UK starts ABWR design assessment

10 April 2013

The generic design assessment (GDA) for Hitachi-GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) has officially begun with the signature of agreements by the company and UK nuclear regulators.

ABWR (Hitachi) 460x120
The ABWR could be the UK's first commercial boiling water reactor (Image: Hitachi)

The agreements follow a January 2013 request by then-UK energy minister John Hayes for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency to conduct the GDA process for the ABWR, which Horizon Nuclear Power is proposing to build at two UK sites. The signature of a formal charging agreement and regulatory nuclear interface protocol by the regulators and the reactor vendor mean that the process can now begin in earnest.

ONR and the Environment Agency will now begin formal preparatory work with Hitachi-GE on the timescales and resources needed for the assessment. Under the terms of the newly signed agreements, Hitachi-GE will assume all the costs for the design assessment.

Horizon chief operating officer Alan Raymant and Hitachi Europe general manager for licensing Ken Sato welcomed the agreements, which Raymant said would enable the companies to begin "meaningful" preparations for their first major submissions to the regulators, to be made later this year.

The GDA process allows regulators to assess the safety, security and environmental implications of new reactor designs, separately from applications to build them at specific sites. The UK's first GDA process began in 2007, when four designs - Areva and EDF's EPR, Westinghouse's AP1000, GE-Hitachi's ESBWR and AECL's ACR-1000 - were submitted for initial consideration. The ESBWR and ACR-1000 were subsequently withdrawn or suspended from the process at the request of the vendors.

The EPR became the first reactor design to complete the UK GDA process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability in December 2012. The regulators have currently suspended work on the AP1000 GDA at Westinghouse's request, as the company wishes to secure a UK customer before working to address issues raised in the assessment process.

The ABWR is a so-called Generation III reactor design, and is offered in slightly different versions by GE Hitachi, Hitachi-GE and Toshiba. Four ABWR units are already in operation in Japan, and the design is also licensed in the USA and in Taiwan, where two are under construction.

Horizon, which was acquired by Hitachi of Japan in November 2012, plans to build between four and six ABWRs in the UK at its sites at Wylfa and Oldbury. The units would be the first commercial boiling water reactors in the country.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News