UK regulators chart progress of reactor designs

22 March 2016

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales have provided an update on their assessment of the two designs currently going through the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process - Hitachi-GE's UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR), and the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design. The update is provided in the regulators' quarterly report - covering November 2015 to January 2016 - which was issued yesterday.

According to the report, the period marked the start of "significant assessment work" on the UK ABWR GDA project with the start of the ONR's Step 4. "Overall, the regulators consider that the project is stable and progressing as we would expect at this stage," it said. "There is a great deal to do but we remain encouraged by Hitachi-GE's commitment and responsiveness."

Horizon Nuclear Power, a 100% subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, plans to deploy the UK ABWR at two sites - Wylfa Newydd, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in South Gloucestershire.

For the AP1000 project, there has been an "increase in management attention" from the regulators and Westinghouse during this period. "There has been closure program slippage and a lack of technical convergence in some areas. This means that we have still to agree with Westinghouse the full extent of the work required to close out all of the GDA issues," the report said. "This lack of progress and agreement on the way forward in specific areas is disappointing so far into the closure phase."

NuGeneration Limited (NuGen) - a 60%/40% joint venture between Toshiba and GDF Suez - in 2014 confirmed plans to build three Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors at Moorside by the end of 2026 with a total capacity of 3.4 GWe. The first unit is expected to begin operating by the end of 2024. A final investment decision is expected to be taken by the end of 2018.

Since the reporting period of the quarterly report, Westinghouse has issued a revised closure program for GDA in response to the regulators' request. This schedule shows a projected GDA completion date of March 2017.

The report said: "The regulators acknowledge the program extension and will maintain a close focus on Westinghouse's delivery and quality of submissions in the coming months. We will continue to provide our view of its progress in our future quarterly reports."

Westinghouse yesterday issued a statement from senior vice president for new plants and major projects, Jeff Benjamin, in response to the report.

"The regulators have offered a careful perspective on the UK AP1000 plant project, providing constructive feedback throughout the process. Westinghouse has delivered revisions or validations of all GDA resolution plans to the regulators to address their concerns. Westinghouse has confidence in the safety of the AP1000 plant design and that it will achieve the Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and the Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) from the Environment Agency. Westinghouse looks forward to continuing to work with the regulators on GDA closure to support NuGen in advancing the project to deliver safe, clean, reliable energy to West Cumbria."

Cumulative charges for the regulators' assessment of the UK ABWR to date are £14,898,302 ($21,195,293) for the ONR and £2,642,308 for the Environment Agency. The respective figures for the AP1000 are £27,447,360 and £2,559,593.

UK EPR and SMR progress

The report also noted that, following the announcement made by the UK and Chinese governments in October 2015, as reported in the last quarterly update, the regulators had attended a three-day workshop in China with EDF and China General Nuclear (CGN).

The French and Chinese companies agreed last October to the development, construction and operation of three new nuclear power plants in the UK, starting with Hinkley Point C in Somerset. The Hinkley Point C plant - the first new nuclear power station built in the UK in almost 20 years - will comprise two Areva EPR units, with first operation scheduled for 2025.

"This inaugural workshop provided an opportunity for us to present at a high level, the UK regulatory framework and the GDA process and requirements. Similarly, CGN presented an overview of the HPR1000 technology and its developing project structure and governance arrangements," the report said.

"We consider that the proposed Requesting Party is in a good position to begin GDA; its preparations to date, knowledge of the regulatory framework and appreciation of expectations and requirements was notable. We are ready to commence the GDA when requested by government. In meantime we will continue to provide regulatory advice to EDF and CGN to further aid their preparations for entry," it added.

On 25 November, as part of the Spending Review/Autumn Statement 2015, British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced "a major commitment to small modular nuclear reactors".

In their quarterly report, the regulators said that this may involve them "in earlier work than expected". The Department of Energy and Climate Change has undertaken a techno-economic assessment (TEA) for SMR technology deployment in the UK. This concluded earlier this month and was followed by an announcement of the competition phase to identify the technology(ies) to be taken forward.

The regulators said in their quarterly report: "To date ONR has hosted a SMR workshop as part of the TEA, to identify regulatory areas of interest and to explore regulatory strategies for design assessment and nuclear site licensing. Additionally, the Environment Agency has met with DECC to discuss design assessment and permitting of SMRs. The regulators will also provide regulatory input into the competition phase."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News