(Note: the following information was provided by the Member State for the IAEA Nuclear Power Profiles)
Apart from raw uranium mining, the UK has an independent nuclear fuel cycle capability. The full range of the nuclear fuel cycle services - from fuel enrichment and manufacture through to spent fuel reprocessing, transport, waste management and decommissioning - are provided to the UK and international markets by British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL), which is wholly owned by the Government.
Fuel enrichment in the UK is carried out at Capenhurst near Chester by Urenco Capenhurst Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Urenco Ltd., the holding company for the Urenco Group. The Urenco Group is the joint Anglo-Dutch-German organization which operates uranium enrichment plants in all three countries using centrifuge technology.
Uranium refining and conversion are carried out at BNFL's Springfields site which processes several tonnes of uranium each year for UK and overseas customers. Springfields has the expertise to manufacture fuel for all major reactor designs world-wide and a new, integrated fuels complex was officially opened in July 1996.
Spent fuel from the UK's Magnox and AGRs and overseas light water reactors is reprocessed at BNFL's Sellafield site. The company's Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) began operations in March 1994 and has so far sheared and dissolved more than 2000 tonnes of spent fuel. It is expected that some 7,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel will be reprocessed in its first ten years of operation.
BNFL have constructed and are commissioning the Sellafield Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel plant which will manufacture MOX fuel for overseas customers using a blend of plutonium (recovered from the reprocessing of spent fuel) and uranium.
Most low level waste (LLW) is disposed of at either BNFL's Drigg surface disposal facility or at the disposal facilities at UKAEA's Dounreay site. Long-lived LLW and Intermediate level waste (ILW) is currently stored, mainly at the centres of production, and will be disposed of in a future facility to be proposed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). High-level wastes are currently stored, either raw or in vitrified form, mainly by BNFL at its Sellafield site, for a minimum of 50 years to cool. No decisions on disposal have yet been taken and these will form part of a forthcoming Government review, but the Government is undertaking a research project to study this issue.
Nuclear sites are licensed by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), the regulator responsible for overseeing their safe operation. Disposals of radioactive wastes may only be made under authorizations granted by the Environment Agency (or in Scotland the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) but under operational agreements between them and the NII, the latter oversees waste operations on licensed sites.