The Environment Agency has told the Chinese nuclear developer behind plans to build a new reactor in Essex that it must resolve at least six safety issues before it can move forward.
The issues identified by the environment watchdog in its early assessments of the plans for the site in Bradwell include concerns over how China General Nuclear Group (CGN) will dispose of radioactive waste.
The agency has opened a consultation calling for views on its assessment and there is likely to be strong criticism from environmentalists and local community groups who oppose the new plant.
CGN is helping to build the first new nuclear power plants in the UK in a generation as a junior partner at EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C site in Somerset and at EDF’s planned plant at Sizewell C in Suffolk, both of which will use a reactor type designed by the French energy company.
The Chinese state-owned company also plans to build a nuclear power plant using its own reactor design, the UK Hualong pressurised water reactor, at Bradwell. It hopes to have the design approved by UK authorities by 2022.
The plans have raised concerns among those who believe that Chinese-owned companies should not be involved in the UK’s critical national infrastructure over security and surveillance concerns following the Huawei controversy.
Alan McGoff, of the Environment Agency (EA), said he expects CGN to resolve the potential issues identified by the agency “over the next year or so”, but warned that the agency will accept the reactor design “only if we are satisfied that all the issues have been addressed”.
The EA has been scrutinising the plans since 2017 and has also identified concerns over how CGN plans to use its operational experience “to inform and improve the design”, its plans to respond to safety and environment protection assessments, and its use of high-efficiency particulate air filters.
“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,” McGoff said.