OBTAINING approval from regulators for new nuclear reactor technology at the proposed plant near Oldbury could take up to four years, the Gazette can reveal.

Hitachi, the firm behind plans for a new power station at Shepperdine, submitted its advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) design for examination, or general design assessment, to the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency this month.

In the wake of the annoucement, Horizon, the company created to see the project through, has opened up about plans at Oldbury and set out its expected timescale.

At a meeting of the recently-shut nuclear power station's stakeholder group last week, Horizon acting commercial director John Gilbert explained the rigorous examination process by independent assessors could take as long as four years.

"We are expecting that the process of general design assessment can take up to four years," he said. "The ABWR has been built in Japan and Taiwan and the technology has been licensed in the USA. Hitachi can demonstrate how it works. In Japan, they’ve built four."

But this does not mean, he said, that the scheme will grind to a halt for four years while the design is being assessed.

"Early development and consenting activities will run in parallel," he said. "We believe we can have our first unit running by first half of the 2020s."

Horizon, a company formed in 2009, by E.ON and RWE npower, was put up for sale by the German firms in March 2012.

After a six-month hiatus in the project, Hitachi took over Horizon and its development projects both in Oldbury and Wylfa on Anglesey in Wales.

Hitachi is hoping to build between two and three ABWR reactors on each site.

Mr Gilbert said the 100-strong staff was getting to know its new parent company.

"We are just beginning to know our colleagues in Japan," he said. "We do actually feel that we are owned by a company that wants to get on with things."