The Course of AGR Development

  • Duncan Burn
Part of the Trade Policy Research Centre book series


The decision to construct a prototype AGR in Britain was taken in 1957.1 The AGR has been presented as the natural successor to the Magnox system: they belong to the same family, since both use graphite as moderator and CO2 as coolant. Magnox, however, used natural uranium as fuel — the AGR enriched uranium. The choice of Magnox was imposed in 1953 by the ‘properties and economics of available pile materials’2 — heavy water and helium were too expensive and no enriched uranium was immediately available. Most Harwell scientists doubted whether a natural uranium, gas-cooled reactor was worth building since it was ‘unlikely that more advanced reactors would use gas cooling’.3 Even Hinton was dubious: and the go-ahead for Calder Hall was given, in March 1953, because more plutonium was urgently needed for military uses, and some should also be stockpiled for future fast reactors4 — on whose development Hinton seemed ready to concentrate almost exclusively.5 Plutonium was then valued at £3100 per ounce, several hundred times the price of gold, and on this basis the by-product cost of electric power from Calder Hall would be extremely low.


Interest Rate Capital Cost Financial Time Fuel Element Fuel Cost 
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Copyright information

© Duncan Burn and the Trade Policy Research Centre 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Duncan Burn

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