Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Government consults on new nuclear reactor design

The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency has announced that they are progressing to the next phase of their assessment of a new nuclear reactor design for the UK – a design which could be used should a third nuclear power station get the green light at Heysham Power Station.

If built, the units at Wylfa and Oldbury would be the UK's first commercial boiling water reactors.

Heysham Power Station
The UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) is proposed to be used in new nuclear power stations at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in South Gloucestershire. The assessment follows nine months of preparatory work by the reactor designer, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, and the regulators.

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy have launched a comment process, as part of the early phases of this regulatory assessment, which enables anyone to submit comments and questions to the company for their response.

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy have developed a website which presents an overview of the technology which you can visit at the following website: www.hitachi-hgne-uk-abwr.co.uk and offers the opportunity for comments or questions on the design of the reactor, or on the submissions which have been made to the regulators. Hitachi-GE will respond to these comments and share both the questions and their answers with the regulators.

To date, the ABWR is licensed to operate in Japan, the United States and Taiwan. In comparison with comparable designs, the International Atomic Energy Agency notes that the four ABWRs in operation are often shut down due to technical problems. IAEA statistics documents this with the 'operating factor' (the time with electricity feed-in relative to the total time since commercial operation start). The first two plants in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reach total life operating factors of 70%, meaning that about 30% of the time, since commissioning, they were not producing electricity.

No doubt some of these issues are being addressed in the ongoing re-design of the reactor for UK use, but there remain the long-standing concerns of security and waste management raised by many concerned groups for as long as nuclear energy has been in use.

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