The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has said in its latest quarterly report that although it expects to complete the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) in December 2017 as planned, delays are expected with its other assessment, the AP1000 which is scheduled for completion in March.
The AP1000 is a Westinghouse design pursued by NuGeneration, a join venture of France’s Engie and Japan’s Toshiba. The reactor is planned for Moorside in West Cumbria but this delay will set back plans.
ONR said Westinghouse’s commitment to the process was “welcome” and they had already submitted “multiple revisions” of documents in some places. They claimed technical issues arising from assessments and a compression of the schedule as the key challenges.
Weinberg Next Nuclear argued in our last report that regulatory processes were posing an unnecessary delay to nuclear in the UK. The approval process is vital but ONR capacity should be expanded to prevent it being overly slow. The ONR is hiring and expanding but this delay to the AP1000 shows the process is still acting as a big hurdle to progress. Also in our report, we recommended that there should be more cooperation internationally over new reactor technology. The AP1000 has been approved for use in several countries, including the USA where there are four reactors already under construction. Working more closely with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others around the world could lessen the workload for the ONR and improve progress.
The UK used to be a world leader in nuclear power and is currently embracing the need for sustainable, reliable, low carbon nuclear power to meet our current and future energy needs. However current designs, like the Hinkley European Pressurised Reactor, do not represent the best possible technology options for the UK. To move forward with new, advanced designs such as Small Modular and Molten Salt Reactors, the UK’s regulatory process needs attention so that it no longer poses as a barrier to progress.