The British civil nuclear industry plays a vital role in ensuring that the UK retains a balanced energy mix. This is the only way to keep carbon emissions down, whilst ensuring a secure supply of electricity.
The companies that make up the British civil nuclear industry have been engaged in the development of civil nuclear power for over 50 years and, together, these companies possess an unrivalled experience and a safety record that is amongst the best in the world.
The British nuclear industry employs directly and indirectly about 90,000 professionals in the UK and provides about 15% of the UK's electricity. The industry provides long-term, stable and rewarding careers, with many nuclear workers spending their full career within the industry.
The UK has 10 operating power stations with 18 reactors (all but one station are twin reactors, while one of the two reactors at Oldbury has closed). These stations are of three different types:
Two Magnox stations: these were the UK’s first generation of nuclear power stations
7 AGRs (Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors), these were the second generation of stations
1 PWR (Pressurised Water Reactor) at Sizewell which is Western Europe’s newest reactor, having come on-line in 1995.
All the Magnox stations are owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and operated under contract by Magnox Electric Ltd, while the AGRs and PWR are owned and operated by EdF Energy.
The UK led the world in nuclear development in the 1940s and 1950s, which means we are now at the leading edge of the move to decommission facilities at the end of their operational lives. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) was created in 2005 to manage the clean-up of the UK’s historic nuclear sites. The NDA is responsible for the operation of the remaining government owned nuclear assets, the taking-down of nuclear facilities which are no longer operational and returning sites to their end-state.
These goals are being achieved by bringing world class management teams in to run the individual site licence companies which exist within the NDA facilities.
Decommissioning of the UK’s earliest, or ‘legacy’, facilities is progressing well, with the UK leading the way on technical and business innovation. New-build facilities which are operated by the private sector will be constructed with decommissioning in mind, meaning that they will be faster, easier to take down at the end of their operating lives. Furthermore, this will be done at the expense of their private operators, so will not be any burden on the taxpayer.
Waste management is an important issue when looking at nuclear energy and the UK nuclear industry takes management of our waste product very seriously, and we ensure that it can pose no risk to the environment. For full details, see the Waste tab on the left hand side of this webpage.
Fuel cycle: Uranium enrichment in the UK is provided by Urenco using highly efficient ultra-centrifuge technology. The manufacture of power reactor fuel is undertaken at the Westinghouse-operated Springfields plant near Preston; whilst MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuel has been created at Sellafield in Cumbria, although the NDA taken a decision to close the MOx fuel plant. The reprocessing of spent fuel is also undertaken at Sellafield, which is one of the world’s most historically important nuclear sites.
NIA member companies have a complete design, manufacture, construction and operational support capability for nuclear power and fuel cycle facilities. British contractors, manufacturers and engineers have gained extensive experience from the building, operation, maintenance and upgrading of nuclear plant and facilities in the UK and abroad. State of the art inspection techniques have been developed which have been applied in the lifetime management of many reactors worldwide.
The British nuclear industry is a major exporter of technology and skills and British companies often work in close collaboration with non-UK companies on projects world-wide. Exploiting the UK's early lead and British strengths, particularly in the areas of the nuclear fuel cycle, operational support, waste management and decommissioning, British companies are playing an increasingly important role as owner, operator, engineer, consultant, contractor, supplier and investor in the global nuclear energy industry.
For more information on the companies forming the sector, see our list of member companies.