* Nuclear reactors have to meet rigorous safety standards
* Licensing process to take around four years
LONDON Jan 15 Britain's energy minister on
Tuesday recommended that a Hitachi-GE reactor
design enter an assessment process towards regulatory approval,
the first hurdle for Hitachi to build nuclear plants in Britain.
Japan's Hitachi plans to build up to six nuclear plants in
Britain using its and GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR)
design, which still needs to be licensed for construction.
"We must be absolutely sure that any reactor used in this
country meets our rigorous safety standards. That's why I'm
asking the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the
Environment Agency to conduct a thorough examination of the
reactor design," Energy Minister John Hayes said in a statement.
The British government is counting on the construction of
new nuclear plants to help fill a supply gap looming due to the
closure of old and polluting power stations.
Design assessment is expected to take around four years,
about the time the process took for Areva's and EDF's
European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR), which
concluded last month.
The ONR has held preliminary discussions with Hitachi-GE
about licensing its nuclear reactor, and Tuesday's referral
signalled the start to the full approval process, an ONR
Japan's Hitachi, which has a nuclear technology joint
ventures with U.S. General Electric, bought the Horizon project
to build British nuclear plants from two German utilities in
It is now one of three groups planning to build new nuclear
plants in Britain.
The Horizon acquisition includes the rights to build new
nuclear plants at two sites at Wylfa in Wales and Oldbury in
The Japanese company said its ABWR design had already been
proven after being built on time and budget in Japan and being
licensed in the United States and Taiwan.
Costs for building nuclear power plants have risen since the
Fukushima disaster in 2011 and construction problems at sites in
Europe have raised concerns the technology is too