China-designed UK nuclear reactor plan clears first assessment stage

LONDON (Reuters) - The first Chinese-designed atomic reactor for use in Britain moved a step closer to fruition on Thursday as the UK nuclear regulator said it had completed the first stage of its assessment of the technology.

General Nuclear Services, an industrial partnership between China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) and French utility EDF, hopes to use the design at a nuclear plant planned to be built in Essex, eastern England.

CGN intends to make a number of investments in Britain’s nuclear power sector, most notably the new Hinkley Point C project in southwest England.

Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said the Chinese HPR1000 reactor will now move to stage two of its generic design assessment - the formal process for approving a new reactor.

Stage one includes ensuring the readiness of the company for the start of stage two, which will involve an initial assessment of the technology, a spokeswoman for the regulator said.

The four-stage assessment process is expected to take around four years.

Britain needs to fill an electricity supply gap in the next decade. Many of its ageing nuclear plants are due to close by 2030 and the government plans to shut its coal plants by 2025 to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Reporting by Susanna Twidale; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Goodman