Speed of construction is key to choice of nuclear reactors

Monday, February 11, 2008

The speed with which new nuclear power plants can be built will be key to the decision on which atomic reactor designs are selected for use in the UK, according to the Government.

A detailed assessment is under way of four nuclear reactor designs as part of a push to build a new generation of British nuclear power plants. They include designs from Areva, the French nuclear energy giant, Toshiba-Westinghouse, of Japan, GE-Hitachi, the American-Japanese group, and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

“Speed of deployment” is one of the main criteria being used to assess which to approve, according to a spokesman for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), a unit of the Health and Safety Executive that is leading the so-called Generic Design Assessment. The others are safety, security and compatibility with British engineering standards.
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“The designs must be deployable by 2016-22,” the spokesman said. However, the emphasis on speed of deployment has raised concerns about political interference in the work of the independent safety regulator.

Jean McSorley, a nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace, the environmental group, said that it was not the job of the NII to focus on the “speed of deployment” but to regulate on safety and security issues.

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