UK HPR1000 design opened for public comment

11 January 2021

The UK's Environment Agency (EA) has published its assessment so far of the UK Hualong One pressurised water reactor (UK HPR1000) as it invites public comment on this proposed new reactor design. The UK HPR1000 is the Hualong One design that General Nuclear Services (GNS) - a subsidiary of EDF and China General Nuclear (CGN) - proposes to use at a prospective new nuclear power plant in Bradwell, England.

A rendering of the UK HPR1000 (Image: CGN)

Alongside the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the EA assesses the acceptability of new nuclear power plant designs in a process called Generic Design Assessment. General Nuclear System Limited, acting for China General Nuclear Group and EDF, began submitting the UK HPR1000 design to both the EA and the ONR in September 2017. This followed a request from the government for regulators to begin a GDA of the design.

Bradwell Power Generation Company Limited, a joint subsidiary of China General Nuclear Group and EDF, is proposing to construct and operate a nuclear power station using twin UK HPR1000s at its site near the existing Magnox power station site at Bradwell in Essex.

The EA said it has found that "many of the environmental aspects of the design would be acceptable", but has also set out six potential issues and 40 assessment findings to be addressed before it would consider issuing a full statement of design acceptability for the UK HPR1000.

Alan McGoff, new reactors programme manager at the EA, said: "Only if we are satisfied that all the issues have been addressed would we consider issuing a full statement of design acceptability. If the issues are not resolved or new issues are identified but not resolved, then we would consider only issuing an interim statement of design acceptability. Our aim is to complete our detailed assessment of the design in early 2022."

The potential GDA issues identified by the EA include how operational experience is used to inform and improve the design, ensuring coordination of response to safety and environment protection assessments, optimisation of design of high efficiency particulate air filters and confirming that higher activity radioactive wastes created during operation and decommissioning will be capable of being disposed of.

One of the potential issues is that the Requesting Party has committed to demonstrating that the used fuel will be stored in an appropriate interim storage facility before it is disposed of in a geological disposal facility. The EA said: "We have not yet received the design requirements for the spent fuel which define the specifications for the interim store and therefore have identified this as a potential GDA Issue."

The consultation is live and will run until 4 April.

In a statement to explain the consultation, the EA said: "Our consultation does not relate to a specific site. However, the Bradwell B Power Company (BrB) is developing proposals for 2 UK HPR1000s to be constructed at the Bradwell site in Essex, adjacent to the existing Magnox power station. Successfully completing GDA would not mean that BrB can proceed to construction at the site as the company must still secure all relevant permissions for the site before this could begin. We would emphasise that this consultation is not about the need for nuclear power, UK energy policy, policy relating to the siting of nuclear power stations, or the safety and security of the design."

The regulators have previosuly carried out GDAs for: EDF-Areva’s UK EPR, completed in December 2012 and currently under construction at Hinkley Point C in Somerset and proposed for construction at Sizewell C in Suffolk; Westinghouse’s AP1000, completed in March 2017; and Hitachi-GE’s Advanced Boiling Water reactor, completed in December 2017.

In addition to the GDA process, other required permissions include planning permission (the Development Consent Order) where the EA provides advice to the decision maker (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s secretary of state), primarily via the Planning Inspectorate that examines the site-specific proposals and provides recommendations to the secretary of state.

CGN is constructing two demonstration HPR1000 reactors at the Fangchenggang site in China's Guangxi Autonomous Region, about 45km from the border with Vietnam. This is the reference plant for the Bradwell project. First concrete was poured for the nuclear island of unit 3 of the Fangchenggang plant - 39% owned by Guangxi Investment Group and 61% by CGN - in December 2015, while that for unit 4 was poured a year later. Those units are expected to start up in 2022.

In November last year, the HPR1000 design was formally certified as compliant by the European Utility Requirements organisation - a technical advisory group for European utilities on nuclear power plants.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News