UK regulators take ABWR to next level

06 January 2014

UK regulators are ready to begin the second phase of the generic design assessment (GDA) process for Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). At the same time, the company is inviting public comments on the reactor design.

 ABWR construction (Hitachi-GE)_460
ABWRs are under construction in Japan and Taiwan (Image: Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy)

The decision to proceed to the second stage of the four-stage GDA process comes after nine months of preparatory work by Hitachi-GE and the three regulatory bodies undertaking the GDA (the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales). As its name implies, the process is not tied to any specific development, although Horizon Nuclear Power is currently proposing to build ABWR units at Wylfa Newydd in Wales and at Oldbury-on-Severn in south-western England.

According to ONR, the second step of the GDA process comprises an overview of the fundamental acceptability of the proposed reactor design concept to identify design aspects or safety shortfalls that could prevent construction in the UK. It is expected to take between six and eight months, after which the regulators will publish initial technical assessment reports and regulator statements. The regulators expect to complete the GDA in around four years provided they receive "acceptable and timely" submissions from Hitachi-GE.

On behalf of Hitachi-GE, general licensing manager for Hitachi Europe Ken Sato said that "excellent progress" had been made since the signature of assessment agreements launched the GDA process in April 2012. The company has now launched a phase of public and stakeholder engagement - a central aspect of the GDA process - with a dedicated website providing information on the reactor design and providing a facility for public comments and questions. The company undertakes to respond to all comments, with all questions and its responses shared directly with the regulators.

Horizon Nuclear Power chief operating officer Alan Raymant welcomed the announcement as an "important milestone" for its projects. The company intends to set out its plans for the Wylfa Newydd site for public consultation later this year.

The GDA forms part of the approval process for new reactor projects in the UK, allowing regulators to assess the safety, security and environmental implications of new reactor designs separately from applications to build them at specific sites. Areva's EPR became the first reactor design to complete the GDA process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability in December 2012. A GDA is also currently ongoing for Westinghouse's AP1000.

The ABWR is a so-called Generation III reactor design. Four ABWR units are already in operation in Japan with two more under construction, and the design is also licensed in the USA and in Taiwan, where two are under construction. If built, the units at Wylfa and Oldbury would be the UK's first commercial boiling water reactors. Horizon was acquired by Hitachi of Japan in November 2012.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News