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Praise for work of new nuclear reactors international forum

The Office for Nuclear Regulation's (ONR) Chief Nuclear Inspector has paid tribute to the work of an international group which has shared its expertise and knowledge for approving new reactor designs during the last 15 years.

The Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP), within the Nuclear Energy Agency, supported ONR’s Generic Design Assessment (GDA) work for UK EPR, AP1000, UK ABWR and UK HPR1000 reactor technologies, through close working with fellow national regulators from across the globe.

MDEP is set to launch a new framework at the start of 2022, that will now focus on two reactor designs – the VVER, developed in Russia, as well as the HPR1000, ensuring the continued dissemination of the latest regulatory assessment of these technologies.

ONR is close to completing its GDA of the UK HPR1000 design to decide if it is acceptable to be deployed in the UK.

Mark Foy, ONR's Chief Nuclear Inspector, has chaired the MDEP Policy Group in recent years, but will now step aside at the end of this year, as the new framework focusing on the smaller number of technologies begins.

ONR will continue to support and benefit from membership of the HPR1000 Working Group and a senior member of ONR's New Reactor division will sit on the new MDEP Management Board.

Since it was set up in 2006, many nations have worked together in MDEP including the UK, Canada, The People’s Republic of China, Finland, France, Japan, Korea, the Russian Federation, South Africa and the United States.

Mark Foy said: "MDEP has been an exemplar of international cooperation and collaboration, on the safety assessment of new reactor technologies.

"ONR has gained invaluable insight from the programme, helped by the willingness to share and learn amongst fellow international regulators that has informed our GDA work over many years.”

The new organisational structure of MDEP will see it continue its role as a multinational initiative, leveraging the resources and knowledge of national regulators to review new reactor designs.  The newly constituted MDEP Management Board will take over the governance of the initiative in January 2022.

MDEP has proved to be highly effective in the exchange of information during reactor design review, and, separate to the high-level guidance provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it focuses on specific issues for new reactors for practical use in licensing considerations.