nuclear power reactor plant

Design for new nuclear plant in Bradwell approved by regulators

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The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has approved the design for a new nuclear power plant to be built in Bradwell, Essex.

Alongside the Environment Agency (EA), the ONR confirmed that the UK Hualong Pressurised Water Reactor (UK HPR1000) is suitable for construction, subject to the necessary licensing, planning permission and environmental permits.

The design has been proposed by General Nuclear Services (GNS), which is a subsidiary of China General Nuclear (CGN) and the French state-owned EDF.

CGN is currently also working on the UK’s other major nuclear project, Hinkley Point C, which is being built in Somerset. It first proposed the new Bradwell plant following approval from the UK Government of Hinkley Point C in 2016.

The ONR and the EA said they were satisfied that the new reactor design meets regulatory expectations on safety, security and environmental protection at this stage of the process.

The regulators typically assess the acceptability of new nuclear power station designs in a process called generic design assessment. This helps ensure that any new nuclear power stations built in the UK meet high standards of safety, security, environmental protection and waste management.

Saffron Price Finnerty, the EA’s nuclear regulation manager said: “At the Environment Agency we are responding to the climate emergency as a priority, as we set out in our plan EA2025 – 'Creating a Better Place'.

“De-carbonising energy supplies is a key objective for the UK and nuclear power is an important part of Government’s energy policy to deliver a net zero future.

“We have completed a rigorous assessment of the UK HPR1000 and concluded that it is capable of meeting those high standards that we expect. This is why we are issuing a Statement of Design Acceptability for the UK HPR1000 to the partners in this design, China General Nuclear, EDF and General Nuclear International Ltd.”

Mark Foy, ONR’s chief nuclear inspector, said: “The UK HPR1000 design has been assessed against the high levels of safety and security expected in the UK, and issuing the Design Acceptance Confirmation – after rigorous and detailed assessments undertaken by a wide range of my specialist inspectors - means we consider the UK HPR1000 design is suitable for deployment in the UK.”

The UK is currently trying to decarbonise its electricity system as part of its pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

While nuclear is often seen as a viable way to ensure consistent, low-carbon baseload electricity generation for the grid, the price per kilowatt hour is now much higher than for energy generated through intermittent renewables.

Since its inception, Hinkley Point C has faced repeated delays and cost overruns and is not currently expected to start generating until June 2026 at the earliest – a full decade after its initial approval.

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