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 Government is now considering the planning framework for new nuclear power for deployment after 2025. The first step towards this was to consult on the process and criteria for designating potentially suitable sites for the deployment of new nuclear power stations between 2026 to 2035 and with over 1GW of single reactor electricity generating capacity. The Government responded to consultation submissions in July 2018, and said it would publish a draft NPS for public consultation in 2019, but by November 2020 it had still not appeared.
Taken together with the overarching NPS for Energy (EN1), the Government says the current nuclear NPS sets out the need for nuclear power, whilst also providing planning guidance for developers and for the Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State in their consideration of applications. Yet when the Government first endorsed Hinkley Point C, (HPC) it was projecting an increase in electricity consumption of 15% by now, whereas in practice we are consuming 15% less than a decade ago. In other words it made a 30% error. This is despite a 13% increase in GDP over the last decade. HPC is only due to deliver 7% of consumption. So, in fact, there is no “need” for new nuclear power stations before or after 2025.
In July 2017, EDF Energy revealed that Hinkley Point C – the most advanced of the proposed new nuclear stations – is likely to be delayed by 15 months to 2027, so it is now almost certain that no new nuclear power stations will be operational on any of the sites designated in the current NPS by 2025. But instead of admitting that its new nuclear programme has been a failure, and that by the time any of the proposed reactors come on line nuclear power will be obsolete, the proposed new NPS simply carries forward the designated sites from the current NPS, and suggests that new sites may be designated in the 2020s. Unlike the current Nuclear NPS, the new draft clarifies that the sites are designated for reactors larger than 1GW. However, in recognition of the recent the clamour from the nuclear industry for a programme of small modular reactor construction it says the Government will consider planning issues related to smaller reactors separately.
For more information see the Nuclear Free Local Authorities’ submission in February 2018 to the Government consultation on the updated National Policy Statement for new nuclear above 1GW post 2025: siting criteria and process:
The Justification Process was 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 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, in a report called Fixed Unit Price Simulation for Disposal of Spent Fuel from New Nuclear Power Stations in the UK (FUPSIM), 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 carried out by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency (the Regulators). They are currently carrying out an assessment of the UK HPR-1000 design which is being proposed by GNS for the Bradwell site. 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 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 was completed about the end of 2017. In December 2017, ONR, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales granted Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) for the UK ABWR reactor design.
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.