UK Approves Final Design Certification for AREVA/EDF EPR

After a four-year analysis, UK nuclear regulators on Thursday approved the generic nuclear design of the UK EPR proposed by France’s EDF and AREVA, confirming that it meets regulatory expectations on safety, security, and environmental impact. The decision paves the way for EDF to begin construction on two EPRs at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The reactor design is the first and only third-generation III design to have been granted a Design Acceptance Confirmation and a Statement of Design Acceptability in the UK. The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency said in a statement that site-specific consents and approvals are required from the regulators before this reactor can be built at any UK location, and planning permission must be obtained from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

The Hinkley Point site in late November received a nuclear site license from the ONR, but EDF has yet to confirm its final $23 billion investment decision. AREVA on Thursday, meanwhile, confirmed that it had already signed memoranda of understanding with 25 UK-based companies for the supply of components and services for the two Hinkley Point EPRs.

The reactor design was reportedly subjected to increased scrutiny following the Fukushima disaster. "We are satisfied that this reactor is suitable for construction in the UK. It is a significant step and ensures that this reactor meets the high standards that we insist upon. We have been able to identify significant issues while the designs are on the drawing board," said Colin Patchett, acting chief inspector of nuclear installations at the ONR. “There remain site-specific issues that must be addressed before we’ll approve its construction on any site," he added, however.

Last December, the ONR issued interim design approvals for both AREVA and EDF’s EPR and Westinghouse’s AP1000 nuclear reactor designs. The AP1000 is still undergoing the generic design assessment (GDA) process.

Westinghouse had been awaiting a reactor design selection by joint venture company Horizon, but with Hitachi’s Nov. 26 $1.11 billion acquisition of Horizon from German companies E.ON and RWE, new reactors at two sites at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire are likely to be Hitachi advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) designs. Hitachi has begun discussions with UK regulators to obtain approval for the ABWR design, and it has said it hopes to have the first reactor operational by the mid-2020s.

The Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process was implemented in 2007, and it requires regulators to identify significant issues while plans are on the drawing board. Four applicants—AREVA/EDF, Westinghouse, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (for its ESBWR), and AECL (ACR-1000)—had initially submitted applications to the UK’s Health & Safety Executive and Environment Agency. But AECL withdrew from the GDA process in April 2008, and GE-Hitachi requested temporary suspension for the ESBWR in September 2008.

Sources: POWERnews, ONR, AREVA

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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