World’s oldest operating nuclear power station closes down

By | March 2, 2012

Oldbury n-plant shuts down after 44 yearsThe world’s oldest operating nuclear power station, Oldbury near Bristol, has today shutdown its last remaining reactor and has stopped generating electricity after 44 years of service.

Since it opened in 1967, Oldbury’s twin reactors have produced 137.5 TWh of electricity, enough energy to power one million homes for over 20 years.

Today’s closure marks the start of a new phase in the site’s life as preparations get under way to start the decommissioning process, which will, over the decades to come, include removal of the spent fuel, management of the waste and eventual demolition of the buildings.

Reactor One’s shut-down today follows the closure last June of Reactor Two. Originally scheduled to stop generating in 2008, the site’s owner, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), took the decision to extend Oldbury’s operating life following reviews with the regulators.

The site is operated by Magnox Ltd, which is owned by US firm EnergySolutions.

Oldbury is one of 11 nuclear power stations in the UK that were based on the pioneering Magnox design, developed during the post-war years and the first in the world to generate electricity on a commercial scale. Ten are now closed and in various stages of decommissioning, with only Wylfa on Anglesey still operating.

Oldbury and Wylfa are both named as potential sites for new reactors in the Government’s Nuclear National Policy Statement. The Horizon consortium has said that it intends to build at least 6GW of new nuclear capacity at those sites. …

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Nuclear power can be done right, but we have to spend the money to make it safe. What about fusion?

NIF is currently the only facility that can replicate the conditiions inside the cores of stars and nuclear weapons. To protect the taxpayers’ investment in this unique facility, NIF will produce these extreme temperatures and pressures by carefully increasing the laser energy and neutron yield in experiments over the coming months. NIF researchers will study the reactions leading up to fusion ignition in order to fine-tune the lasers and targets prior to attempting ignition. These experiments will gather data from sophisticated diagnostic equipment inside the target chamber and close to the target; many of these diagnostics would not be able to operate inside the target chamber under ignition conditions. We will gain a better understanding of the ignition process with each experiment and hope to achieve fusion ignition via NIF within the next two years. Regular updates on our progress will be posted on the NIF Website. …

Q: Tritium is rare and very expensive to produce. How would a fusion power plant get the tritium it needs to sustain continuous fusion reactions?

A: It’s true that tritium exists only in small quantities in nature, so a fusion energy power plant would need to create its own tritium fuel. The neutrons generated in the fusion reaction will be absorbed within a liquid salt blanket surrounding the fusion chamber to create a hot fluid that will turn a turbine to generate electricity. The salt will contain lithium, which will react with the fusion neutrons to produce helium and tritium. Due to neutron multiplication reactions, it is possible to make more than one triton (tritium nucleus) for each one consumed in fusion reactions, creating a net positive generation of tritium. This tritium is then sent to the target factory to be used to produce new targets.


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