UK nuclear regulation gaining ground as a gold standard in effectiveness
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has often described itself as “the gold standard” in nuclear reactor regulation. Sometimes that view has been reinforced by the nuclear industry by comments along the lines of “if you can license your design in the US, you can license it anywhere.” I am not sure if that is because our regulations are so widely respected or if it is because there is wide recognition that the process is arduous enough that any design team with the fortitude to succeed here can meet anyone else’s requirements.
In the United Kingdom, there was a lengthy period of time during the dash for North Sea gas when few people thought much about building any new nuclear power stations. It was an option that was officially off the table. However, sometime around 2007 there was a growing recognition that eventually spread as far as long time opponents like Chris Huhne that it was time to put the nuclear option back on the table in the UK.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation created a process called the Generic Design Assessment. That licensing path has made remarkable progress. Yesterday, the Office of Nuclear Regulation announced that two designs – the AP1000 and the EPR – had been granted interim design acceptance. Apparently that means that both of those are within a year of getting their final design acceptance.
From an outsider’s point of view, it seems that a design license review takes less time in the UK than it does here in the US. The AP1000 has been under review since 2002 in the US and still does not have its final design certification, though at least one earlier version that will never be built was accepted at one time. Perhaps our regulators can learn something from them about how to run the nuclear reactor licensing process a little more effectively.
Rod, to be fair, the AP1000’s Design Certification Document Revision 15 was certified in January 2006, Westinghouse has since submitted Revisions 16 (on 5/26/2007), 17 (on 9/22/2008), 18 (on 12/1/2010) and 19 (on 6/13/2011). The ongoing review is driven by these updates to the design. This should not be surprising, several utilities have announced plans to build the AP1000, so the design needed to be revised to suit their needs or to accommodate the latest technology. The ABWR, which got Design Certification in 1997 is also subject to an DCD amendment review.
Just to add – GE-Hitachi has expressed an intent to re-enter the GDA process with the ESBWR; Mike Weightman has assured themt hat there will be sufficient resource to start the process in about a year’s time.
For those that might be interested, here’s a link to the HSE’s overview of the process.
Any insight into GE-H’s recent proposal to the UK regarding utilizing the S-PRISM/IFR to make use of some of “your” (the UK’s) substantial excess plutonium?
The only place I’ve seen it mentioned was in a recent Monbiot article from the Guardian.
Re: “make use of some of “your” (the UK’s) substantial excess plutonium?”
It’s a damn shame that the U.S. had to purchase plutonium from Russia to power its spacecraft!
Rod: I was browsing the National Geographic site and astonished and appalled to see how scant mentions of nuclear power there are — all ominously wary — but they’re tripping all over themselves espousing solar and wind and even tides. And this magazine/TV program is a Bible for many schools. Is there any feature where we can compliment media outlets and journalists who have given nuclear power a fair shake?
The UK didn’t make separated Pu 238 which ‘fuels’ an RTG. However the Russians did. That is why it was purchased from them and not the UK.
The UK does not, nor ever has had a reactor that made Plutonium-238. Pu 238 is not a by-product of nuclear power reactors, but is fabricated by a very different process.
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