The cautious strategy of the third UK new-build consortium: news analysis

4 March 2011

Caution is the watchword for Nu Generation, the Joint Venture which plans to build new reactors near Sellafield in West Cumbria, writes Penny Hitchin.

The multi-national JV, made up of Iberdrola, GDF Suez and SSE, is adopting a long-haul approach to development as it works towards a decision as to whether to build new reactors on land it has acquired near Sellafield in West Cumbria. It is looking to make its investment decision in 2015, with electricity generation coming on stream in 2023 at the earliest.

The JV is making a virtue out of necessity, as it failed to acquire sites that have the potential to be generating earlier. The team dropped out of the first round of auctions of land potentially suitable for new build at Bradwell, Oldury and Wylfa by the NDA in spring 2009. The combined total of £387 bid by E.On, RWE and EDF for the three sites proved too much for the partnership. E.On and RWE have now formed the Horizon Nuclear JV, which is moving ahead with plans for new build at Wylfa, where generation could start as by and Oldbury. EDF, by virtue of its acquisition of British Energy in 2008, is out in front with plans for new reactors at Hinkley Point.

The Iberdrola/GDF Suez/SSSE (Scottish & Southern Electricity) team was thus left as the main (and very likely the only) bidder for land at Sellafield, which will not have grid connectivity until 2023. In February 2009, GDF Suez (37.5%), Iberdrola (37.5%) and Scottish and Southern Energy (25%) entered a partnership to participate in the development of new nuclear power stations in the UK. In October 2009 the team secured an option to purchase land at Sellafield for a total of £70m. The option must be taken up by 2015. The JV was established in 2010, taking the name NuGeneration (NuGen).

At a presentation in West Cumbria on 1 March, Lynn Wilson, NuGen’s Head of Cumbria Liaison, ran through developments in the national area where government is acting to clear the way ahead for new build, (GDA, justification, planning reform etc) but had little in the way of news for the audience.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the Stakeholder Group”, she said. In fact, NuGen is indebted to RWE for ensuring strong public support for the Sellafield site, When the German utility delivered a masterclass in how not to approach public engagement over its proposed new build developments nearby. Three sites in West Cumbria were submitted into the new build Strategic Siting Assessment in 2009. These included two greenfield sites at Kirksanton and Braystones which RWE had hastily acquired in 2008 when it wanted to ensure it had a fallback position for new build if it failed to buy land at any of the established nuclear sites. The secrecy surrounding RWE’s acquisitions, and their poor management of public relations around these purchases, united West Cumbria in backing Sellafield as the suitable Cumbrian site for new build.

In recent months the JV has announced its name – NuGeneration - and appointments of Olivier Carret as Chief Operating Director, Alfio Vidal as Chief Nuclear Director and Gavin Brydon as Chief Financial Officer. It has also opened an office in West Cumbria. During 2011 it says it will be building its UK team; carrying out engagement and consultation; reactor evaluation; environmental evaluation and site characterisation.

The Sellafield site is approximately 200 hectares of which half will be selected for the nuclear power station. The land is arguably the best characterised in the UK, as during its heyday, former Sellafield owners BNFL, were keen to build new reactors on the site and carried out a lot of preliminary work including site characterisation.

NuGen says it is ‘technology neutral’ and will await the completion of phase 4 of the joint regulator’s Generic Design Assessment before taking a decision. The NuGen timeline indicates that by the end of 2013, the company will have chosen between Areva’s EPR and Westinghouse AP1000. It plans total UK nuclear development of 3.6GW, which would likely be three AP1000s or two EPRs.

A suppliers’ day will be held in Cumbria later this year, but no contracts are likely to be awarded for several years. Both Iberdrola and GDF Suez have large engineering subsidiaries which would be well-placed to win work.

The big decision whether or not to go ahead with the project will be taken in 2015. At that stage the parent bodies and their shareholders will consider if the project looks viable and whether to make the money (estimated 5bn Euros per reactor), available.

The expectation is that any new power station would be commissioned around 2023. NuGen says that up to 5000 jobs would be created at the peak of construction, with 700 new permanent operational jobs.

