| Press release |
Capenhurst – the Facts
A pamphlet that takes a critical look at URENCO’s Capenhurst uranium enrichment plant in Cheshire has been published by the Close Capenhurst Campaign.
Capenhurst – the Facts is the first publication of its kind. The report includes a description of URENCO’s activities, transport of material, accidents that have occurred, the tailings plant that will store depleted uranium hexafluoride for years to come, and storage of submarine reactors.
Although the Capenhurst uranium enrichment plant plays a key part in the nuclear cycle, its functions – and indeed its existence – have been largely unknown to the general public.
The 20-page pamphlet is available for £2 from
It can also be read online.
“Without a doubt, there are very real concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding Capenhurst’s activities – the adequacy of nuclear safeguards at Capenhurst, environmental and public health risks associated with Capenhurst’s routine operations, as well as incidents and accidents associated with Capenhurst’s management of uranium hexafluoride.”
Dr Paul Dorfman The Energy Institute University College London
“The uranium hexafluoride (UF6) containers in your photos are of the type 48Y which is designated as a Type B cask that is required to sustain immersion in a fire of 800°C for 30 minutes – this test condition is not that particularly onerous, neither in temperature nor duration of the immersing fire.”
John Large (in an email to Radiation Free Lakeland) John Large was the Leading independent analyst of safety and security in the nuclear industry up until the time of his death, aged 75, from a heart attack in 2018
Capenhurst, The Facts is “quite wonderful, congratulations” Helen Caldicott Founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility – The umbrella organisation International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985
The Author Lowana Veal T: 00354 5577045, 00354 6991522.
Close Capenhurst T 0151 7060575. M. 07951965499
Publisher – Wildart Books. 015395 63671
It is now 40 years after the Stop URENCO Declaration which stated that: –
‘We declare our total and uncompromising opposition to URENCO and in particular to the supply of enriched uranium.’
The Declaration went on to state that: –
‘No safeguards are adequate to prevent the diversion of nuclear material for the production of nuclear weapons.’
While URENCO continues to enrich Uranium and sell it to many countries around the world, we will continue to oppose these sales, much in the same way as we oppose all aspects of the nukiller power industry.
Our immediate concerns are:-
– The URENCO sale of depleted uranium Hexafluoride to Russia.
– The increase of radioactive waste which is a direct result of uranium enrichment.
– How the proposed building on new nukiller reactors will result in the creation of yet more highly radioactive toxic waste.
We continue to declare our opposition to URENCO and the nukiller power industry,
and are prepared to take all non-violent steps necessary to achieve these ends.
Close Capenhurst Campaign
Greenpeace [ London ]
Nuclear Waste Trains Action Group
PAWB People Against ‘Wylfa-B
Radiation Free Lakelands
June 24th 2018
As ever there is a lot of campaigning work which needs to be done.
Yet much of this work is very dependent upon putting a lot of time, and effort, in to constantly monitoring what goes on at the various radioactive fuel plants.
It is not the most glamorous type of campaigning work, but it is an essential activity.
This issue of Countering Capenhurst contains some of the various documents which we have been looking at of late.
At some stage in the future we will combine a lot of this information.
After which we might be better able to estimate just how much Depleted Uranium Hexafloride is still to be found at Capenhurst.
That’s in contrast to all of the guestimations which we have been able to do so far.
After that we will try to put together an estimation of just how long it will take URENCO to process it all in their new tailings plants. Though it will not be possible to do until we have more figures to work with.
Another URENCO Contract Comes To Light.
Finding out just which contracts URENCO has is not an easy thing to achieve.
So we found the following news story of interest.
The key text in this news story being: –
‘ Recently, Hansen’s production fuels team unwound the last of four outstanding nuclear fuel agreements with URENCO, a global player in the nuclear industry that was asking OPPD for a sizable payday.
Hansen said earlier this week that URENCO argued OPPD owed “on the order of $66 million” as outlined in a contract between the two parties.
OPPD refuted the assertion, disassembled nuclear fuel that was not used or needed at Fort Calhoun and sold it back to URENCO, netting about $15 million in the process.’
Not seeing the flasks because of the trees.
This is a quote from the current issue of the Railway Magazine – November 2017.
