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The UK's reactor assessment process looks increasingly likely to leave several technical issues unresolved by the time of its deadline next year.

According to the tight schedule required to replace the UK's reactor fleet the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must complete its assessment of the Areva EPR and Westinghouse AP1000 by June 2011, granting the most 'meaningful' Generic Design Acceptance (GDA) certificates it can. The idea is that these documents could be put together with separate site studies as a combined application to build.

However, the amount of work required by the vendors to satisfy regulators by June 2011 and the rate of their progress means a number of 'outstanding issues' could remain. This would mean partial acceptance certificates and the major European utilities eager to build in Britain starting site work and construction while the vendors finish off various aspects of the licensing process.

Two of these potential leftovers are already well known: The control and instrumentation of the EPR will require Areva to install a hard-wired back up, and Westinghouse has to further justify its claims about the robustness of a novel steel-concrete-steel construction method. The HSE said again today that it believes the EPR issue will be dealt with before June 2011.

Further preparing the market for leftover issues, the HSE today gave greater than normal detail on the technical areas of its assessment. In various wordings it noted the possibility of issues remaining after the end of GDA for several areas for each reactor.

For EPR these were civil engineering, fault studies, reactor chemistry, structural integrity and human factors.

For AP1000 these were reactor chemistry and structural integrity, while HSE considered other areas less likely to be resolved. The regulator said it was likely that significant issues would remain after June 2011 in the areas or human factors, control and instrumentation and aspects relating to a change in manufacturer and design of primary circuit coolant pumps.

The HSE said, "We remain of the opinion that both reactor designs are capable of being shown to be acceptable in the UK, subject to satisfactory progress being made on the not insignificant technical issues we have raised."

"For some instances this may include additional generic safety case justification work by the requesting parties [Areva and Westinghouse] post June 2011."

Last month the HSE held a meeting with Areva and EDF Energy to cover the potentially outstanding areas ahead of the signing of major contracts for Hinkley Point C. Later this year a meeting will be held with all the potential reactor buyers to discuss the status of both designs' acceptance and the additional processes that could come after GDA.
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