seems likely that the high costs, technical difficulties and long building-time for a new Head-End option will remain another BNFL dream.

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