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Approval of UK nuclear reactor draws closer

The Office for Nuclear Regulation is close to granting approval for the reactor favoured for new nuclear plants at Hinkley Point and Sizewell.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environment Agency identifed 31 issues last year to be resolved on the UK EPR reactor design that has been chosen by EDF Energy and Centrica for its new nuclear reactors in the UK.

A total of 13 issues remain unresolved before generic design assessment approval can be granted for the proposed reactor design for new nuclear plants at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell.

In total, 18 issues have been resolved, including five on Tuesday alone.

EDF Energy and Areva said the update from regulators means that the UK EPR remains on schedule to be approved in time for its final investment decision later this year.

The latest update from the regulators for the period to 30 September states that “closure of all issues should be achievable before the end of the year”. Since the report was concluded, another nine issues have been resolved.

However the energy giants still have several hurdles to overcome before it can start building the reactor.

These include gaining a site license from the ONR, planning approval from the planning inspectorate and then the secretary of state, not expected until around March 2013, as well as making its final investment decision, based on ongoing talks over contracts for difference with DECC.

The firms would have to seek specific permission for construction of nuclear-related construction work from the ONR as well. This is separate from associated infrastructure such as access roads and associated buildings.

EDF Energy managing director of nuclear new build, Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson said: “This is another important step which brings us closer to being able to deliver the huge infrastructure project at Hinkley Point, which is as large as the Olympics and offers big benefits for the country in jobs, skills and economic activity.

“Subject to a final decision to invest, these will be the first new nuclear reactors built in the UK for around 20 years. The proposed new station at Hinkley will provide enough low carbon electricity to power five million homes. We welcome this recognition that we are set to see the EPR design licensed for use in the UK before the end of the year.”   


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