The final shipment of nuclear fuel has been removed from Britain’s oldest nuclear power plant facility, a four-reactor operation at the Sellefield site’s Calder Hall that was closed down in March 2003. Removal of the plant’s 38,053 fuel rods began in 2011.
The plant, which had a primary purpose of processing weapons-grade plutonium, was also the world’s first industrial-sized commercial nuclear power plant, supplying electricity and steam to the local region in Cumbria, England. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which took over the site for Britain in 2005, is calling the plant an “iconic” and an historic facility for the nuclear power industry as a whole. On a small scale – 5 MWe – electricity for commercial use was first produced at a plant in Russia.
The four Calder Hall Magnox-design reactors were originally rated at 60 MWe, but were later reduced to 50 MWe.
As of Sept. 3, the NDA said, “the world’s first full-scale nuclear power plant is empty of fuel for the first time since the 1950s.” Operations at the plant began in October 1956 at a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II. Once operations began, the plant operated for 47 years.
The NDA said, “the same machines that were used to load fuel into the reactors during its operational life were used to pull it out.”
Once removed, the fuel was transferred in shielded flasks to Sellafield’s Fuel Handling Plant.
After being cooled in a storage pond, its casings are removed and the rod taken to Sellafield’s Magnox Reprocessing Plant to be reprocessed. This extracts the reusable uranium and plutonium from the fuel.
Calder Hall’s reactor buildings will now be placed into a state known as ‘care and maintenance’. In due course they will be fully decommissioned and demolished, the NDA said.
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