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UPDATE 1-UK nuclear watchdog boosts French EPR hopes

* UK regulator move could boost EPR prospects elsewhere

* EDF hopes to build EPR in UK by 2018

(Recasts, updates throughout)

LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - France's EDF EDF.PA and Areva CEPFi.PA have resolved issues raised by Britain about control systems on the European Pressurized Reactor, boosting the EPR's prospects for more contracts around the world.

EDF and Areva -- which hope to build an EPR in Britain by 2018 and export the technology worldwide -- welcomed the UK Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) downgrade of its approval blocking Regulatory Issue (RI) to a Regulatory Observation. “This decision by the UK safety authority is very good news for the EPR. The control and instrumentation issue was, and is, one of the most sensitive in terms of nuclear safety and was vital to resolve,” Vincent de Rivaz, the chief executive of EDF Energy said.

“Closure of the only RI, on such a significant topic, is a defining moment for the EPR.”

The HSE said on Tuesday it was satisfied the two companies had addressed most of the concerns it raised in April 2009 over controls and instrumentation as part of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for reactors to be built in Britain.

But the HSE said both companies would have to continue working to get the EPR through the next stage of the GDA if the French reactor is to become the first new atomic energy generator in Britain for decades.

“They still need to commit a high level of their attention and resource to successfully meet the UK EPR Programme,” the HSE said.

State-controlled French nuclear giant EDF plans to build four EPRs in Britain by 2025, while German utilities EON EONG.DE and RWE RWEG.DE plant to jointly build 6 gigawatts in nuclear capacity in Britain by 2025.

The German duo will choose either the EPR or Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design, which is also part of the GDA and for which the HSE has also raised an RI over the structure of its facilities. [ID:nLDE6A10YB]

An HSE spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday that Westinghouse, which is controlled by Japan's Toshiba 6502.T, had submitted its response to the concerns raised in October and that the regulator was reviewing the information.

SAFTEY CONTROLS

Issues over safety controls and instrumentation have delayed construction of the first ever EPR, in Finland, and U.S. regulators have raised concerns over control systems [ID:nN26133611]

The work its two backers have done to resolve the HSE’s concerns over the design should help smooth its path into other export markets, its backers said.

“It’s good news for the EPR globally as well as in the UK,” a spokeswoman for EDF Energy told Reuters.

EPRs are already being built in China and France, and Areva hopes more can be sold to plant operators in the United States and Asia.

In the Middle East, Areva is also now looking at Jordan, which is discussing the possible construction of a nuclear plant with neighbouring Israel, after the French firm lost out on a $40 billion contract to build a large nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi to a consortium of South Korean companies.

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