Iberdrola and GDF Suez are looking worldwide for power projects. In January 2011 they withdrew from a multi-billion dollar nuclear project to build two additional reactors at Cernavoda in Romania. The companies, had been partners with SN Nuclearelectrica for the development of units 3 and 4 of the nuclear plant since 2008. "Economic and market-related uncertainties surrounding this project, related for the most part to the present financial crisis, are not reconcilable now with the capital requirements of a new nuclear power project," the groups said in a joint statement.

Related Articles
EPR and AP1000 pass UK design assessment

Potential GDA Issues (topics remaining after June 2011) by reactor design and topic:


Internal Hazards
- Potential dropped loads from cranes and resultant impact scenarios.
- The safety case for internal flooding is inconsistent with the deterministic approach
that we would expect to be used.
- Completeness of evidence associated with safety claims on internal missiles, cable
routing, internal flooding, and pipewhip, through provision of verification and
validation reports.

Civil Engineering
- Verification and validation of the Software packages used in the analysis and
design of the nuclear island structures.
- Computer modelling of the nuclear island structures.
- The design code ETC-C.
- The layout, sensitivity and operation of the containment instrumentation.
- The design analysis of the containment.
- The lack of overarching safety documentation for the nuclear island structures.

Fault Studies, Transient Analysis and Severe Accidents
- Further justification for some Boron Dilution faults. Modifications may be required
to provide extra protection.
- Extra protection may be required in the C&I systems to improve the level of
- Improvements to the safety case for the spent fuel cask loading pit.
- Further justification on the required operator action to provide protection against
Steam Generator Tube Ruptures.
- The completeness of the list of initiating events on the fault schedule for essential
support systems (electrical system, cooling chain, ventilation etc).

Control & Instrumentation (C&I)
- EDF and AREVA have committed to provide a hardware based backup system but
further information on its design is required.
- Closure of remaining actions on C&I architecture.
- Further evidence on the categorisation and classification aspects of the C&I
- The definitive approach to statistical testing, static analysis and compiler validation
needs to be defined for example on statistical testing we are looking for significantly
more testing than is currently intended by EDF and AREVA.
- An appropriate justification for equipment that incorporates SMART devices (i.e. all
the equipment that makes use of built-in computer chips and software).
- Evidence to support some of the safety case claims.
- Changes that EDF and AREVA are considering to overcome likely obsolescence
issues on one of the C&I platforms.

Reactor Chemistry
- Further justification of the suitability and sufficiency of technology proposed for
boron metering.
- Evidence that high levels of contamination (CRUD) will not be generated during
normal operation.
- Provision of further evidence on post accident combustible gas control.
- Provision of greater clarity and substantiation of chemistry aspects of the molten
core during severe accidents.

Radiation protection
- Supporting arguments and substantiation documentation for the radiation shielding of construction concrete

Structural Integrity
- Implement a fracture analysis approach that takes account of the discrepancies
between the initial fracture analyses performed by ND's contractors and the results
obtained by EDF and AREVA.
- Provide an overall procedure for integrating defect tolerance with evidence of
absence of defects through appropriate NDT capability.
- Provide evidence for the capability of the qualified NDT for detecting and correctly
characterising defects at the end of manufacturing.
- Demonstrate that the standards adopted for the design of safety class 1, 2 or 3
pressurised mechanical components is appropriate.

Human Factors
- Detail of how the human based safety claims have been identified and the
completeness or substantiation of the claims made.
- Further evidence to demonstrate that Human Factors have been appropriately
integrated into the UK EPR project. This needs to include activities outside the
main Control Room, such as equipment design, maintenance, and consideration of
error reduction.

Management of Safety and Quality Assurance (MSQA)
- Control, review, acceptance and implementation of design changes into GDA documentation
- The arrangements for the transfer of incomplete design changes from GDA to site-specific work.

