* Partnership hopes to use the design for UK plant
* Assessment process expected to take around four years (Adds comment from EDF Energy)
By Susanna Twidale
LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The first Chinese-designed atomic reactor for use in Britain moved a step closer to fruition on Thursday as the UK nuclear regulator said it had completed the second stage of its assessment of the technology.
General Nuclear Services, an industrial partnership between China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) IPO-CGNP.HK and French utility EDF, hopes to use the design at a nuclear plant planned to be built at Bradwell in Essex, eastern England.
CGN intends to make a number of investments in Britain’s nuclear power sector, most notably the new Hinkley Point C project in southwest England.
Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said the Chinese HPR1000 reactor had completed stage two of its generic design assessment (GDA) - the formal process for approving a new reactor.
The four-stage assessment process is expected to take around four years in total and was started around two years ago.
The project will now move to stage three of the process.
“The regulators have not identified at this stage of the GDA process any fundamental safety, security or environmental issues that would prevent the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation,” the ONR said in a statement.
EDF Energy said the approval is a “key step” for a new nuclear power station at Bradwell, which will use a British version of the HPR1000 reactor following full approval.
However, the project is still in an early pre-planning stage, which will involve years of investigative work and public consultations before detailed proposals are produced to allow a planning application to be made, the company added.
Britain needs to fill an electricity supply gap in the next decade. Many of its ageing nuclear plants are due to close by 2030 and the government plans to shut its coal plants by 2025 to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Large new plants have struggled to get off the ground due to high costs and weak electricity prices.
Last week, Japan’s Toshiba Corp said it would scrap a proposed nuclear plant project at Moorside, in northwest England, after failing to find an investment partner. (Reporting by Susanna Twidale; additional reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Adrian Croft)