Progress in the UK's Generic Design Assessment program is being supported by the contracting of expert consultants for the most detailed stage of analysis.
In its most recent update last week, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that "good progress" continues on the Generic Design Acceptance (GDA) process, "but many technical issues remain open and the successful clearance of these will require high quality and timely information" from both Areva and Westinghouse.
"The pace of our assessment is now accelerating and we foresee a large increase in technical interactions and questions during the first half of 2010," the regulator commented. But despite a full quota of staff, the HSE itself does not have the manpower or resources to conduct all the work involved in the final detailed Step 4 assessment of the two reactor designs. It will therefore rely on the assistance of other companies and organizations.
One such firm is engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash, which has been awarded a £1.8 million ($2.8 million) contract to provide independent advice in its review of safety aspects of the EPR and AP1000 designs. Frazer-Nash will work with its partner, specialist systems and software house Altran Praxis, to support Step 4 of GDA program, which will see the companies independently examine the safety case evidence for the reactor designs.
The two companies have already carried out assessment work during Step 3 of the GDA. That contract focused on providing technical support covering the control and instrumentation aspects of the reactor designs, including the reactor protection systems.
Stage 3 ended in November, at which point the regulator outlined the areas it still requires information from the vendors. It said that Areva needs to use door control measures to address internal hazards (such as fire, steam release or handling errors with heavy equipment), as well as make changes to its instrumentation and control (I&C) systems. Meanwhile, Westinghouse has to speed up its responses to questions about novel construction techniques, external hazards, human factors and the new design of very large squib valves.
However, HSE noted, "The fact that issues are being identified should be seen as evidence of an independent and robust regulatory process, and evidence that GDA is working as intended, allowing issues to be identified and addressed well in advance of major construction in the UK."
The next key milestone will be the start of the Environment Agency's consultation on the environmental part of the assessment, due to start in May. In parallel, HSE will continue to progress its detailed assessment for Step 4.
HSE and the Environment Agency remain confident, "subject to timely provision of the necessary information required" from Areva and Westinghouse, that a meaningful GDA will be delivered in June 2011 for both designs.
The HSE commented: "We remain confident that both designs will be able to be shown to be acceptable in the UK, subject to satisfactory progress being made on the technical issues we have raised."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News