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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Sellafield Magnox Reprocessing Plant celebrates 50th birthday

Sellafield’s Magnox Reprocessing Plant is celebrating its 50th birthday having opened its doors the same year as the Great Train Robbert and first episode of Match of the Day

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It is the UK’s first commercial nuclear reprocessing plant and has lasted for twice the length of time it was designed to, and is still reprocessing fuel and helping to keep lights on around the UK in 2014, is testament to the skills of the engineers who built the facility, true nuclear pioneers.

To celebrate Sellafield today invited 50 former staff members back to visit the old facility, and see how it has changed over the years.

Mark Jackson, the current Head of the Magnox Operating Unit said: “The longevity of the plant, and its safety record, are a real success for not only the nuclear industry, but industry as a whole.

“Imagine a car from 1964 still running on the roads today, and not just being brought out for exhibitions or displays, but actually doing hard miles, every month, come what may. That’s what our Magnox Reprocessing Plant does, and we are extremely proud of it.

“Of course from time to time we face challenges – you’d expect to with a plant this old – but we have a skilled and talented workforce, many of whom have worked in this plant for their entire careers, and whatever comes up, we overcome it and move forward. Some of the operators on the plant have been there for more than 40 years, they know it inside out and are able to pass on their knowledge to the younger team members.”

The government, most recently via the NDA, has invested heavily in maintaining the plant, such is the significance of the role it plays in reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from power stations around the UK. Without Magnox operating safely they wouldn’t be able to generate power for the National Grid.

It takes fuel from Magnox Reactors – like the one that used to run at Sellafield, Calder Hall, and recycles it, dissolving the uranium bar so that plutonium and fission products produced in nuclear reactors can be separated, with the plutonium and uranium able to be reused to make fresh fuel.

More than 52,000 tonnes of fuel have been reprocessed in the plant over the past 50 years.

The plant is due to close down in around 2020 – but work to fully decommission it will take decades longer.

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