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Chinese nuclear developer told to resolve safety issues before moving ahead with UK plant

12 January 2021

The UK’s Environment Agency has told Chinese nuclear developer China General Nuclear Group (CGN) that it must resolve six safety issues before it can move ahead with its plans to build a new reactor in Essex, UK. Among the issues is concerns over how the group will dispose of radioactive waste at the planned facility in Bradwell.

An artist's impression of the proposed Bradwell plant - Image: UK Gov
An artist's impression of the proposed Bradwell plant - Image: UK Gov

CGN is a junior partner at EDF’s Hinkley Point C site in Somerset, south west England, and at the planned Suffolk plant in east England, Sizewell C. Both these sites will use a reactor designed by EDF, however CGN is looking to use its own reactor design, the UK Hualong pressurised water reactor, at the proposed site at Bradwell in Essex. The state-owned company hopes to have its design approved by UK authorities by 2022.

The Environment Agency identified the six issues as it published its assessment so far of the plans for the UK Hualong pressurised water reactor. A consultation period has now been opened with the Environment Agency inviting views on the new nuclear power station design. There is expected to be strong opposition from both environmentalists and those who feel that the UK should not involve Chinese-owned companies in the UK’s critical national infrastructure due to concerns over security.

CGN, which first submitted plans to the Environment Agency and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in 2017, is proposing to construct and operate a nuclear power station using twin UK Hualong pressurised water reactors at its site near the existing Magnox power station site in Bradwell.

While the Environment Agency said it had found many of the environmental aspects of the design to be acceptable, it has set out six potential issues that need to be addressed before it would consider issuing a full statement of design acceptability for the UK Hualong pressurised water reactors.

Alan McGoff, New Reactors Programme Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “We have been scrutinising this design since 2017 and have identified six potential issues and 40 assessment findings. We expect that General Nuclear System Limited will continue to work to resolve them over the next year or so of the GDA process.

“Our consultation sets out our findings so far, including the potential issues to be resolved. We’ll be carefully considering all of the consultation responses we receive and can use these to help inform our assessments.

“Only if we are satisfied that all the issues have been addressed would we consider issuing a full statement of design acceptability. If the issues are not resolved or new issues are identified but not resolved, then we would consider only issuing an interim statement of design acceptability. Our aim is to complete our detailed assessment of the design in early 2022.”

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