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YOU ARE HERE:INNOVATIVE THINKING Boost for Bradwell B plans as ‘third generation’ nuclear reactor gets green light

Plans to build a new nuclear power plant in Essex have been given a significant boost, after the Environment Agency and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) signed off on the proposed reactor design.

Bradwell B Power Company (BrB) – consisting of CGN and EDF – is developing proposals for two UK HPR1000s to be constructed at the Bradwell site in Essex, adjacent to the existing Magnox power station.

The UK HPR1000s are pressurised water reactors with several active and passive safety design features developed following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. They include multiple redundancy shutdown systems and have been dubbed a “third-generation nuclear technology”.

The reactors are designed by CGN and similar reactors have so far only been constructed at three sites in China.

After a four-year design consultation, ONR has issued a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and the Environment Agency has issued a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) – which effectively means that the reactor has been deemed “suitable for construction in the UK”.

The Environment Agency was particularly impressed with the role HPR1000s could play in achieving the UK government’s net zero ambitions.

Environment Agency nuclear regulation manager Saffron Price Finnerty said: “At the Environment Agency we are responding to the climate emergency as a priority, as we set out in our plan EA2025 – Creating a Better Place.

“De-carbonising energy supplies is a key objective for the UK and nuclear power is an important part of Government’s energy policy to deliver a net zero future. The Environment Agency’s role in this, through our regulation and the advice we provide, is ensuring that new nuclear power stations will meet high standards of environmental protection and waste management, and that communities and the environment are properly protected.

“We have completed a rigorous assessment of the UK HPR1000 and concluded that it is capable of meeting those high standards that we expect. This is why we are issuing a Statement of Design Acceptability for the UK HPR1000 to the partners in this design, China General Nuclear, EDF and General Nuclear International Ltd.”

Finnerty added: “It is a credit to the hard work of all the people involved in this assessment, in the UK, China and France, that this work programme has been completed on a time that was proposed in January 2017. I’d also like to thank all who responded to our public consultation and provided comments that we’ve carefully considered in coming to our decision.”

The reactor core of the HPR1000 is made up of 177 sets of 3.6m fuel assemblies. Each fuel assembly consists of 264 fuel rods, 24 guide tubes and one gauge pipe which are arranged in a 17 by 17 array.

The Bradwell B site was designated by the government in 2011 as being potentially suitable for a new nuclear power station. The twin reactors would be able to generate 2.2GW of electricity, enough to power around 4M homes.

Developers have suggested that construction would take between nine and 12 years with more than 9,000 workers needed during the height of construction.

Design assessment of the UK HPR1000 began in January 2017. The Environment Agency previously raised six potential design issues (GDAs) after completing its initial assessment, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, methods of disposing radioactive waste and the inconsistent use of design safety precedents.

A GDA issue is an “unresolved issue that is significant, but resolvable”, and which needs resolving before construction of the reactor starts. Having now carried out its detailed assessment, the Environment Agency is satisfied that there are now no GDA issues with the UK HPR1000 design.

However, the Environment Agency has also raised 45 assessment findings. An assessment finding is an unresolved issue that is not considered critical to the decision to start construction – however, they will need to be addressed during the design, procurement, construction or commissioning phase of any new build project.

In its ruling the Environment Agency added: “We will expect a future operator to address these at the appropriate stage in the life cycle of the power station. […]

“We do not believe that any of the assessment findings are so fundamental that they are unlikely to be resolved satisfactorily before or during site-specific permitting.”

ONR chief nuclear inspector Mark Foy added: “The UK HPR1000 design has been assessed against the high levels of safety and security expected in the UK, and issuing the Design Acceptance Confirmation – after rigorous and detailed assessments undertaken by a wide range of my specialist inspectors – means we consider the UK HPR1000 design is suitable for deployment in the UK.”