LONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Hitachi and reactor design partner GE cleared an important UK planning hurdle on Monday as two regulators started detailed assessment of the companies' UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) to allow it to be used in new UK nuclear plants.
Hitachi plans to build up to five ABWR at two sites in Britain which it acquired in 2012 from German utilities E.ON and RWE, but the use of the design requires regulator approval.
Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) on Monday started in-depth assessment of the design, also known as step two in their joint Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process.
"The regulators consider that they should now begin their assessments and that there are adequate project management, technical and legal provisions in place," the ONR and EA said in a joint statement.
Since January 2013 the regulators have been working with Hitachi-GE to explain the regulatory system and to gain initial understanding of Hitachi-GE's proposals, they said.
The whole assessment process is expected to finish by the end of 2017.
"The GDA is critical to the success of our projects. We're very pleased to see Hitachi-GE and the regulators moving onto the second stage which marks another important milestone for new nuclear build at Wylfa and Oldbury," said Alan Raymant, chief operating officer of Hitachi's Horizon nuclear new build venture.
Next to Horizon, France's EDF and a joint venture between GDF Suez and Toshiba's Westinghouse plan to build new nuclear plants in Britain.
The country has an ambitious target to replace its ageing nuclear power plants by the middle of the next decade.