UK joint regulators – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) said on 15 November that the Chinese HPR1000 reactor (also known as the Hualong One) has completed stage two of its generic design assessment - the formal process for approving a new reactor.
The ONR considered the safety and security of the design and the EA considered its environmental acceptability.
The four-stage assessment process, which is expected to take around four years, began in January. General Nuclear Services (GNS), an industrial partnership between China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) and French utility EDF, hopes to use the design at the nuclear plant planned for the UK Bradwell site in Essex. CGN intends to invest in the UK nuclear sector, including in the new Hinkley Point C project in southwest England.
The HPR1000 will now move to stage three of the GDA process. "The regulators have not identified at this stage of the GDA process any fundamental safety, security or environmental issues that would prevent the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation," the ONR said. EDF Energy said the approval is a "key step" for a new nuclear plant at Bradwell, which will use a UK version of the HPR1000 reactor. However, the project is still in an early pre-planning stage, which will involve years of investigative work and public consultations before a planning application is made.
The regulators said there had been strong commitment from GNS to learn lessons from the initial steps of the GDA process and to improve their working arrangements. They noted that interaction with EDF and CGN throughout step two had been constructive, but GNS’s role in coordinating these activities has been challenging. “The structure of the organisation is complex, with two very large companies, EDF and CGN, from different regulatory backgrounds cooperating in a new, technically challenging endeavour,” a statement said. The regulators aim to complete the GDA of the UK HPR1000 in late 2021.
CGN is constructing two HPR1000 reactors at the Fangchenggang site in China's Guangxi Autonomous Region; the reference plant for the Bradwell project. First concrete was poured for the nuclear island of Fangchenggang 3 of in December 2015, while that for Fangchenggang 4 was poured a year later. The units are expected to start operations in 2019 and 2020, respectively.