Authorisation progresses on Chinese HPR1000 reactor design for UK

The Office of Nuclear Regulation is to begin the technical phase of the generic design assessment of the HPR1000 nuclear reactor, which could be built in Essex.

The HPR1000 is a pressurised water reactor (PWR) built and operated by the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN). A joint venture between EDF and CGN, General Nuclear Services (GNS), is planning to build power stations based on these reactors in the UK, as part of the agreement by which China is co-funding the Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset.

A cutaway of the Hualong-1 reactor design. Image: GNS

All reactor designs in the UK are subject to a generic design assessment (GDA) by the ONR and the Environment Agency, by which regulators assess the safety, security and environmental aspects of the reactor design before the aspects of the design specific to the site are put in place. Phase one of this process, which began in January and is now complete, looks at the project management and technical provisions of the design. Phase 2, which will take a year, is a fuller technical assessment. The full GDA process takes five years, and is expected to be completed in 2021.

The reactor is in fact a French design, based on the designs of the two most recently-built reactors at the Gravelines power station near Calais. It is a three cooling-loop PWR developed in the 1990s, a forerunner of the EPR design to be built at Hinkley Point, with a smaller power output (1150MWe rather than 1650MWe). It is known as the CPR1000 in China, where 15 units have been built; the Ling Ao-3 power station in Guangdong, north of Hong Kong, was the first of these to be connected to the grid in 2011. The version under assessment by the HSE has a slightly different reactor core and is known as the Hualong-1 design. The first of these is nearing completion at Fuqing, in Fujian Province south of Guangdong.

In the Hinkley Point agreement , CGN took a 33.5 per cent stake in the project in return for co-developing projects for the Sizewell C power station in Suffolk and a new nuclear power station at Bradwell in Essex, the site of a now-decommissioned Magnox nuclear power station that ceased generating in 2002. Sizewell C is to be another EPR while the HPR1000 is earmarked for Bradwell.