UNITED KINGDOM BNFL has announced its plans for the UK’s Magnox stations, which the company has run since 1998. With Hinkley Point A already beginning the process of decommissioning BNFL has indicated the likely timetable for the closure of the other seven stations it operates (See table).

BNFL says that by announcing its programme now, it can optimise the plants’ operation between now and their closure and also prepare for decommissioning.

“Everyone knows that these stations have a finite life and there has been speculation as to our intention regarding their operating lives,” said BNFL chief executive Norman Askew. “The reason we are making this announcement today is to provide certainty about the future for all concerned. It will bring clarity to the company’s business plans, explain our plans to our employees and provide us with time to work with the communities around our stations on plans for decommissioning.

“These stations were pioneers in the nuclear industry and have made, and are continuing to make, a huge carbon-free contribution to the electricity generating industry. This decision will mean that the reactors will not run beyond the dates announced. However, both market conditions and technical issues could result in earlier closure.” Friends of the Earth has criticised BNFL’s decision, arguing that running the reactors beyond their original design lives will lead to increased costs and risks. FoE is particularly concerned about the impact of the plants’ operation on radioactive discharges at Sellafield. Reprocessing Magnox fuel leads to technetium discharges into the Irish Sea; both the Irish and Norwegian governments have objected to this practice and the UK government is under international pressure as part of the OSPAR agreement to reduce emissions from Sellafield.

BNFL now expects to close the B205 Magnox reprocessing plant at Sellafield in 2012 and fuel production at Springfields should end in 2010.