GE Hitachi enters federal licensing process for new small modular nuclear reactor design
At the end of 2019, GE Hitachi submitted its first licensing topical report to the NRC, kicking off a regulatory review that the company says in a statement could be a “foundation” for a preliminary safety analysis report that a utility interested in using the BWRX-300 could submit to the NRC.
GE Hitachi next intends to send more topical reports to the NRC as a precursor for “utility-led applications for a construction permit and operating license,” a GE Hitachi spokesperson said in an email to Utility Dive.
Unlike other proposed but not yet approved reactor designs that use a fundamentally different type of nuclear technology, SMRs are light-water reactor designs similar to the power reactors operating today. But at 300 MW, the BWRX-300 is a fraction of the power capacity of conventional power reactors.
The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2, the only new nuclear power reactor to begin operating in the U.S. in decades, is over 1,100 MW. Watts Bar 2’s long construction history was marked by multiple delays and cost overruns. Ballooning costs to build new reactors at the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina led to the project being abandoned.
SMR developers like GE Hitachi and NuScale claim that the use of passive safety systems and simpler construction methods will allow their smaller reactors to be built and operated at significantly lower costs per MWh compared to their bigger brothers.
Oregon-based NuScale Power submitted its 12,000-page application for certification of its SMR design at the end of 2016. This September, the NRC plans to release a final safety evaluation report (SER) for NuScale.
“The Final SER, once issued, will represent approval by the NRC staff of our SMR design, and NuScale can begin commercializing its technology,” NuScale spokesperson Diane Hughes said in an email to Utility Dive.
“NuScale remains the first and only small modular technology in the world to undergo design certification review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” Hughes said.