UK Nuclear Industry

The UK currently has 16 operational commercial nuclear reactors (1 Magnox, 14 AGR and 1 PWR) with another 25 undergoing decommissioning.

The operation and decommissioning of the Magnox Reactors is the responsibility of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority whilst the day-to-day operation is currently run by the Parent Body Organisation Magnox. Yr Wylfa was due to start decommissioning by the end of 2010 but continues to operate with expected shutdown in 2014. The AGRs and the PWR at Sizewell B are operated by EDF Energy. The operational reactors generate approximately 10GW to the UK electricity mix, which is about 19% of the total UK requirement, down from a peak of 26% in 1997.

Decommissioning of the Magnox NPPs is the responsibility of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). They also own the liability of the research reactor sites at Harwell and Winfrith, the fusion research centre at Culham and the Fast Reactor research centre at Dounreay and Sellafield. They recently returned the liability for the Capenhurst Fuel Enrichment Plant to Urenco and the Springfields Fuel Manufacturing Plant to Westinghouse.

Privatisation of the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency (UKAEA) and the subsequent closure of many national laboratories, together with the transfer of the liability for the decommissioning of the Magnox sites from BNFL to the NDA resulted in the re-organisation of BNFL. The BNFL Research and Technology division was rebranded as Nexia Solutions which in 2008 became the National Nuclear Laboratory.

Reorganisation has also taken place within government. The Office for Nuclear Development was established in early 2008 with a remit to facilitate new nuclear investment in the UK and advise the Secretary of State on the exercise of his regulatory and policy functions in relation to the nuclear industry. In October 2008 the Department of Energy and Climate Change was created bringing together energy policy (previously with BERR – the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) with climate change mitigation policy (previously with Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The UK has also had a long involvement with nuclear fusion based at the Culham site in Oxfordshire. Currently operational are the Joint European Torus (JET) and the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST). JET is run as a collaboration between all European fusion organisations and the participation of scientists from around the globe. MAST is a collaboration between EURATOM and the UKAEA Fusion Association. The UK is also involved in the ITER project which builds on much of the work accomplished with JET which is currently the world’s largest tokamak.