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Sizewell C: UK regulators confirm acceptance of new nuclear reactor design

06:00 14 December 2012

The Office for Nuclear Regulation has given the all clear to the design for the first UK European Pressurised Reactor

The Office for Nuclear Regulation has given the all clear to the design for the first UK European Pressurised Reactor

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PLANS to build a third nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast received a boost after industry watchdogs gave the all clear to a new reactor design.

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The Office of Nuclear Reaction (ONR) and the Environment Agency yesterday confirmed the UK version of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) is suitable for construction.

EDF Energy - which designed the reactor with Areva - would build two EPRs on the Suffolk coast if its plans for Sizewell C get given the go ahead.

Earlier this week the company’s chief executive Vincent de Rivas said he was confident the design would be given the all clear.

Colin Patchett, acting chief inspector of nuclear installations for the ONR, said the reactor met regulatory expectation on safety, security and environmental impact.

However, additional site-specific consents and approvals are still required from the regulators before the reactor can be built at any UK location and planning permission must be obtained from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, he added.

“It is a significant step and ensures that this reactor meets the high standards that we insist upon,” Mr Patchett said. “We have been able to identify significant issues while the designs are on the drawing board.

“There remain site-specific issues that must be addressed before we’ll approve its construction on any site.

“This new approach to regulation has proved to be a success. We have done what we set out to do and our assessment has been effective, ensuring the protection of people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry.”

Joe McHugh, head of radioactive substances regulation at the Environment Agency, added: “We set out with the ONR to rigorously, and transparently, assess whether this new reactor design would be acceptable for use.

“Through robust scrutiny we are satisfied that this design can meet the high standards of safety, security, environmental protection and waste management that we require.”

Earlier this week the ONR rejected a claim from Suffolk based environmental consultant Pete Wilkinson that they were making compromises in order to meet a Government target for resolving issues surrounding the reactor design by the end of the year.

Commenting on yesterday’s announcement Mr Wilkinson said there needed be more of an indication of how the ONR had arrived at its decision to approve the reactor.

“The problem is they can park a lot of the unresolved issues in an area to look at later,” he said. “There is an air from my perspective of rushing this through. The Government needs to have the design acceptance certification by the end of the year.

“They [the ONR] talk about being open and transparent but it would be nice to see that in practice.”

An ONR spokesman has previously maintained that the body is independent of Government policy and made clear it would not close out issues on the reactor design until assessment teams were satisfied.

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