General Nuclear Systems (GNS) – a joint venture between the China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) which has a 66.5% share and EDF which has a 33.5% share – was set up to undertake the Bradwell B project and bring it to a final investment decision. Two Hualong One units (or UK HPR1000), each with a capacity of 1,150 MWe are being proposed for the site.
EDF and CGN agreed to form this joint venture company to advance plans for a new plant at Bradwell and seek regulatory approval – through the generic design assessment (GDA) process – for a UK version of the Chinese-designed Hualong One reactor. GNS wrote to the government in October 2016 saying it was ready to start the GDA process.
On 10th January 2017 the Government asked the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency to begin the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for the Hualong One reactor (also known as the HPR1000). On 15th November 2018 the two regulators announced that they had completed an initial high level scrutiny of the UK HPR1000 reactor design. The ONR’s review is expected to take about four years (or 5 years according to Reuters), after which the reactor design could be granted a licence to be built in Britain. The reference plant for the assessment is the third unit at CGN’s Fangchenggang nuclear power station which is currently being built in China and is scheduled to start up in 2021.
GNS say that the regulators have concluded that the information submitted by them during Step 2 was sufficient to allow the start of Step 3. GNS continues to invite comment on the HPR1000 reactor design and the regulatory submissions made to the regulators. Information on HPR1000 reactor technology, design, safety and environmental features is available on their website. At the end of Stage 3, the Environment Agency (EA) will hold a public consultation to seek views on its preliminary conclusions of the detailed assessment to date. The consultation will help inform the EA’s decision on whether to issue a statement of design acceptability.
There’s more on Bradwell B and the Huawei affair here.
Chinese reactors are not the solution says the GMB union. It has called for “considerable caution” over Chinese involvement in the Bradwell B reactor design. The UK will not benefit from “Chinese pop-up power stations” it said. National Secretary for Energy for GMB Justin Bowden said “GMB has for years urged government to exercise considerable caution over Chinese involvement in terms of the technology, financing, security and the jobs – both during construction and once built”. The Colchester Gazette said that GNS has vowed to listen carefully to the community before drawing up proposals for a new power station at Bradwell. Of course listening and acting on public opinion are two entirely different things.
Professor Andy Blowers, chairman of the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG), takes a rather more fundamental objection to the proposals than the union’s. He said “There shouldn’t be investment from anybody, even British investors. The idea of creating more rubbish when we don’t have any way to dispose of what we’ve already got just seems quite frankly immoral.” He says the site is quite unsuitable and unsustainable in the long run. It is at sea level on a coast highly vulnerable to storm surges, coastal processes and sea level rise.
Several commentators have said the Chinese Company – CGN’s – hopes of building its own reactor at Bradwell now look politically highly unlikely amid hostility to China. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, refused to rule out a U-turn on the involvement of China in the building of Bradwell B, in an interview on LBC radio. He said the Government’s position hasn’t changed adding “decisions haven’t been made” for the project. Mr Sunak said he thought the UK should have an “eyes wide open relationship with China“.
According to Electrical Review CGN could now be prevented from constructing the new power station at Bradwell and blocked from being a 20% partner in Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C will also likely have to go-ahead without Chinese investment. One person familiar with the matter told the FT the idea of CGN building a plant 50km from London was a non-starter. Another person said London was hoping that CGN would withdraw from both projects without confrontation.
In early March 2020, CGN revealed its plans for a Stage 1 public consultation on Bradwell B on the eve of the coronavirus lockdown. Despite pleas for the consultation to be aborted since public participation was heavily constrained, they ploughed on – the consultation closed on 1st July. The plans unleashed a firestorm of protest on both sides of the Blackwater Estuary and the proposals were torn to shreds both in principle and in measured, carefully articulated detail. The sense of outrage was palpable.
A Planning Application for site investigations which was lodged with Maldon District Council drew a large number of objections and councillors unexpectedly rejected it. Maldon District Council previously backed proposals for Bradwell B plant in principle, but councillors have now voted to review their position. On 12th August there was unanimous agreement from Colchester Borough Council to oppose Bradwell.
The NFLA submission to the First Stage Consultation is here.