Design changes are likely to be required to the two types of nuclear reactor companies are proposing to build in Britain and licensing them is likely to stretch beyond June, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said.
The HSE and Environment Agency, which are conducting the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) into the suitability of Areva’s EPR and Westinghouse’s AP1000 designs for nuclear new build, said that while there were no “showstoppers” affecting the licensing of either reactor, some issues would have to be resolved.
“We have not identified any showstoppers at this point, but some of the issues will require design changes and in these cases we are seeking to agree the principle [sic] aspects of the changes within our Step 4 assessment timescale [by June],” the HSE said.
“It is likely that some significant matters might remain unresolved at the end of Step 4, and these would become GDA issues.”
GDA issues are those that have not been settled at the end of the assessment period and are considered by regulators to be “significant but resolvable”. They must be resolved before nuclear island safety-related construction for a reactor could be considered. The Environment Agency is proposing to provide an “Interim Statement of Design Acceptability” in June for both reactor designs that identify a “small number of such issues”. The awarding of an “interim statement” indicates that the regulators are generally content with the design, but that there are outstanding issues.
The HSE said it was working closely with Areva and Westinghouse to address any problems as quickly as possible to ensure that the programme for nuclear new build was not “adversely affected”.
It also said it had set up a special programme for nuclear new new build to manage the increasing work required on site-specific projects, especially EDF’s proposal to build two UK EPRs at Hinkley Point. Westinghouse is hoping to be chosen to provide reactors for Horizon Nuclear Power, a joint venture between E.ON UK and RWE npower, which plans to deliver around 6,000MW of new nuclear power stations, and is intending to initially develop sites in Wylfa, Anglesey, and Oldbury, Gloucestershire. Horizon is expected to decide on its preferred reactor design early next year.
EDF and Areva said the timetable for building their first EPR reactor in Britain remained unchanged.”We aim to pour first concrete at Hinkley in early 2013 and to have the plant commercially operational in 2018.”
The companies said they were “encouraged” by the latest report on the GDA. “We welcome their [the regulators’] assertion that the EPR reactor design is capable of being shown to be acceptable in the UK and specifically that the plans declared by EDF for UK EPRs at Hinkley Point would not be adversely affected by clearance of any GDA issues.
“We understand the regulators’ concern about the need to provide timely and quality submissions and responses and are committed to meeting their deadlines, to ensure completion of the process by June 2011.”