GE-Hitachi defers UK licensing effort

18 September 2008

Updated with clarification from GE-Hitachi that it intends to re-enter the GDA process in 2009.


GE-Hitachi has put involvement in the UK's reactor acceptance process on hold. The company intends to rejoin Areva and Westinghouse in the process next year.


ESBWR (GE Hitachi) 
ESBWR (Image: GE-Hitachi)
The Generic Design Acceptance process began in March after four companies - Areva, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse - met a June 2007 deadline to submit details of the their reactors and the companies interested in building them.


The plan is to approve some reactors as suitable for build within a generic envelope of site conditions, while assessments of potential sites would be made assuming generic reactor properties. Putting a pre-approved reactor design togther with a pre-approved site would give a coherent planning application which could proceed fairly rapidly.


The group of reactor vendors was reduced to three before detailed analysis began when AECL deferred the participation of its ACR-1000 design in order to concentrate on the Canadian market.


Now GE-Hitachi has asked the Joint Programme Office (JPO) of UK nuclear and environmental regulators to temporarily suspend work on the ESBWR design. A spokesman for the office confirmed that fact, without dicussing the matter further. However, World Nuclear News understands the decision relates to work GE-Hitachi is undertaking to get the ESBWR licensed in the USA.


The US licensing process is just a few months from completion, with GE-Hitachi answering some of the last questions from US regulators on the ESBWR design. However, each time GE-Hitachi engineers submit extra information, the American ESBWR design develops a little more and changes further relative to the one submitted in the UK.


Today's reactor vendors hope to deploy fleets of standardised units, differing only in site-specific details and for national power transmission reasons. WNN understands that GE-Hitachi would prefer to have the final, US-certified ESBWR design documentation in its hands before resubmitting ESBWR documentation in the UK.


The JPO is working hard to analyse the reactors on the UK's tight new-build schedule and the relief of some of the work would be seen as helping the process. GE-Hitachi told WNN it expected to deliver updated and highly detailed documentation on ESBWR to UK regulators in 2009 and ask the JPO to recommence work.