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Calder Hall station

the world’s first commercial nuclear power station North West,

In the foreground a farmer drives a tractor across a field. In the distance are the cooling towers and other structures of a nuclear power station.
The Sellafield nuclear power plant, seen in the background, near to the Calder Hall site. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

The nuclear power station at Calder Hall, Cumbria was the first nuclear power station to supply electricity in commercial quantities. It consisted of four reactors, the first of which was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 17 October 1956.

Calder Hall’s advertised purpose was to supply civil electric power, a symbol of the contemporary view held by many world leaders, including Winston Churchill, that nuclear power was ‘a perennial fountain of world prosperity’. However, a less well advertised purpose was to produce plutonium for Britain’s nuclear weapons programme.

Calder Hall was the first in a series of gas-cooled magnox stations, so called because the fuel cans sheathing the uranium fuel rods were made of magnesium alloy. Eleven magnox stations, each progressively bigger, were eventually built in the UK.

When Calder Hall stopped generating power in 2003 it was the oldest magnox power station in the world. 

Science Museum

Engineering, Physics,
North West
Calder Hall, Cumbria
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