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Reactor decision hailed as 'milestone' for UK new nuclear construction

Nuclear reactors proposed for the UK have been given interim acceptance today marking the latest milestone in the UK’s new nuclear plans.

Areva’s UK EPR, the reactor chosen by EDF Energy for its proposed development at Hinkley Point C, and Westinghouse’s AP1000 EPR have both been given interim acceptance by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environment Agency.

EDF Energy chief executive, Vincent de Rivaz said: “This is very good news for the EPR and for UK new nuclear build. It is a major milestone which follows a detailed four-year review by one of the most rigorous independent nuclear safety authorities in the world. We are conscious that there is still a lot to do to achieve final certification, and we will do it.

“All this is important for new nuclear build and its legacy of clean, secure and affordable energy, as well as the jobs and economic boost our project is now delivering.”

For both designs, the ONR has issued interim Design Acceptance Confirmations and the Environment Agency has issued interim Statements of Design Acceptability.

However a total of 31 GDA issues for the Areva reactor must still be addressed before any safety-related nuclear island construction can begin while a total of 51 GDA issues for the AP1000 reactor.

Prospect deputy general secretary Mike Clancy said: “Today’s announcement marks a watershed, not just because of its importance in securing future low carbon energy generation capacity within the UK, but also because of the massive boost it will give to the economy.

“This is a major stepping stone in a process that will ultimately provide thousands of high-value, highly skilled jobs both within the construction industry, and for operating staff at sites across the country who will be tasked with running the new plants for the next 60 to 70 years.”

Having completed the planned assessment of the safety cases for the generic designs, the regulators have today published reports for each design summarising the basis of their decision, together with their technical assessment reports.

They also published documents explaining how the designers plan to resolve issues identified in a report written by the UK’s chief inspector of nuclear installations, Mike Weightman, on the Fukushima accident.

ONR director for nuclear new build, Kevin Allars said: “We have reached an important milestone. This interim acceptance confirms that all the plans on how the industry will resolve the outstanding issues are in place.

“This includes how they will address matters raised in the chief nuclear inspector’s report, published in October, on lessons learnt for the UK from Fukushima. It is for the designers now to satisfy us that they have resolved these issues. We will not allow industry to build the reactors until they have done so.”

EA head of nuclear regulation, Joe McHugh added: “The assessment has been a challenging process involving more than 60 expert engineers, scientists and regulators but one that has enabled us to identify issues early on. 

“It means we are far better placed to ensure that any new reactors that are built in the UK meet high standards of safety, security and environmental protection.”

See here for the full list of reports on the GDA process.

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