UK nuclear must comply or face shutdown

LONDON Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:23am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's nuclear regulator said he could shut down plants that fail to comply with recommendations put forward on Tuesday in response to Japan's Fukushima crisis.

"If operators don't comply, we have various legal means and enforcement powers, but I'm sure the industry will respond effectively and the information we received already showed that they have taken a robust approach," said Mike Weightman, head of Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

The body's enforcement powers include stopping operations at nuclear plants and the issue of improvement notices, he said.

Weightman, a chartered engineer and physicist, published his final report on Tuesday into the consequences of Japan's nuclear meltdown and radiation leak in March, making recommendations on what the UK industry can learn from the event, including emergency power supply and protection against flooding.

Weightman said EDF Energy, Britain's largest nuclear power producer, had already responded well to an initial report published in May, forming a group of 40 experts to respond to the Fukushima report.

"We want them to go even further than we would require because that demonstrates to us the security culture element is there."

EDF Energy plans to build Britain's first new nuclear power plant at a site in southern England.

THIRD NUCLEAR DESIGN APPLICATION

The ONR is also likely to have sufficient staff available to receive a third new-generation nuclear reactor design application next year, Weightman said.

U.S.-Japanese nuclear reactor designer GE Hitachi was told earlier this year the office could not cope with taking on a new application while it was dealing with the approval processes for Areva's and Westinghouse's reactors and the response to Japan's Fukushima crisis.

"Fukushima we've got out of the way now ... we'll see how we can build, if need be, a team to look at GE Hitachi," Weightman said, adding that the decision depended on timing and staff availability.

The body plans to recruit 30 new nuclear safety inspectors per year who will be able to take on tasks such as a third Generic Design Assessment - the regulator's nuclear reactor design approval process.

"The earlier we have prior knowledge of what their plans are then the better we are. I haven't had discussions with them."

GE Hitachi said in an interview last month it planned to submit its GDA application in the first or second quarter next year.

GDA approval is necessary before using a specific reactor design in new nuclear plants. The license costs around 25 million pounds, Weightman said.

(Editing by William Hardy)

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