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Chinese Nuclear Firm Must Address Bradwell C Safety Concerns


The Environment Agency has flagged six safety issues with the proposed Bradwell C nuclear power station and told developer China General Nuclear (CGN) it must resolve them before the project can move forward.

The safety issues, which relate to the disposal of radioactive waste and heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, were identified in an early design assessment. The Environment Agency released the assessment as part of its consultation on the plant, which is likely to draw a fierce response from environmentalists and community groups near the Essex site.

The Bradwell C plant will be the first nuclear project in the UK led by the Chinese state-owned company and the first using CGN’s own reactor design. CGN hopes to win approval from UK authorities for the Hualong pressurised water reactor by 2022.

CGN is also a junior partner in EDF’s nuclear projects, Hinkley Point C in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk. However, those plants will use reactors designed by the French utility giant.

The Environment Agency has been scrutinising CGN’s reactor plans since 2017 and although it found that many environmental aspects of the design are acceptable, it identified six “potential issues.” In addition to the worries about the removal of radioactive waste, the EA has expressed concerns about the use of high-efficiency particulate air filters, CGN’s plans to use its operational experience “to inform and improve the design” and its plans to respond to safety and environment protection assessments.

Alan McGoff, New Reactors Programme Manager at the EA, said the agency expects CGN to resolve the issues "over the next year or so.”

“Only if we are satisfied that all the issues have been addressed would we consider issuing a full statement of design acceptability," he added.

“If the issues are not resolved or new issues are identified but not resolved, then we would consider only issuing an interim statement of design acceptability. Our aim is to complete our detailed assessment of the design in early 2022.”

The developers of the plant were granted an electricity generation licence by Ofgem in December. However, construction will not begin until the plant has won final planning permission, contingent on, among other things, the EA’s approval.

The Bradwell C project has also drawn objections from politicians who believe Chinese companies shouldn’t be involved in the UK’s critical national infrastructure—sentiments that led to banning of Huawei equipment for 5G mobile networks.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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