Nuclear regulator complains of delays and quality concerns as progress slows on Cumbria reactor plans

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) held a crunch meeting in January with senior management at Westinghouse, the company behind the nuclear reactor planned for Moorside in Cumbria, to address “delays and quality concerns” in its submissions to the reactor licensing process. Now the target completion date for so-called generic design acceptance (GDA) of the AP1000 reactor, to be built for NuGen at the site near Sellafield, has been put back to March 2017.

In a report for the quarter to January 2016 ONR said it had concerns over whether the planned timetable, which at that time had less than a year to completion, was achievable. It added “This lack of progress and agreement on the way forward in specific areas is disappointing so far into the closure phase.”

ONR held a technical summit with Westinghouse in December “to try to resolve technical differences of opinion and to move the project forward”. It also wrote to the company’s senior management asking it to “restore regulatory confidence in the project”.

ONR said in its quarterly report that “Westinghouse needs to fully commit the necessary resources to the UK AP1000 project to avoid further problems with delays to submissions and the quality of its reports. Westinghouse also needs to engage the appropriate level of UK expertise to help ensure that its submissions meet UK regulatory expectations and are fit for purpose.”

Westinghouse has now submitted a new programme, at ONR’s request, which envisages completion by March 2017. In its response, the ONR said it “will maintain a close focus on Westinghouse’s delivery and quality of submissions in the coming months”. A second summit is planned in April to assess progress.

Westinghouse, meanwhile, released a statement saying “a continued positive relationship between our organisations [Westinghouse and ONR] is key to the successful closeout of the GDA process.

“The regulators have offered a careful perspective on the UK AP1000 plant project, providing constructive feedback throughout the process.  Westinghouse has delivered revisions or validations of all GDA resolution plans to the regulators to address their concerns.  Westinghouse has confidence in the safety of AP1000 plant design and that it will achieve the Design Acceptance Confirmation from the ONR and the Statement of Design Acceptability from the Environment Agency.”

Meanwhile, investigations into financial and accounting irregularities at Westinghouse parent company Toshiba have now raised questions at the US company. In  statement on 18 March, Toshiba said: “Certain Toshiba US subsidiaries received information requests from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in respect of Toshiba’s accounting practices, and they are cooperating with the investigation.”