Cross Cutting Topics
- Detailed design changes emerging from Flamanville 3 EPR construction
- Application of the revised structures, systems and components (SSC) classification methodology within the GDA safety case
- Update the Limits and Conditions technical report to be consistent with the Chemistry and Fuel topic areas


Internal Hazards
- Identification and substantiation of barriers against potential internal hazard threats
(e.g. fire, internal missiles, internal explosion, pipewhip, and internal flooding).
- Completion of the safety case for internal flooding, including the provision of the
requisite arguments and evidence.

Civil Engineering
Current Regulatory Issue on steel-concrete-steel shield building design
confirmatory analysis on some of the key nuclear island buildings
Construction materials and metrication

External Hazards
confirmatory analysis of aircraft impact assessment

Probabilistic Safety Analysis
- The AP1000 PSA should be supported by AP1000 specific thermal-hydraulic
- AP1000 fire risk is not an up-to-date or complete evaluation and there is therefore
uncertainty in the overall plant risk from fires. A modern standards Fire PSA should
therefore be developed to close this gap.

Fault Studies, Transient Analysis and Severe Accidents
- The fault studies aspects of the potential for spurious actuation of the protection
system to cause a reactor depressurisation.
- The level of diversity to protect against some faults and the consequences of single
failures, and whether some additional C&I functions e.g. additional automation or
additional reactor flux trip protection, or some additional cooling system functions,
may be required.
- Connection of in-core detectors to reactor protection system might be required for
diversity for flux protection.
- Additional information on the fuel pond safety case, together with provision of an
extra diverse engineered cooling system and filters.
- Demonstration that all safety analysis is appropriate for the agreed GDA Design
Reference point.

Control & Instrumentation
Lack of design and safety case information for the Diverse Actuation System,
including for the operating and maintenance philosophy, and substantiation for the
significant changes Westinghouse has proposed to the architecture.
- Diversity between the primary and diverse protection systems. The modifications
Westinghouse has proposed have provided a significant step forward. A detailed
diversity analysis will be needed when further details of the modifications are
- The potential for spurious actuation to lead to reactor depressurisation.
Westinghouse has proposed a modification to provide a ‘blocker’ to address this
and further design substantiation is required.
- The approach to using SMART equipment (i.e. all the equipment that make use of
built-in computer chips and software) needs further development and
- The lack of evidence for design and development standards of significant elements
of the safety and control systems. Additional safety case information will be
- A shortfall of evidence to justify the system/component safety classification used on
the protection systems.
- Provision of Class 1 displays and controls in the Remote Shutdown Station.

Electrical Engineering
- Improvements to the presentation of the safety case and demonstration of
adequacy for the electrical system.
- Production of an electrical maintenance philosophy.

Fuel Design
- Lack of information to justify some of the computer codes used.
- The forces on the fuel that could result from of loss of cooling accidents.

Reactor Chemistry
- Severe accident mitigation (e.g. on fission product control without use of containment sprays)
- The case for loss of cooling to the spent fuel pond
- The design of the primary sampling and hydrogen dosing systems

Mechanical Engineering
- Maintenance and surveillance of novel fast-acting squib valves (including provision of adequate isolation and drainage arrangements)
- In terms of metrication, further work is required in the area of pipe flanges, valves and bolting, where Westinghouse is currently proposing widespread use of imperial fasteners

Structural integrity
- The safety case for avoidance of fracture, including defect tolerance and evidence
of absence of defects through appropriate non-destructive testing inspections
during manufacturing.
- The safety case for the reactor coolant pump pressure boundary material and
associated welds for the revised design (information will now not be available until
January 2011).
- Evidence to demonstrate that components have the correct safety classification
from a structural integrity perspective.
- Fatigue assessment including details of the fatigue usage factor calculation for the
Pressuriser Surge line.

Human factors (specific issue not given)

Management of Safety and Quality Assurance (MSQA)
- Design reference consistency with pre-construction safety report and other documentation
- Consolidation of the GDA submissions and control of design changes within the Design Reference

Cross-cutting issues
- Plant operating limits and conditions
- Spent fuel pond storage proposal that provides criticality safety through geometry and fixed poisons

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