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UK nuclear industry forced to address safety flaws

Author : Amy Hollamby

02 December 2009

The HSE has announced that it would not recommend a wave of planned new nuclear reactors in the UK unless 'significant' design features are changed and safety flaws are addressed.

UK nuclear industry forced to address safety flaws
UK nuclear industry forced to address safety flaws

The government announced earlier in November it plans to build 10 new nuclear power stations, the first of which is meant to be up and running by 2018, to replace old atomic and coal plants, and reduce Britain’s dependence on oil. With the prospect of North Sea gas running out and a need to meet climate change targets, the plants are central to Gordon Brown's solution to keeping the lights on. But before construction can begin, the HSE has to approve the safety of the French and American/Japanese reactor designs before they can be built.

The HSE have identified a significant number of issues with the safety features of the design that have to be progressed. If these are not progressed satisfactorily then the HSE would not issue a design acceptance confirmation.

The HSE worries about the lack of separation between the safety protection and control systems on Areva’s EPR, which has been selected for what is likely to be the first new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

It is too early to determine whether the safety flaws can be resolved solely with additional safety case changes or whether they may result in design modifications being necessary.

Final approval of the reactor designs is not due to be granted until 2011, but an update on progress said that significant questions remained unanswered.

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