CONSTRUCTION OF new nuclear power plants became easier this week after safety regulators issued pre-licensing requirements for new plants.
The Generic Assessment of Candidate Nuclear Power Plant Design document will enable operators and project promoters to submit standard design proposals to regulators for approval ahead of planning applications.
In their generic assessments, promoters will provide all information required by safety regulators who can then certify the plant design as safe before the local planning authority assesses location issues.
Previously planning applications have been delayed by requests for more information from regulators during planning inquiries.
The Health & Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the Of ce for Civil Nuclear Security will review submissions prepared using the generic assessment document.
The organisations will then pre-approve designs before planning applications are submitted to local authorities.
Under the new pre-licensing process, a single package of information is handed over to regulators. They will then examine safety critical information in a process that is expected to take up to two and a half years.
'The crux of this is that it will simplify planning. The last nuclear power plant built in the UK was 20 years ago and the problem was that every stakeholder re-visited the same information time and time again, ' said an Environment Agency spokesman.
'Designs can now be assessed before planning applications are submitted, leaving local authorities to consider the location issues so it doesn't supersede the planning process, ' he said.
'Operators will know what we want from day one.' Former Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Energy Board chair David Anderson said the nuclear industry would be encouraged by the new process.
'It is an effort to simplify the process and carry out assessments consistently. It is getting the regulators to set out exactly what they expect operators to comply with, ' he said.
In last year's State of the Nation report the ICE criticised the planning process and called for pre-licensing to be introduced (NCE 19 October 2006).