It is to be found under Operations Track Record – DRS.
‘ The RM carries regular reports regarding the numerous flask trains which run around the country.
One correspondent reported a visit made to Dungeness branch on September 19 when class 68 Nos 68003 + 68018 arrived with a train, with the class 68s having bodyside damage caused by trees, buckthorn, and brambles growing along the branch.’
We make no comment upon this report.
On October 10th it was the 60th anniversary of the Windscale fire.
We joined with Radiation Free Lakeland to mark this event at both the Spriingfields and Sellafield sites.
While we continue to keep leafleting outside of Warrington station on a regular basis.
Warrington is just one of the many railway stations through which highly radioactive used fuel rods are taken to Sellafield.
If you want to take part in any of these leafleting sessions, or hold one at your local station where these waste trains go through, then please get in contact with us.
Further Research & Further Reading
Public Health England
This is one of the most interesting documents which has been published this year.
Amongst other things this document give a total of the amount of radioactive materials which originate at the various nukiller plants.
What’s of particular interest is amount of waste which being transported by road.
‘Taking into account that the Magnox data provided was for a six month period, the total number of packages currently transported over a year is estimated to be about 9,200 by road and 700 by rail.’
This is broken down in to tables such of the following: –
‘ Table : Summary of the consignments (C) and packages (P) containing radioactive waste transported by road and rail to and from LLWRbetween April 2014 and March 2015.’
Yet there are still major information gaps in these figures.
Such as within the following:
‘Information on movements of radioactive material was also obtained from a metal recycling facility which treats radioactively contaminated metal. Surface contaminated metal is treated at this UK site but activated metal is sent to an overseas facility for treatment. In 2014, 131 consignments containing 950 packages were made from the metal recycling company. About 20% of the total consignments were to UK air and sea ports and were subsequently shipped overseas.
There is no indication of which companies or ports these might be.
While much of the information in this document uses the word Estimated.
For example while referring to just how radioactive expossure the transport workers receive per year.
Thus it lists the following: –
– Estimated doses due to transport during the nuclear fuel cycle.
– Estimated doses due to transport during the uranium enrichment process.
– Estimated doses due to transport of radioactive material from the nuclear fuel reprocessing facility.
– Estimated doses due to transport of low level radioactive waste for recycling, storage and disposal.
While this quote says it all: –
‘During a visit to the fuel fabrication facility at Springfields it was not possible to take dose rate measurements around a loaded vehicle as none were available. It has therefore not been possible to estimate doses to workers loading or unloading vehicles or doses to drivers transporting the different fuel types.‘
This document does contain a lot of very useful information, but it can not be defined as one of the most comprenensive publications on the subject.
Some Forthcoming Events.
Saturday December 2nd.
We will be running a stall at the
On March 11th it will be 7 years since the start of the ongoing disaster at Fukushima.
Kick nuclear will be marking this date with a series of events.
In the meanwhile the regular weekly picket of the Japanese embassey & the London TEPCO offices continues to be held every friday.
We will also be back at the DRS [ Direct Rail Service ] open day at their Gresty Bridge depot in Crewe next July.
More details on this when we have the exact date this will take place.
This is a special issue of Countering Capenhurst.
Finding out just what goes on at Capenhurst is very difficult to do, and the same applies to all of the URENCO plants.
What follows is just a summary of what we have managed to find out about the plant of late, and something about which countries URENCO has been trading with.
A question of Hex
We continue to keep asking about just what is going on at Capenhurst, with questions such as:-
Yet there is an aspect of this which very few people have ever heard about.
There is a clue to it within the following Review by HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.
‘UCL has an ongoing contract, up for renewal in 2007, with Technabexport of Russia, which takes ex UCL tails cylinders and re-enriches the material to low enrichment product and/or pseudo natural. The product is sold on and the pseudo natural is re-fed or sold on. The operation of this contract is maintaining a steady state of net tails stocks on Capenhurst site.’
That’s something which URENCO has kept very quiet about.
We recently came upon a German BREMISCHE BÜRGERSCHAFT report which listed the movement of uranium through the port of Bremin.
This included uranium being sent from Urenco to Russia.
