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Department of Trade and Industry




The UK civil nuclear industry has its origin in the military programme of the 1940s and 1950s. The UK became the first country in the world to adopt nuclear power on an industrial and commercial scale when Calder Hall was commissioned by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in 1956. Since then, a total of nineteen nuclear power stations, comprising forty-one reactors, have been constructed. Of these, sixteen stations, comprising thirty-five reactors, are currently fully operational, and three stations, each with two reactors, have been closed down and are being decommissioned. The first generation stations were called magnox reactors (after the magnesium alloy used to make the fuel can containing the uranium fuel elements). The magnox reactors were followed by a series of Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGR) which were commissioned between 1976 and 1988. A Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) station (the UKs first, Sizewell B) was commissioned in February 1995.

Existing Nuclear Generating Capacity

Nuclear power stations in the UK are operated by Nuclear Electric Ltd (NEL), Scottish Nuclear Ltd (SNL), Magnox Electric plc (Magnox) and by British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL). NEL and SNL are wholly owned subsidiaries of British Energy plc, which was privatised in July 1996. Magnox and BNFL are wholly owned by the Government, which is currently working to merge the two companies with the aim of improving the arrangements for managing Magnox generation and the associated reprocessing and waste management liabilities.

NEL operates five AGRs and one PWR (total capacity of 7.2 GWe). SNL operates two AGR stations, each with two reactors (2.4 GWe). Magnox currently operates six magnox stations (2.9 GWe). BNFL operates two Magnox stations (0.4 GWe) at Calder Hall on the Sellafield site and at Chapelcross, both of which supply approximately 1% of total generating capacity to the National Grid. The UK nuclear power stations currently generate about 25% of the UK power demand. Additionally, 17 TWh of nuclear electricity is imported each year from France via the cross-channel interconnector (2.0 GWe).

Further Nuclear Generating Capacity

Building of new nuclear power stations in the UK is not economically competitive for electricity generation and it is not therefore expected that new nuclear plant will be developed. However past nuclear power station construction has resulted in a stock of nuclear capacity which substantially contributes to electricity generation.

British Energy, the privatised nuclear generating company, reported in its first Annual Report and Accounts since privatisation that long term it is looking to broaden its fuel and plant mix in the UK. British Energy retains access to modern technology through Sizewell B and through overseas projects.

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