Hinkley Point C gets go-ahead for construction

28 March 2017

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted its first consent for the start of construction of a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C. The consent covers the placement of the structural concrete for the first nuclear safety-related structure at the site. It does not give consent for all elements of construction.

Under a deal agreed in October 2015, China General Nuclear (CGN) will take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy's £18 billion ($28 billion) project to construct Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, England. Consisting of two Areva-designed European Pressurised Reactors, it will be the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK in almost 20 years and will provide about 7% of the country's electricity. The first unit is expected to be commissioned in 2025-2026.

Following the ONR's first consent announced today, site licensee EDF NNB Generation Company will now start the placement of the first structural concrete for the 'technical galleries' of the plant. These are a series of underground reinforced concrete structures to be located beneath the site and some above-ground structures, connecting services such as cooling water and electricity, the ONR noted.

"Our consent for the first nuclear safety concrete at Hinkley Point C is a key regulatory milestone marking start of construction of the first nuclear power station since Sizewell B in Suffolk," Mike Finnerty, deputy chief nuclear inspector and director of ONR's New Reactors Program, said. However, the start of construction of a nuclear power plant is usually taken from the date of pouring the concrete of the reactor basemat, which for Hinkley Point C 1 is scheduled for 2019. "We have carried out extensive assessment of EDF's safety case and preparedness for this important step at Hinkley Point C. However, this does not give consent for all elements of construction. We will continue to regulate NNB GenCo’s activities and have implemented a number of hold-points to ensure we have full regulatory control over the various construction and commissioning stages through to start of operation," Finnerty added.

The final agreements enabling construction of two EPRs at Hinkley Point C to proceed were signed on 29 September last year by the UK government, EDF and China General Nuclear. Their signing followed a long-awaited and positive final investment decision from the EDF board on 28 July.

The UK EPR design became the first reactor design to complete the country's Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from the Environment Agency, in December 2012.

EDF Energy and CGN also plan to develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology - the HPR1000. General Nuclear Systems (GNS) is a joint venture between CGN and EDF, developed to deliver the Bradwell project.

The regulators received a request from the government to commence a GDA of the UK HPR1000 reactor technology on 10 January. This followed their work with GNS, the requesting party, on the pre-requisites for GDA.

The ONR said last week the GDA process for the UK HPR1000 had formally started on 19 January and that its completion was expected in 2021.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News