Two of the latest of these reports are
The importance of these reports is that they give some clues as to just which companies and countries URENCO is traiding with.
Europe’s radioactive secret
Then we came upon the following report which was published in 2005, and which has not been followed up on.
How EDF and European nuclear utilities are dumping nuclear waste in the Russian Federation
‘ This report summarises the secretive attempts of the European nuclear industry to ‘solve’ one of their largest waste problems, by exporting and dumping tens of thousands of tonnes of uranium wastes in Siberia, in the Russian Federation.’
This last document is very worrying indeed.
The information contained in this document are very technical in nature.
So rather than give an analysis of what is in this document we will just give the following summary from this report.
‘ Since 1996, depleted uranium tails from West European enrichers Urenco and Eurodif are being sent to Russia for re-enrichment. In Russia, the imported tails are, instead of natural uranium, fed into surplus enrichment cascades. The product obtained from re-enrichment is mostly natural-equivalent uranium plus some reactor-grade low-enriched uranium.
These products are sent back to Urenco and Eurodif, while the secondary tails generated remain in Russia,where they are re-enriched further to obtain morenatural-equivalent uranium and/or slightly enriched uranium. The latter is then used as blendstock for the downblending of surplus highly-enriched weapons-grade uranium into reactor-grade low-enriched uranium. The ultimate tails left, still comprising at least two thirds of the amount imported, remain in Russia with unknown fate.’
‘Details on the re-enrichment business, though it is currently taking place at large scale, are hardly obtainable. In Russia, all related information is confidential; and, the West-European enrichment companies involved, Urenco and Eurodif, are not very communicative, to put it politely. In its recent annual reports, Urenco not even discloses its annual production figure, nor the capacity break down for its facilities, not to speak about other data of interest, such as amount and assays of tails produced.’
We will continue to keep searching for more information on these contacts.
Recent reports about the expansion of URENCO and Capenhurst give some indication of just what they intend to do at the plant in the years to come.
Here is just one of these reports: –
The two interesting points being:-
The group invested €280.6 million ($309.5 million) in the first half of 2015 in the new enrichment facility in the USA and at its tails management facility in the UK.
That URENCO said in March that it had pushed back the expected start date of the Capenhurst Tails Management Facility (TMF) deconversion plant to 2017.
The recent Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) report makes for some interesting reading too.
In particular see page 7 under Local Liaison Committee meeting which would seem to confirm the view that all the MOD defuelled reactor pressure vessels will land up at Capenhurst.
On page 8 section 3 which covers Hex tailing leaks.
The other alarming alarming ONR report includes information about the the Capenhurst Tails Management Facility, which is now scheduled to start running in 2020. This plant will process the depleted uranium from the URENCO plants in both Germany & the Netherlands.
Thus there will be a lot more Uranium Hex being transported by sea & road.
What is really interesting is how the ONR classifies Capenhurst as a the following: –
Type of site: Operational, chemical plant and other facilities.
Waste from the Capenhurst plant
One of the most pointed question about Capenhurst is to be found upon the Radiation Free Lakeland blog.
So just where does the low level radioactive waste from uranium enrichment at Capenhurst and nuclear fuel manufacture at Springfields go?
The contract is to transfer all of the depleted Uranium which is currently stored at the Capenhurst plant in to new storage vessels.
This work will commence in 2020.
Until then the current depleted uranium, and any more which is produced, will continue to be stored in drums around the plant in the form of a Uranium Hexafluoride.
Not Just at capenhurst.
Cavendish Nuclear is a subsidiary of Babcock International, which is a major player in the nukiller power industry.
Babcock International is the world’s 26th largest arms-producing/military services company.
Yet again this illustrates the very close relationship which exists between the military and nukiller power industry.
There has been a lot of press speculation about the future of URENCO over the last six months.
Some of this speculation concerns the sale of the company, while much of it is far more worrying.
Here is a quick summary of it all.
Urenco has just published its financial report for 2014.
– Where exactly is Capenhurst?
It is 5½ miles north of Chester, 2½ miles from Ellesmere Port, and 10 miles south of Liverpool.
– Who owns the Plant?
It is part of URENCO which operates similar plants in both Germany and the Netherlands.
– What exactly goes on in the plant?
