GE-Hitachi nuclear reactor design approval nears in U.K.

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The British Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency are nearing the end of their licensing process for Hitachi's nuclear reactor design.

The agencies, which perform Generic Design Assessments for new nuclear reactors in the U.K., said they expect the designs to be approve by the end of 2017, which would move Hitachi one step closer to building the six new nuclear power plants it wants to build in Britain.

Hitachi wants to install the GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactor at Oldbury and Wylfa, sites the nuclear partnership secured in 2012.

The two agencies completed the reactor design licensing process for an EDF Energy reactor design called the European Pressurised Water Reactor earlier in 2013. The process took nearly five years.

The EDF reactor was the first nuclear reactor design to be approved under the Generic Design Assessment, and the agencies said in a statement that lessons learned during EDF's licensing process would help them complete the GE-Hitachi process more quickly.

There has not been a new nuclear power plant built in the U.K. in about two decades. Companies planning to build nuclear plants include EDF, GE-Hitachi, GDF Suez, Iberdrola and a joint venture that includes Rosatom, Rolls-Royce and Fortum.

There are nine operational nuclear power plants in the U.K., all but one of which is operated by EDF. Nuclear energy provides roughly one-fifth of the country's electric power. The Office for Nuclear Regulation oversees the U.K. nuclear power sector.

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