The final fuel elements have been removed from Oldbury Nuclear Power Station, marking the end of a process that began with the plant’s closure in 2012.
The Gloucestershire facility first came online in 1967 with two Magnox reactors that provided electricity to Bristol and the surrounding area.
After more than 40 years of operation, the station was due to be decommissioned at the end of 2008, although the reactors continued to be used until 2012 as part of a staged shutdown.
At the start of defueling, each reactor held a total of 25,826 fuel elements, each measuring 43 inches in length which would stretch 17.5 miles if placed end to end.
Since then, the decommissioning team has been removing the fuel elements from the reactors with the final element extracted from reactor two at 23.52 on October 4.
Keri James, defuelling manager at Oldbury, said: “I am proud to be part of the team that removed the final fuel from these reactors.”
“The work doesn’t end here though. We still need to ship the fuel to Sellafield, which will take us several more months. Once the fuel has all been sent off site, we will have removed about 99 per cent of the site’s radioactive inventory.”
Oldbury’s site director Mike Heaton said the final fuel elements will leave the site until the New Year.
“Once all the fuel is shipped, Oldbury will move into its decommissioning phase, which will bring a new set of challenges,” he said.
Dr Brian Burnett, head of programmes at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, offered his congratulations to the Oldbury team for completing the fuel extraction three months ahead of schedule.
He said that decommissioners Magnox remain on track to transport all fuel from Oldbury early in 2016, which will remove 99 per cent of the radiological hazard from the site.
Out of the 12 nuclear power stations equipped with the 1950s Magnox nuclear reactors, only one is still producing energy for the grid – the plant at Wylfa in Anglesey, North Wales. Wylfa is currently also due to shut down at the end of 2015.
In May, it emerged that the raft of closures would result in approximately 1,600 redundancies for nuclear plant workers.
In addition, a new report released today from the Chatham House think tank has warned that nuclear facilities around the world are at risk of cyber-attack.