The end of the Magnox era

30 March 2001

BNFL is in the process of a phased closure of its Magnox plants. The Environment Agency is responsible for the authorisation and regulation of radioactive discharges, and has commented on the implications of this programme.

The end of Magnox reprocessing will bring a major reduction in radioactive discharges from the UK, but it will not change our plans to achieve significant reductions in the period up to closure through our Sellafield site review. The move will help the UK significantly in meeting its commitment to reducing radioactive discharges under the OSPAR Convention,” said the chairman of the Environment Agency, John Harman.

“The announcement gives a clear framework on which to regulate discharges from the Magnox stations. The announcement highlights the very urgent need to find alternative sources of energy, to replace the 8% of UK electricity currently generated by the Magnox stations, without adding to greenhouse gas emissions.” However, BNFL has also decided that development of the Magrox fuel is not cost effective. It was hoped that Magrox fuel would enable the Magnox plants to continue operating after the closure of the MOX reprocessing facility in Sellafield. However, although the tests were successful as far as they had gone, BNFL decided that it would be uneconomic to develop the Magrox fuel, and discontinued the tests.

The Environment Agency has authorised the discharge of radioactive waste from eight Magnox plants.

These are:

•Berkeley (undergoing decommissioning).

•Dungeness A.

•Hinkley Point A. This station will not reopen.


•Sizewell A.

•Trawsfynydd (decommissioning).


The Environment Agency believes that these authorisations will result in a better standard of environmental protection by pressing BNFL to reduce radioactive discharges.

The Environment Agency’s director of operations, Archie Robertson, said: “After a period of intense scrutiny of BNFL’s applications, the Environment Agency has drawn up a series of draft authorisations that look to continue the overall downward trend of discharges from these sites. We are bringing down discharge limits, reducing the headroom for fluctuations in emissions, and demanding robust management systems. All this will provide greater protection for the environment. While the Agency has developed a draft authorisation for each site, it has not made any decisions on BNFL’s applications, and will not do so until it has carefully considered all the responses to the consultation. The Agency will also decide whether the continued operation or decommissioning of each power station is justified, that is, whether the benefits outweight the disadvantages.” BNFL has also applied for authorisation for the Magnox technology and engineering centre at Berkeley.

BNFL needs new authorisations before it can operate or decommission the Magnox sites, to: •Discharge gaseous radioactive waste.

•Discharge liquid radioactive waste.

•Incinerate low level radioactive combustible waste.

•Transfer solid and organic liquid radioactive wastes to other sites.

In considering the authorisation applications, the Agency considered the total radiological impact of the current and proposed limits of each station on the public. In each case, the maximum radiation exposure to individuals is within the British annual dose limit of 1mSv/year.

Expected closure date of Magnox units
Liquid discharges: discharge limits and radiation doses
Gaseous discharges: discharge limits and radiation doses

Privacy Policy
We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.