AP1000 design completes UK regulatory assessment

30 March 2017

Regulators have concluded that Westinghouse's AP1000 nuclear reactor design is suitable for construction in the UK. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales - which undertake the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of new reactor designs - are "satisfied that the reactor meets expectations on safety, security and environmental protection at this stage of the regulatory process".

AP1000 completes GDA - 460  (Westinghouse)
(From L to R) Stephen Hardy, nuclear regulation group manager at the Environment Agency, Richard Savage, chief nuclear inspector at the ONR, and Ash Townes, Moorside project director at Westinghouse (Image: Westinghouse)

The GDA is a voluntary process for reactor vendors that applies to England and Wales - it is policy rather than law - but it is a British government expectation for all new build projects. A reactor vendor, or the 'requesting party', has completed the GDA process when it receives a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) from the Environment Agency.

The regulators had announced recently they expected to complete the GDAs of the AP1000 and the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) in March and December, respectively. They also reported the start of the GDA of the UK HPR1000, which they expect to complete in 2021.

EDF Energy/Areva's UK European Pressurised Reactor became the first design to receive a DAC and SoDa in December 2012. Hitachi's UK ABWR began the GDA process for its UK subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power in January 2014.

Westinghouse initiated the GDA process in 2007 and its AP1000 reached the interim DAC and interim SoDA stage in December 2011. Westinghouse then paused the review process until its majority owner Toshiba bought a stake in NuGeneration. It restarted the process in January 2015 after NuGen - of which Japan's Toshiba owns 60% and France's Engie 40% - announced plans to build three AP1000 units at Moorside. The nuclear power plant to be built at the site in West Cumbria will have a gross capacity of up to 3.8 GWe.

Richard Savage, the ONR's chief nuclear inspector, said: "Closure of the GDA is a significant step in the process, ensuring the design meets the very high standards of safety we expect. We will now focus our regulatory attention on site specific assessments, and NuGen's application for a nuclear site licence."

In a summary report, Savage said: "Completion of this first phase of regulatory work is only the start for the Moorside development and there is much to be done in subsequent phases. We anticipate an application for a nuclear site licence from NuGen later this year and we have the capability and capacity to deliver this within our New Reactors Division. This equally important work also features in our regulatory plan for 2017/18."

The ONR noted that this is the second DAC that the ONR has awarded to a nuclear reactor designer, saying that it "further confirms the value of the GDA process". It added: "The clarity on the suitability of the design and regulatory certainty that a DAC provides should help improve stakeholder confidence in the overall project, give NuGen a catalyst to further develop and optimise the reactor design and progress the site-specific safety case."

Jo Nettleton, deputy director for radioactive substances and installations regulation at the Environment Agency, said: "Successfully completing GDA means that the AP1000 is capable of meeting the high standards of environment protection and waste management that we require. We're already working with NuGen, as it develops its proposals to build and operate three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in Cumbria, to ensure that those high standards are delivered."

The regulators required 51 GDA Issues to be resolved before confirming the suitability of the AP1000. All of the issues have been addressed to the regulators' satisfaction, enabling the DAC and SoDA to be issued. The regulators' assessment reports are all available online.

Westinghouse said successful completion of this "rigorous review" by the regulators had been "many years in the making" and represented "a major milestone towards bringing a new generation of safe, clean energy" to the UK.

José Emeterio Gutiérrez, interim president and CEO of the Pittsburg, USA-headquartered company said it also "expands the global regulatory pedigree of the AP1000 plant design and further confirms Westinghouse's innovative safety technology".

Westinghouse said the three units planned at Moorside would benefit from the company's experience on the world's first eight AP1000 units, which are currently being delivered at four sites in the USA and China. Two units each are in the final stages of completion at the Sanmen and Haiyang sites in China, with an additional two units each under construction at the VC Summer and Vogtle sites in South Carolina and Georgia, USA respectively.

Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors yesterday to enable strategic restructuring amid "financial and construction challenges" in its US AP1000 power plant projects. For its Japanese majority owner, Toshiba Corp, the move helps stem further liabilities from guarantees it provided its USA-based unit, which were $9.8 billion as of December. Both companies stressed that only Westinghouse's US operations would be affected by the filing.

NuGen said it will continue in a 'business as usual' manner, working in collaboration to gain the appropriate permits and licences required for the Moorside project. NuGen separately announced yesterday it no longer intends to submit a Development Consent Order application in the second quarter of this year. A company spokesman said this was due to the high number of submissions received during the second stage of public consultation it had held on plans for the project that ended in July 2016.

NuGen said today the conclusion of GDA means that - through its own in-house Design Authority - it now takes ownership of and responsibility for the design in relation to the AP1000 reactors at Moorside. NuGen will "lead on engagement" with regulators, it said, as it progresses applications for a nuclear site licence and works towards gaining consents and permits to construct, operate and eventually decommission the Moorside plant.

NuGen CEO Tom Samson said Moorside's three reactors will provide 7% of the UK's electricity needs from a low-carbon source. "This project will be transformational for Cumbria, and the North of England and will offer unrivalled employment, skills and supply chain opportunities in line with the government's work on industrial strategy," he said. 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News