Equipment qualification

Equipment qualification (EQ) is a systematic approach to ensuring that safety-critical components and systems being manufactured for new nuclear power stations meet the relevant quality standards.

The Nuclear AMRC has commissioned an alliance of nuclear engineering companies to examine the EQ challenges facing the UK’s nuclear new build programme.

The new EQ Alliance comprises Rolls-Royce, Lloyd’s Register, Assystem and Arexis Group. The four companies will work closely with the Nuclear AMRC and industry stakeholders to produce a detailed report on EQ requirements for the UK new build programme, and examine the UK’s current capabilities to meet those requirements.

The report, to be completed in spring 2018, will provide vital strategic guidance to help ensure that UK manufacturers are ready to meet nuclear customer requirements, reducing the risks of new build while maximising the opportunities for the UK supply chain.

Background

Equipment qualification (EQ) is a fundamental requirement of the UK’s approach to safety assessment for nuclear facilities. Nuclear reactor technology vendors and energy utility developers must demonstrate to regulators that any safety-related and safety-critical equipment used in their reactor designs will function correctly and reliably on demand, within the parameters of the site-specific nuclear safety case.

The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) requires that qualification procedures should be in place to confirm that structures, systems and components which are important to safety will perform their required safety functions throughout their operational lives.

The UK’s new build programme is based on overseas reactor designs, with the majority of safety-critical components likely to be manufactured overseas. These will be made to the technical standards prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The ONR, however, takes a goal-based approach to EQ. Nuclear operators will need to demonstrate that their reactor components and systems will operate safely as intended, not just that they meet the prescribed IAEA standards. This approach is intended to drive continual improvements in reactor safety performance, but does make it difficult for operators to definitively demonstrate compliance. This could lead to time and cost over-runs in new build projects.

The EQ Alliance report is intended to help shape UK policy on EQ requirements for nuclear new build projects, and reduce the risk of EQ-related delays.