The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency have approved the design of the AP1000 reactor which is slated for use at the Moorside nuclear project in Cumbria.
The thumbs up from regulators marks the ends of a “decade-long process”, according to the development consortium NuGen, but comes the day after the reactor manufacturer Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.
Following the completion of the generic design assessment (GDA) process, the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has awarded a design acceptance confirmation (DAC) to Westinghouse, whilst the Environment Agency has issued the company with a statement of design acceptability (SoDA).
ONR chief nuclear inspector Richard Savage said: “The closure of our assessment of the generic design of the AP1000 reactor 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.”
Jo Nettleton, deputy director for radioactive substances and installations regulation at the Environment Agency, added: “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 ordered Westinghouse to resolve 51 issues with the design before giving their approval.
NuGen chief executive Tom Samson welcomed the announcement as a major step forward for the project: “This news from the UK regulators is further acknowledgement and a testament to the robust safety features and design of the AP1000 reactor which we will deploy at Moorside.”
“Moorside’s three reactors will provide seven per cent 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.”
In a statement, the company said it will “now take now takes ownership of and responsibility for the design in relation to the AP1000 reactors at Moorside”. However, there was no explicit mention of Westinghouse’s financial meltdown and how it would affect the deployment of the reactors.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, commented: “The design approval of the AP1000 is welcome news for the UK’s new nuclear programme. This is the second reactor design to have successfully completed the approval process of the UK’s independent regulator and to be licenced for use in the UK.”
He continued: “With two thirds of our power stations closing between 2010 and 2030, this is an important step in providing that secure, reliable and low carbon power for the future we will need.”
EDF and Areva’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) design received GDA approval in 2012.