Britain approves design for EDF Energy's new nuclear reactors

LONDON Thu Dec 13, 2012 1:15pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - British regulators on Thursday approved a design for new nuclear reactors favoured by EDF Energy which has proposed building two new plants in the UK.

The approval for the EPR (European Pressurised Reactor) design could see it used at multiple sites in Britain, and removes a regulatory hurdle as utilities such EDF Energy weigh up tens of billions of pounds in new investment.

"The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency are satisfied that this reactor, designed by EDF Energy and Areva, meets regulatory expectations on safety, security and environmental impact," the regulators said in a statement.

It added: "There remain site-specific issues that must be addressed before we'll approve its construction on any site."

EDF Energy said the approval by regulators recognised that the EPR reactor designed by French engineering firm Areva met stringent safety requirements.

"It has been demonstrated that the design is robust even when challenged by extreme events such as those seen following the Fukushima incident in 2011," the company said in a statement.

EDF is proposing to build two new nuclear power plants in Britain close to existing atomic stations.

In September the company said it would make a decision by the end of this year on whether to proceed with construction at Hinkley Point in southwestern England.

But EDF has not yet confirmed whether it will start work on a new reactor at the site.

Britain's government is negotiating with utilities on the minimum electricity prices they can charge in order to make the building of new power projects, such as nuclear and offshore wind, economically feasible, with further details expected by mid-2013.

Costs for new nuclear power stations have soared in recent years, amid tighter regulation and rules for the industry in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011, raising concerns that the technology will be too expensive.

(By John McGarrity; editing by Jason Neely)

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