Fact Sheet

Spent Nuclear Fuel in the United Kingdom

Management and Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel in the United Kingdom


4,801 MTU spent nuclear fuel in storage (2016)
11,772 MTU spent nuclear fuel projected by 2050
1962 First year of commercial nuclear operation
15 operating nuclear power reactors
1 operating research reactor
1 nuclear power reactor under construction
9 GW(e) installed nuclear capacity (2016)
17.72% nuclear share of domestic energy production (2018)

Regulator: Office for Nuclear Regulation
Power Operator: EDF UK

Nuclear Power stations in the United Kingdom (as of 2019)

Management and Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel


  • SNF from now-closed Magnox reactors is stored wet onsite before storage/reprocessing at the Magnox reprocessing plant
  • SNF from advanced gas-cooled reactors is dry-stored briefly before being stored wet on-site and transferred to central interim storage
  • Fuel from the single PWR is first stored in a pond and then put in a new dry independent spent fuel storage installation, constructed to keep up with the reactor’s lifetime output
  • Reprocessing has become largely unpopular in the UK; there are no plans to replace the closed LWR and AGR fuel Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) or the Magnox reprocessing plant, expected to close in 2020
  • THORP’s annual reprocessing capacity was approximately 600 metric tons/yr from 1994-2018; from 1964 onward, the Sellafield MOX reprocessing plant has reprocessed Magnox fuel with an annual capacity of 1500 metric tons/yr


  • The U.K.’s voluntary offer safeguards agreement (INFCIRC/263) entered into force in 1978 and the additional protocol entered into force in 2004
  • The U.K. signed the Joint Convention in 1997 and ratified in 2001
  • The national SNF policy allows for SNF management and waste disposal to be reprocessed, meaning it is not considered waste
  • New plants require robust plans for SNF management and waste disposal
  • Spent fuel operators are responsible for determining SNF management
  • In 2014 a white paper was released laying out initial implementation steps for eventual DGR development, which would fall under the purview of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
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