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GDA introduction and progress

The Generic Design Assessment (GDA) is the process by which the UK nuclear regulators assess the potential suitability of a nuclear reactor design for development at an unspecified location in the UK, considering safety and environmental impact considerations.

It is not an assessment of the principles of nuclear energy, but of the design of the UK ABWR plant itself. Passing GDA is an important step in the process towards developing a station, but does not in itself give any ‘permission’ to develop. A Nuclear Site Licence is still required, as are environmental permits. Though the GDA may inform elements of these assessments, it does not replace them.

Power station developers must also go through the full planning process in order to gain a Development Consent Order.

GDA is broken down into a number of steps, each of which entails additional submissions to the regulators. A significant number of these submissions will be published via this website, and we invite comments or questions on them. We will respond to these and share both the questions and comments, as well as our answers, with the regulators. Following initial submission in January 2014, further submissions are expected later in the spring and again before the end of the year.  

The regulators describe GDA as below:

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency developed the Generic Design Assessment or GDA process in response to a request from the Government following its 2006 Energy Review.

In their contributions to the Government's Energy Review, ONR and Environment Agency set out proposals to assess new nuclear reactor designs, in advance of any site-specific proposals to build a nuclear power station. The process became known as Generic Design Assessment (GDA).

GDA has a number of key benefits:

It allows the regulators to get involved with designers at the earliest stage, where they have most influence.

It is a step-wise process, with the assessments getting increasingly detailed. This allows the regulators to identify issues early in the process and reduce the financial and regulatory risks for potential operators.

It separates design issues from specific site related issues, improving the overall efficiency of the regulatory process.

It is open and transparent. Anyone can view detailed design information on the web and comment on it. The regulators also give regular feedback on how our assessments are progressing and publish reports at the end of key stages.

The regulators conduct their assessments using a step-wise approach with the assessments becoming increasingly detailed at each step. At the end of each step reports are published, which provide an update on the detailed technical assessment undertaken by the nuclear assessors. The reports highlight any concerns or technical issues that have been raised during the assessment. ONR carries out its assessment in four steps, while the Environment Agency's process consists of a preliminary and detailed assessment followed by a consultation. At the end of the GDA process, the regulators will decide if the proposed designs are acceptable for build in the UK.