The UK energy minister has asked nuclear regulators to begin discussions over Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for Hitachi-GE’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The design has been proposed for new units at the Wylfa and Oldbury sites.

Hitachi-GE approached the Department for Energy and Climate Change earlier in this month seeking GDA for the ABWR design. The move followed Hitachi’s purchase of Horizon Nuclear Power in late October from EOn and RWE, the German utilities that had planned to build up to four new units at Wylfa and up to three units at Oldbury. It immediately announced an intention to deploy ABWRs at the sites.

“New nuclear has a central role to play in our energy future, delivering secure, low carbon power and supporting jobs and economic growth,” said energy minister John Hayes. He added, “We must however be absolutely sure that any reactor used in this country meets our rigorous safety standards. That’s why I’m asking the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) to conduct a thorough examination of the reactor design proposed for the Wylfa and Oldbury sites”.

The GDA process is conducted jointly by the ONR and the EA to assess new reactor designs. It allows the regulators to assess the safety, security and environmental implications of new designs, separately from applications to build them at specific sites.

Masahura Hanyu, CEO of Hitachi’s nuclear power systems business, said: “We will work with the support of Horizon to put the UK ABWR through the process, essential for the delivery of between four and six units at Wylfa and Oldbury.”He added, “The UK GDA is a rigorous and thorough process and we look forward to having our initial discussions with the regulators”.

The development of the modular ABWR design was unique, and has led to an unusual situation where it can be offered by three different companies. ABWR was co-developed by Toshiba and GE, which then worked with Hitachi to construct the first two units in the late 1990s. GE and Hitachi went on to form joint ventures of their nuclear businesses, resulting in two daughter firms: GE-Hitachi and Hitachi-GE. Both those joint ventures can build ABWR, as can Toshiba, although its version differs in some technical respects due to intellectual property issues.

There are four operable ABWR units in Japan, while two more are under construction. Two more are being built in Taiwan and two planned for Lithuania, although another project for two has been shelved in the USA. The design is already licensed in Japan and the USA. It can run on a full-core of mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel.

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