UK new build progress

26 October 2009

Regulatory work continues on licensing reactors for new build in the UK, while companies prepare for partnerships and call for targets.


The latest report from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process is on schedule for completion in June 2011. At that time, it is hoped that both Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP1000 will gain GDA approval for build and preliminary work could start towards that goal. However, progress depends on good cooperation between the HSE and the reactor vendors.


The number of assessment areas that seem to present technical difficulty has been reduced, but a few still remain. For EPR there is an issue concerning instrumentation and control, which the HSE has said will require design changes and not just further safety reports. For AP1000, the HSE needs more information to show that non-nuclear structures will be built to high enough standards as well as more information to help it understand the relative risk contribution from human factors. For both reactors, analysis of resistance to aircraft impact has been delayed by security precautions.


The HSE noted that neither of the designs is truly complete and that the vendors are supplementing their submissions with specific data from plants under construction, where detailed real-life design issues have already been settled. Areva has EPRs under construction in Finland and France; Westinghouse has AP1000 sites in China.


The end result from the process will be a GDA certificate and a statement of suitability from the Environment Agency. Those should allow pre-construction work to start in June 2011 ahead of the start up of the first reactor at the end of 2017. In the middle of 2010 the Environment Agency is to launch a public consultation into new reactor siting, during which Electricité de France (EdF) and Areva will formally propose two EPRs at Sizewell C and two more at Hinkley Point C. Proposals referencing AP1000 are also expected but no plans have yet been openly discussed.


Meanwhile, EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz has called for government targets for nuclear generation to be included in the forthcoming Nuclear National Policy Statement, which is to be issued within weeks. de Rivaz said it "should provide a clear statement of need and [be] explicit about the scale of contribution from nuclear."


Construction firms Carillion and Eiffage signed a deal to collaborate on nuclear build projects today, as the latest among major contractors to position themselves for new nuclear build.


Nuclear power has historically provided over 20% of UK electricity, but this share is slipping with the inevitable shutdowns of old reactors. Plans for EPRs would re-establish about a 25% share, with anything further boosting nuclear power's contribution to near record highs. The government has previously said there should be no limit on nuclear, other than one set by future markets in which carbon dioxide emissions are sure to be penalized in some way. A major report by former energy minister Malcolm Wicks concluded in August that a 35-40% contribution would be good for energy security, while the electricity sector overall could grow by 50% with the electrification of vehicles.