UK reactor design assessment on schedule

08 May 2009

The UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) remains on course to complete its Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of reactor designs for new UK nuclear plants by 2011, according to its first quarterly progress report.

AP1000 cutaway
EPR cutaway
Under the GDA microscope:
Westinghouse's AP1000 and
Areva's EPR
The GDA is a pre-licensing process to consider the design issues for new nuclear power stations separately from other issues such as siting. Currently the UK regulator is performing GDAs on two designs, Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP1000. Four designs were initially submitted for the process, but Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) decided to defer the involvement of its ACR-1000 design in April 2008. GE-Hitachi decided to temporarily suspend its ESBWR from the process in September 2008, and according to HSE has recently confirmed it wishes the temporary suspension to remain.

HSE says progress is still on course towards a June 2011 completion date, with publication of an update report in November 2009. However, the regulator says it has encountered some "significant delays" in obtaining responses to technical queries from the so-called Requesting Parties (RPs), and warns that to meet its targets the full proactive engagement of the RPs is required. The regulator also points out that the assessment is being made more difficult by the fact that neither design is complete.

Several significant technical issues being progressed in the exercise are highlighted: control and instrumentation system architecture; the level of information available on spent fuel and radwaste; pressure boundary component integrity validation; protection against internal hazards (e.g. fire); safety classification of systems; and reliability claims made in the safety analysis.

Meeting points

As well as meeting frequently with the reactor designers, the quarterly review notes that the regulator has also held meetings with EDF as a potential licensee, at which EDF has produced a draft program for the construction of the first new reactor in the UK to be complete by the end of 2017. To achieve this, HSE notes, EDF will need to submit an application for a site licence in parallel to the GDA process, as well as starting the early procurement of key pieces of equipment before the GDA is completed.

With the two designs undergoing assessment emanating from France and the USA, and an Areva-designed EPR at an advanced stage of construction in Finland, HSE is also liaising with regulators from those countries as part of the GDA process. Pressure vessel integrity and control and instrumentation have been primary subjects of such meetings within the last quarter, although the regulator says that GDA decisions will ultimately be made on the basis of UK regulatory assessment.

According to Kevin Allars, HSE's director for the new nuclear build Generic Design Assessment, HSE is determined to deliver the GDA to time and quality. "My first impressions of this project have been positive, and although GDA remains a significant challenge, I am confident that the HSE and industry teams can ensure a successful outcome," he said.