Nuclear regulators in Britain - and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA) - have announced that the first step of ‘Generic Design Assessment’ (GDA) carried out on four designs submitted for new nuclear power stations had found shortfalls at this stage - in terms of safety, security or the environment - that would prevent any of them from ultimately being constructed on licensed sites in the UK. These findings are based on the claims made by the vendors for the designs, the basis of which will be assessed during the next steps of GDA.
The nuclear regulators have published a series of reports on their findings so far, maintaining transparency and openness in the GDA process.
GDA has been set up to ensure that the safety, security and environmental aspects of new nuclear power stations are assessed early - at the design stage. The four designs subject tthe initial assessment were:
Dr. Mike Weightman, Head of HSE’s Nuclear Directorate, and HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations said, 'Our job, through the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security, is to protect people and society from the hazards presented by the nuclear industry.
As new nuclear power stations are being considered for the UK, it is vital for regulators tget involved with potential designs at the earliest stage - where regulatory assessments can have most influence - sthat we can ensure that the existing high standards of nuclear safety and security in the UK are being maintained and improved.
The GDA process has set out new standards in openness and transparency with the creation of a public involvement process whereby the public can view designs on the web and comment on them, and by our decision to publish all our assessments reports on the web.'
Joe McHugh, Head of Radioactive Substances Regulation at the Environment Agency said, 'We demand that any new nuclear power stations meet high standards of safety, security and environment protection. As we begin the detailed assessment step of GDA, the reactor vendors and the regulators have much work tdbefore we will be able to decide whether these designs can meet those high standards. We hope that the public will continue ttake the opportunity tcontribute tour assessments by providing their comments on the designs.'
In the January 2008 Energy White Paper, the Government announced that if necessary it would run a prioritisation exercise tidentify, in conjunction with reactor designers and operators, which of the four designs subject tthe regulators' initial assessment are most likely tbe tbe progressed for licensing and construction.
Currently BERR are awaiting confirmation from all of the design companies that they wish tcontinue tthe next stage of GDA. If BERR ddecide that they need tundertake a prioritisation process, then at the end of that process the Secretary of State for BERR will make recommendations tHSE and the Environment Agency on the designs that should be given the highest priority for progressing through the next stage of the GDA process.
At the end of the GDA process - which is likely ttake around 3.5 years from start tfinish - the regulators will make statements setting out their conclusions about the acceptability of the designs.
The first stage of the GDA process - the fundamental safety overview carried out by HSE and the preliminary review carried out by the Environment Agency - considers whether there are any fundamental design aspects or shortfalls that could prevent the proposed design from being licensed or authorised in the UK. This is based on the claims made by the vendors.
HSE, through HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) grants site licences tallow the construction and operation of nuclear power stations and through its Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) the regulator for security at all civil nuclear sites.
The Environment Agency regulates in England and Wales:
Radioactive waste disposals, including discharges;
Abstraction from, and discharges, controlled waters, including rivers, estuaries, the sea and groundwaters;
Operation of specific 'conventional' plant;
Assessment and where necessary, clean-up of contaminated land;
Disposal of conventional waste; and
Certain flood risk management matters