Assessing designs for the UK’s nuclear reactors

The Health and Safety Executive’s Nuclear Directorate (ND) and the Environment Agency continue to work together on the generic design assessment (GDA) of two new nuclear reactor designs that are likely to be developed in the UK – EDF and AREVA’s UK EPR and Westinghouse’s AP1000.

GDA allows the nuclear regulators to assess new nuclear power station designs before construction begins. Potential issues can be identified at the initial design stage, where they can be addressed more effectively and efficiently.

Intense activity continues on GDA, with ND working hard to finalise its assessment, working closely with the requesting parties (RPs) – the companies developing the nuclear power station designs. The Environment Agency recently completed a public consultation on its GDA findings to date and it is currently working to assess the responses.

While ND and the Environment Agency will complete their assessments, as planned, in June 2011, there will be some limited GDA work required beyond that date by both RPs to address some of the issues arising. However, no new significant issues are expected to emerge this late in the assessment process and no showstoppers have been identified.

The limited work to address these “GDA issues” means that, subject to further progress on some key areas in the next few months, HSE expects to be able to issue interim design acceptance confirmations (DAC) and the Environment Agency, interim statements of design acceptability (SoDA), for both designs. However, no nuclear island safety-related construction will be permitted until all GDA issues have been resolved and a final DAC and SoDA have been issued.

Kevin Allars, ND’s programme director for nuclear new build, said: “While I don’t underestimate the significant amount of work both we and the requesting parties need to do, I’m confident that we will complete a meaningful assessment by the end of June.

“The work we are doing is extremely important for the UK energy market and it’s equally important that we do our job effectively and efficiently in order to fulfil our mission as robust and independent regulators, securing the protection of people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry.

“The team is currently working flat out to complete the assessment for GDA and also to assess some early submissions for the first EPR to be built at Hinkley Point. I’m immensely proud of their dedication and professionalism.

“We are currently on course to complete the assessment of the designs by June 2011, at which point we will likely issue interim DACs and SoDAs, as well as HSE GDA reports, the Environment Agency’s decision document, the schedule of GDA issues still to be addressed and the resolution plans to address those GDA issues.

“That information will build on our present compendium of information already in the public domain, demonstrating a positive, open and transparent assessment process for all to see and to comment on.”

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