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Sizewell: Watchdog denies ‘compromising’ over reactor design tests

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 December 2012

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Sizewell beach

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THE UK nuclear safety watchdog has rejected a claim that it is making compromises in order to meet a Government target for resolving safety issues surrounding the design of the reactor chosen for the proposed Sizewell C power station.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has just announced that a further 12 issues with the UK version of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) have been “closed out”, leaving only one issue to be resolved.

A total of 31 outstanding issues were identified a year ago as part of a process known as the generic design assessment and ONR officials believe the remaining one can be resolved this month - in line with a Government timetable - if it receives “on –time” all the information it is seeking.

But Pete Wilkinson, a Suffolk-based environment consultant and member of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, believes settlement of the issues is being driven by political expediency.

He said: “My interpretation of the outstanding issues has been that some require quite substantial design changes. I would not be surprised if the remaining issues are conditional upon further assessment findings being resolved some time in the future. I believe this could introduce a degree of compromise and risk for the ONR during the construction programme.”

Mr Wilkinson said he suspected there was some “fast footwork” going on in order to enable the ONR to claim it had met the Government timetable.

An ONR spokesman said: “We are independent of Government policy. We’ve made clear that we will not close out the issues until our expert assessment teams are satisfied that safety, security and environmental impact have been addressed as required.

“That said, we’ve also stated that we could close out the issues by the end of this year. That’s dependent on the receipt of ‘right first time’ information from the EPR reactor’s designers.”

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