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Springfields Nuclear Fuel Plant
Springfields, Salwick, near Preston, Lancashire, UK
associated engineer
Not known
date  1946 onwards
UK era  Modern  |  category  Power Generation  |  reference  SD466313
Springfields was the first plant in the world to produce nuclear fuel for power stations. It produces fuels for Magnox, Advanced Gas-Cooled and Light Water reactors. The decommissioning of redundant parts of the complex is underway.
The 83 hectare site was operated originally by the Ministry of Supply and later the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, until BNFL took over in 1971. Since April 2005, it has been operated by Springfields Fuels Ltd on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The Westinghouse Electric Company, who manage Springfields Fuels Ltd, may take over the running of the site in 2010.
Approximately 15 percent of UK electricity generated uses nuclear fuel manufactured at Springfields.
The first uranium fuel was produced at Springfields in 1948, and by 1969 all kinds of nuclear fuel were being made on site. Fuels and associated products and services are transported to more than 140 reactors in 15 countries. By 2004, Springfields had produced more than eight million fuel elements and pins.
Mined uranium ore contains about 1.5 percent uranium metal. After crushing and treatment it is turned into uranium trioxide, which is the raw material used at Springfields. The uranium trioxide is processed chemically into uranium tetrafluoride before being used to make nuclear fuels. The plant typically processes 5,000 tonnes of uranium trioxide annually.
Magnox reactor fuel comprises uranium metal fuel rods inside magnesium alloy cans. Springfields supplied fuel for all the UK Magnox reactors and for the only two Magnox reactors outside the UK (in Japan and Italy).
Advanced Gas-Cooled reactors are unique to the UK, and the fuel they use is all supplied from Springfields. It is made from pellets of uranium dioxide inside stainless steel tubes. Groups of tubes are put inside a graphite sleeve to form a ‘fuel assembly’.
Light Water reactors are used worldwide. Their fuel comprises pressurised assemblies of 3m long zirconium alloy tubes, which contain uranium oxide pellets.
Although Magnox production ceased in May 2008, other fuel manufacture is scheduled to continue until 2016 or 2023.
There are some 220 buildings on the Springfields site, about 40 percent of which have been demolished under the decommissioning programme. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has forecast some £328m spending on decommissioning at Springfields in the 2009-10 financial year.
Research: ECPK
"Going Critical — An Unofficial History of British Nuclear Power"
by Walter C. Patterson, Paladin Books, 1985
"Manufacturing Nuclear Fuel", British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, 2003-04
document in PDF available on www.bnfl.com

Springfields Nuclear Fuel Plant