Nuclear safety review to delay UK new build programme

The designs for the next generation of nuclear reactors planned for the UK will be granted interim approval in September at the earliest, three months later than previously planned, according to Britain’s health and safety regulator.
The delay will put further strain on the government’s ambition to have the first new reactor in operation by 2018, reports the Financial Times, and comes in the wake of a review into the safety of atomic power that was announced after the nuclear crisis in Japan.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had hoped to grant interim approval to two new designs by June, but the review being prepared by Mike Weightman, chief inspector of nuclear installations, means no approvals will now be forthcoming until after the final report is published in September.
“It is important that we take the necessary time to ensure that we learn any relevant lessons emerging from the events in Japan, and that the designers implement any improvements that may be required to the new reactor designs,” the HSE and the Environment Agency said in a statement.
“Both industry and the regulators agree that we all need to take account of Mike Weightman’s recommendations.”
The regulator and the government insisted that it was too early to assess the impact of the delay on Britain’s plans for a new generation of reactors. The regulator said it would be able to judge the impact on the schedules of the long-running generic design assessment, site licensing and permitting processes only after the report was published.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said it was too early “to say exactly what impact this will have on the overall timeline”.
EDF Energy, the UK subsidiary of France’s EDF, which plans to build the first new reactor, said it had already factored “ongoing work beyond June 2011” into its plans as any approvals expected at that time would still only have been interim ones.
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