Facilitative Actions

On 10th January 2008, when the Government confirmed it wanted new reactors to go-ahead, it said it would carry out ‘facilitative actions’ to speed up their construction.

The Nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS) was intended to establish the ‘need’ for new reactors, so the subsequent planning process would only need to deal with site specific issues. On 18th July 2011 the House of Commons debated and approved the six finalised National Policy Statements for Energy and the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, designated them under the 2008 Planning Act the day after.

The Justification Process is required under European Union regulations. Companies hoping to build a nuclear facility must show the benefits outweigh the potential health risks. In March 2008 the Government issued Guidance and invited nuclear companies to put forward new reactor designs by June for a justification decision. On 18 October 2010 the Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, published his decisions as Justifying Authority that two nuclear reactor designs, Westinghouse’s AP1000 and Areva’s EPR, would be Justified. In other words, in his opinion, their benefits would outweigh any radiological health detriment they may cause.

On 11 December 2014 the Secretary of State, Ed Davey, published his decision as Justifying Authority that the nuclear reactor design, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd’s UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR), would be Justified.

Waste and Decommissioning Financing Arrangements: The Government legislated in the Energy Act 2008 supposedly to ensure that operators of new reactors will have secure financing arrangements in place to meet “the full costs of decommissioning and their full share of waste management and disposal costs”. Before construction begins, an operator of a new nuclear power station will have to submit a Funded Decommissioning Programme (FDP) for approval by the Secretary of State. The independent Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board was established to provide impartial scrutiny and advice on the suitability of FDPs. Alongside the approval of an operator’s FDP, the Government will expect to enter into a contract with the operator regarding the terms on which the Government will take title to and liability for the operator’s higher activity radioactive wastes. The Government expects to ‘dispose’ of spent fuel and intermediate level waste from new nuclear power stations in the same geological disposal facility that it is hoping to find a site for to ‘dispose’ of the waste already created by existing reactors. The contract with the operators of new reactors will set out how the price that will be charged for this waste transfer will be determined. This ‘waste transfer price’ is supposed to be “consistent with the Government’s policy that operators of new nuclear power stations should meet their full share of waste management costs“, but nuclear economist Ian Jackson points out that, because the new build spent fuel is unlikely to be buried underground before 2130, and a discount rate will be applied to the waste transfer price, we are basically hoping that the stock market will fund most of the cost.

A Generic Design Assessment  (GDA) of new nuclear reactor designs is being carried out by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency (the Regulators). GDA, also known as pre-licensing, allows the generic safety, security and environmental aspects of new nuclear reactor designs to be assessed before applications are made for licences and permits to build particular designs of reactor on a particular sites.

In December 2012 ONR and the Environment Agency granted Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and Statements of Design Acceptability (SoDA) for the UK EPR Reactor Design. These documents confirmed that EDF and AREVA’s UK EPR reactor design is considered suitable for construction in the UK.

One year earlier 14th December 2011 the Regulators had granted interim Design Acceptance Confirmations (iDACs) and interim Statements of Design Acceptability (iSoDAs) for the EDF and Areva UK EPR reactor design. The EPR design had 31 outstanding issues. A report issued in December 2012 explains how these issues were dealt with.

In March 2017, ONR and the Environment Agency issued a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design completed GDA in March 2017.

In December 2011 Westinghouse decided to request a pause in the GDA process for the AP1000 after the Regulators issued interim design acceptance confirmations (iDAC), and interim statements of design acceptability (iSODA) with 51 outstanding issues. In August 2014, Westinghouse recommenced the GDA process after it became a part of the NuGen consortium when parent company Toshiba bought a 60% stake. A March 2017 report explains how the Regulators dealt with these issue. (On 30th April 2017 the Sunday Times reported that Toshiba was preparing to mothball the Moorside project – the only UK new nuclear project currently planning to use AP1000 technology.)

Early in 2013 Hitachi-GE applied for a GDA for its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), and in August 2014 the ONR and EA completed the second stage of this (the initial assessment), and completed stage 3 (detailed asssessment) in October 2015. The whole GDA process is due to be completed about the end of 2017. There are four operable ABWR units in Japan, while two more are under construction. (See ABWRs – one of the least realiable reactors in the world, nuClear News No.77 September 2015) Two more are being built in Taiwan and one is planned for Lithuania. The design is already licensed in Japan and the USA. It can run on a full-core of mixed-oxide (MOX) (containing weapons-useable plutonium) nuclear fuel.

In January 2017 the Government requested that the Regulators carry out a Generic Design Assessment of the Hualong One or HPR1000 Chinese reactor design. This is the reactor design which EDF Energy and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) are together intending to develop at Bradwell-on-Sea, Maldon in Essex.

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Published: 26 October 2012
Last updated: 2 May 2017