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ONR grants nuclear site licence for new UK power station

26 November 2012

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) on November 26 announced it had granted the first new site licence for a UK nuclear power station in 25 years. The licence has been granted to NNB Generation Company (NNB GenCo), which wants to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The site license from ONR is a major step towards giving NNB GenCo, owned by EDF Energy and Centrica, the final go-ahead at Hinkley Point C
The site license from ONR is a major step towards giving NNB GenCo, owned by EDF Energy and Centrica, the final go-ahead at Hinkley Point C

According to an ONR press release, this represents a significant amount of work by the UK’s independent nuclear regulator – the result of more than three years and the equivalent of 6,000 days spent engaging with and assessing NNB GenCo’s suitability, capability and competence to hold a nuclear site licence.

HM Chief Nuclear Inspector Mike Weightman said: “To get us to this point, ONR’s experienced, expert assessors have been assessing the adequacy of NNB GenCo’s organisation, its arrangements for complying with conditions attached to the licence, the suitability of the site and NNB GenCo’s ability to prepare a safety report for the proposed installation at Hinkley Point C.”

“Although a significant step, it is important to note that granting a nuclear site licence does not constitute permission to start construction of nuclear safety-related plant. That requires permission from ONR, permits from the Environment Agency and planning consent from the Secretary of State.”

“Granting a nuclear site licence enhances our regulatory control of the activities associated with designing and constructing nuclear facilities.  NNB GenCo will now be required to comply with 36 conditions attached to a nuclear site licence. These conditions provide ONR with the necessary regulatory powers to ensure the protection of people and society from the hazards associated with such nuclear power generation.”

NNB GenCo is proposing to build two UK European Pressurised Water Reactors (EPR) at Hinkley Point C and in parallel with its assessment of the site licence application; ONR is working with the Environment Agency to assess the generic design of this reactor.

Both regulators, through a process called generic design assessment (GDA), issued interim acceptance for the UK EPR design in December 2011. Subject to the receipt of necessary information from the designers to close a number of issues, they could make a decision on granting final acceptance before the end of this year.  The reactor nuclear island cannot be built in the UK until these issues are resolved.

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