New Projects, News, Nuclear, Reactors

GE Hitachi nuclear venture enters NRC licensing phase for small modular reactor design

Photo courtesy GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

The next generation of nuclear energy, which is striving to keep the carbon-free thermal generation source relevant vs. gas-fired turbines and renewables, just got a little more competitive in its own field.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) earlier announced it was starting the regulatory licensing process for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor. The move joins efforts by U.S.-based NuScale Power and other global firms on developing SMRs which theoretically will be less expensive to build and operate than conventional reactor facilities.

GEH revealed that it submitted the first licensing topical report (LTR) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the end of last year. GEH expects such LTRs to serve as a foundation for the development of a Preliminary Safety Analysis Report that could potentially be submitted to the NRC by a utility customer.

“Embarking on the U.S. licensing process is a significant milestone in the commercialization of the BWRX-300,” said Jon Ball, executive vice president of Nuclear Products for GEH. “The first licensing topical report was submitted to the NRC at the end of 2019 as part of an aggressive timeline that we set for ourselves. As the global demand for carbon-free energy increases, we are seeing significant interest in this groundbreaking SMR technology and are excited about continuing to work toward U.S. licensing.” 

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MW water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. Through design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.

According to its website page, the GEH BWRX-300 would achieve a 90-percent volume deduction in plant layout compared to the ESBWR. The SMR would reduce building volume by 50 percent and approximately 50 percent less concrete per MW.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilizing licensed and proven nuclear fuel designs, incorporating proven components and supply chains and implementing simplification innovations the BWRX-300 can, GEH believes, become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas plants and renewable energy platforms.

As the tenth evolution of GE’s first Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) design, GEH says that its BWRX-300 represents the “simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began commercializing nuclear reactors in 1955.”

Nearly three years ago, GEH and Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC announced an agreement to collaborate in the development and licensing of advanced SMRS based on Generation IV sodium-cooled reactor technology. GEH and ARC Nuclear have each developed advanced reactor designs based on the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and operated successfully for more than 30 years at Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Portland, Oregon-based NuScale Power is deep into NRC licensing for its SMR designs. The company has garnered support from EPC firms such as Sargent & Lundy and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]m).

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