It is a Uranium Enrichment plants and thus a key element of the Nukiller Fuel Cycle.
– So can you explain exactly what you mean by the nukiller fuel cycle?
– Where is the Uranium mined?
The Uranium is mined in counties such as Australia, Canada and Namibia.
– How exactly does it get to Capenhurst?
It is shipped by sea to Ellesmere Port, and then taken by Road to Capenhurst.
– What Happens next?
It is enriched and converted in to uranium Hexafluoride.
– Where exactly is the enriched Uranium transported to?
Once enriched it goes by road to the Springfields plant at Preston where it is converted into fuels rods.
– By Road?
Yes by road. The company which transports this uranium Hexafluoride by road is
Advanced Uranium Asset Management Ltd. These loads are so dangerous that there is a prohibition on them being transported through the Mersey Road Tunnels.
– So what happens to the depleted Uranium?
There is very little which can be done with it and so it is currently stored in drums at the plant. It is this depleted Uranium which has been used in ammunition shells, and is the cause of Gulf War Syndrome.
– So isn’t anyone doing anything about that?
The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium is working on the issue. There are many health dangers which come from an exposure to Depleted Uranium, especially if it is stored as a uranium Hexafluoride.
– That sounds very dangerous.
Yes, very much so! Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure because, in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal.
– How does that effect children’s health?
Children have a greater vulnerability to radioactivity than adults.
At Capenhurst there is a primary school within 150 metres of the URENCO plant.
– Are these children being regularly monitored for exposure to radiation?
Not as far as we can tell.
– So what exactly are the greater dangers which are caused by use of enriched Uranium in nukiller reactors?
If something goes wrong with these plants they can cause a major nukiller disaster.
– Do you mean something similar to the continuing nukiller disasters Chernobyl and Fukushima?
Yes – Just so.
– But that’s so far away from here!
That’s not so.
The nearest atomic reactors to Capenhurst are at Wylfa in North Wales and at Heysham on the outskirts of Lancaster.While high level radioactive waste from Wylfa is transported in special flasks through the Chester railway station on a regular basis.
– So what exactly are these high level waste flasks?
These trains carry used, but extremely radioactive, fuel rods to Sellafield in
Cumbria for reprocessing.
– How long will it take to clean up this waste?
There is a backlog of radioactive waste at Sellafield which goes back to the 1950s. The present proposal is to build a high level waste depositary. This will contain plutonium which has a half-life of 24,000 years. We will have to safeguard this waste for thousands of years.
– That’s a long time. It’s much longer than most people can imagine!!
– So how much will this waste cost me as a tax payer?
We just don’t know. Within a very few years some 75% of the Department of Energy and Climate Change [DECC] budget will be used to look after this waste.
Given the huge scale of the waste our great great great great grandchildren will still be paying to safeguard this waste.
– Ok. I can see all the potential dangers, but doesn’t the Capenhurst plant produce urgently needed local job?
Not so! About 450 full-time employees work at URENCO. That’s a quarter of what it used to be. There’s a much higher number of jobs which can be created by a major programme of
energy conservation, and the use of safe power sources like solar or wind power
– So how many new jobs will be created by the use of these clean energy technologies and the use of good thermal insulation?
In the period 2012-2013 the global number of people employed by the solar industry increased by 14%. 103,000 people were working in the UK renewable energy sector in 2012/2013.
The UK wind, wave and tidal industries employ 18,465 people. At the present rate more than 70,000 jobs could be created in these industries over the next decade.
There would be many more such jobs if money was not being used to subsidise the nukiller industry.
– But wouldn’t that mean building big ugly wind turbines in the middle of
Not necessarily so. Ideally energy should be generated near to where it is being used. The ugly power lines which cross the countryside lose power in transmission over long distances, and so there should be less of them in use. Vertical Wind Turbines and solar panels are ideal for use in our city centres.
While home insulation and other energy conservation measures will cut the amount of power we need to produce.
– Ok, so you have now convinced me.
– So what can I do to close the Capenhurst plant?
Support the Close Capenhurst Campaign
URENCO are going to be present at the 5th Annual Nuclear Construction Summit, which will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, between the 22nd & 24th of October.
A special report on the company has been prepaired for the
conference which you can read here