The latest Generic Design Assessment (GDA) update on Moorside’s Westinghouse AP1000 reactor has been published by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). Covering the period November 2016 to January 2017, the update suggests that all outstanding assessment issues will be cleared up by the target date of the end of March 2017 – a very different picture to that painted by ONR in its previous AP1000 update (May to October 2016) which warned that ‘our delivery confidence for this project is amber/red, which means that successful delivery of the project is in doubt with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas’
Still being given the amber traffic light treatment by ONR, there remain a number of issues to be resolved. These include the not insignificant engineering issue of the reactor’s structural integrity on which there is still technical work outstanding on Westinghouse’s updated design calculations for the reactor pressure vessel, pressuriser, steams generator and passive heat removal heat exchanger. The Category 1 Programme for Control & Instrumentation is also flashing amber.
Whether or not these outstanding and crucial issues are resolved by the end of March remains to be seen but any reading of the GDA update, peppered with ONR’s self-adulation on its ability to move mountains for Westinghouse – for example ‘the ONR team has maintained pace and undertaken an extensive amount of assessment in this short period of time to enable Westinghouse to complete the GDA in March 2017’ (page 9, para 36) – offers a reminder of the Regulator’s close ties to an industry it is supposed to regulate. ONR’s efforts to meet the end of March GDA deadline also begs the question as to why the hurry ? For the Moorside development of three AP1000 reactors, already two years behind schedule, is currently not going anywhere fast as it faces up to Toshiba’s financial difficulties and the potential bankruptcy of Westinghouse itself, plus the recent confirmation by NuGen that its Development Consent Order (DCO) submission date (planned for the second quarter of 2017) has been put back by at least six months ?
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood said today: ‘There is no technical or planning reason whatsoever for ONR to push through this AP1000 assessment with such haste. Many will consider that ONR’s responsibility to the general public in terms of taking time and care to ensure the safety of an untried/untested reactor design must take preference over appeasing a long-discredited Westinghouse timetable’.
ONR’s haste in closing the AP1000 Generic Design Assessment is unlikely to instil public confidence and is clearly at odds with the claims on ONR’s website that ‘our role as a regulator is vital in ensuring new nuclear facilities are designed … to the highest standards, and in a manner that improves public confidence without compromising safety or security’ .
Last December, following the November 2016- January 2017 GDA update, CORE raised the matter of rushing the GDA process with ONR but, despite a reminder, no explanation of the relevance of the March 2017 closure date has been received’.