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UK nuclear reactor decision delayed

Design approval for the next generation of UK nuclear reactors will be delayed by at least three months until after a report on the implications of explosions at the Fukushima plant in Japan is delivered.

The Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency had been expected to deliver its Generic Design Assessment report on the Areva EPR and Westinghouse AP1000 designs in June.

However the regulators will now wait until after chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman delivers his report, commissioned by the government in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “This is a sensible step which means the train remains on track taking account all of the work done so far. To learn lessons from Japan, there will be additional check points on the way, quite rightly, but the destination is unchanged and the progress continues.”

The regulators had expected to make decisions on whether to provide interim Design Acceptance Confirmations and interim Statements of Design Acceptability by June.

They now expect to publish the GDA issues identified and the requesting parties’ resolution plans in the summer but will delay drawing conclusions from the assessments until after Mr Weightman’s report is delivered.

A HSE statement said: “Once Mike Weightman’s recommendations are known, the requesting parties can develop credible plans to address them. In the meantime, the RPs can continue to work on the issues that we have identified.”

EDF said that as the authorities expected work to close any outstanding issues would continue beyond the issue of interim certificates in June, the firm had already factored ongoing work beyond June 2011 into its plans.

CECA Director of external affairs, Alasdair Reisner said: “Events in Japan have understandably led the government to launch an investigation to identify any lessons for those responsible for the upkeep of the UK’s existing nuclear facilities, and those seeking to deliver new build units.

“Given that the GDA process is also intended to provide assurance about the safety of future new build reactors, it would be unusual for this process to have been signed off prior to the publication of the Weightman review.

“However we trust that this won’t mean that the GDA process will be put on hold. Rather we hope that the additional time will be used to refine the designs towards a point where they can be signed off by regulators, opening the way for the next generation of new build nuclear projects.”

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