Monday, 2 October 2017

Chinese whispers over nuclear insecurity

Letter to The Guardian:
Your energy editor Adam Vaughan has done a public service in exposing the failure of China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) to co-operate with the UK national nuclear security regulator ( the Office for Nuclear Regulation, ONR) in the process of generic design assessment (GDA)  for its planned Hualong-1 reactor design at the Bradwell nuclear site on the Blackwater Estuary.(“Chinese firm behind Essex nuclear plant refuses to reveal security information,” 2 October;

The Guardian’s use of a freedom of information (FOI) application to unveil this obstruction is interesting, as I have tried to obtain the security documentation that another foreign nuclear vendor, the Japanese-US consortium GE-Hitachi, via its bespoke company, Horizon Nuclear, has failed to make public in its public consultation over the summer on its planned new  plant (Wylfa Newydd) at the north Wales site on Anglesey.

Horizon provided nearly 200 pages of documentation (, but not as word on the key vulnerability on nuclear plants, their security robustness.
In ONR’s reply to me on 19 September, the UK regulator inexplicably backed the foreign nuclear vendor, Horizon, in asserting:

“ONR does not provide specific guidance to RPs in publishing detail on plant security measures. However, in respect of Sensitive Nuclear Information (SNI, compliance with the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations 2003 (NISR) in general terms means not disclosing SNI to anybody without both the appropriate security clearance and the need to know. Publishing certain information may breach those provisions but it may be shared with ONR for assessment under GDA…ONR has recently published its Security Assessment Principles

I raised this issues with the ONR chief executive and chief nuclear inspector at a stakeholder forum in Manchester on 21 September, and have appealed this refusal.

At an international nuclear conference in London in October 2015, I was personally told by the British technical expert (now an academic at the University of London) who had handled GDA information transfer to the ONR for the French nuclear vendor, Areva, in their application to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley C, that in his judgment the Chinese nuclear vendors would decline to co-operate with the very intrusive requests from the UK nuclear regulator for security–sensitive information.

He said even Areva had a difficult time in complying, despite knowing, unless they did, ONR would not give them a licence for the Hinkley C plant. His prediction seems to be accurate over the Chinese application.
And proves Nick Timothy, Mrs May’s former political advisor, correct in his own scepticism over the security-reliability of the Chinese.("Why have ministers delayed final approval for Hinkley Point C?,” Guardian, 30 July 2016,; Nick Timothy: The Government is selling our national security to China; 20 October 2015;


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