LONDON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Britain's licensing process for Hitachi's nuclear reactor that will allow the design to be used in the country's new nuclear plants is expected to finish by the end of 2017, regulators said on Wednesday.
The Japanese company plans to build up to six new nuclear reactors in Britain using its and GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) at sites in Oldbury and Wylfa which it acquired last year.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency, which together license new nuclear reactors in Britain through the so-called Generic Design Assessment (GDA), said on Wednesday that lessons learned from previous assessments would shorten Hitachi's approval process.
"We are estimating that the UK ABWR GDA could be complete in four years from the start of our assessment, i.e. by the end of 2017," the two bodies said in a joint progress report published on Wednesday.
The regulators finished the GDA process for EDF's European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) earlier this year after four and a half years.
It was the first nuclear reactor to be licensed through the newly introduced GDA system.
The ONR and Environment Agency said they would expand their team working on Hitachi's GDA this autumn and that they expected Hitachi to provide the first technical documents this month and in December.
Britain has an ambitious plan to build new nuclear power stations by the middle of the next decade to replace ageing and polluting plants that are set to shut down.
EDF and Hitachi are two of the companies planning to build new nuclear plants.
A joint venture between France's GDF Suez and Spain's Iberdrola has also announced a nuclear new build project. Iberdrola is in talks to sell its stake in the joint venture to Toshiba's Westinghouse unit.