Friday, 31 March 2017

Westinghouse meltdown and the dodgy security clearance of its new reactor design

Your energy editor’s report on the UK nuclear regulator’ (Office for Nuclear Regulation, ONR)’s sign- off for the application by the bankrupt American reactor vendor, Westinghouse,  for its AP1000 design (“Westinghouse reactor passes UK test,” March 31; overlooks one important aspect of the Generic Design Assessment process for this  reactor

Just over five years ago, ONR published a report the Westinghouse reactor design stating : “Overall, based on the review undertaken, we are satisfied that the claims, arguments and evidence laid down within the documentation [...] presents an adequate security case for the generic AP1000 reactor design.

[‘ Step 4 Security Assessment of the Westinghouse AP1000® Reactor}


“The AP1000 reactor is therefore considered suitable from a security perspective for construction in the UK, subject to satisfactory progression and resolution of GDA Findings.”

But it also points out that “a number of plant items have been agreed with Westinghouse as being outside the scope of the GDA process and hence have not been included in the assessment.”

Readers may be surprised to learn these exclusions include (but are not limited to): “The physical security measures for the High Security Area boundary within which the nuclear island will be contained and the long-term storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel and intermediate level waste.”

Later the report reveals: “Aircraft Impact is not considered as a part of the security assessment.” But clarifies: “However, this subject is addressed under the Civil Engineering and External Hazards topic areas.”

The report also admits that “the Nuclear Industries Malicious Capabilities Planning Assumptions document is protectively marked with a UK eyes only caveat and could not be shared with Westinghouse. “However, the methodologies used to identify potential Vital Areas were shared.”

This means Westinghouse had to make educated guesses against which malicious threats to plan, an approach that does not fill external analysts with confidence in the robustness of the security measures being in-built into the reactor and associated facilities design.

I am not sanguine about this reactor design being given security clearance

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