GE Hitachi SMR reaches U.S. licensing milestone

December 2, 2020, 12:00PMNuclear News

A cutaway view of the BWRX-300. Image: GE Hitachi Nuclear

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final safety evaluation report for the first of several licensing topical reports (LTR) submitted by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for the BWRX-300 small modular reactor, the company announced on December 1.

The initial LTR, titled “BWRX-300 Reactor Pressure Vessel Isolation and Overpressure Protection,” was submitted to the NRC in December 2019, officially beginning the U.S. licensing process. This LTR forms the basis for the “dramatic simplification” of the BWRX-300, according to GEH.

In its announcement, GEH noted that two additional LTRs were submitted in early 2020 and that it anticipates reviews of those reports to be completed in the coming months. A fourth LTR was submitted in September 2020, the company added.

What they’re saying: “Obtaining NRC approval of the specific innovations that simplify the BWRX-300 design is a major milestone in our efforts to license this game-changing technology,” said Jay Wileman, president and chief executive officer of GEH. “The BWRX-300 will leverage much of the existing licensing basis of the NRC-certified ESBWR, and this LTR will accelerate our commercialization efforts as we remain laser focused on making the first SMR operational later this decade.”

Background: An evolution of GEH’s 1,520-MWe Generation III+ ESBWR (approved by the NRC in 2014), the BWRX-300 is a 300-MWe water-cooled, natural-circulation SMR with passive safety systems. As a result of its design simplification, GEH expects the BWRX-300 to require significantly lower capital costs per MW than other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs, the company said.

In case you missed it: GEH has made a number of announcements over the past 18 months regarding the BWRX-300, including the following:

May 2019—GEH announces the start of a vendor design review of the BWRX-300 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

October 2019—GEH and Fermi Energia agree to collaborate on potential deployment applications for the BWRX-300 in Estonia. Also, GEH joins with Synthos SA to collaborate on potential deployment applications for the BWRX-300 in Poland.

February 2020—GEH and ČEZ sign a memorandum of understanding to examine the economic and technical feasibility of potentially building a BWRX-300 in the Czech Republic. Also, GEH makes its first submittal to the CNSC for the BWRX-300 vendor design review.

May 2020—The Department of Energy announces awards to two teams of industry experts (led by GE Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to develop tools to transform the operations and maintenance of advanced nuclear reactors through the use of artificial intelligence–enabled digital twins, using the BWRX-300 as a reference design.

October 2020—GEH announces that it will work with Ontario Power Generation on the potential deployment of SMRs in Ontario, including the BWRX-300. GEH also announces that Synthos Green Energy has initiated discussions with Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency regarding a potential BWRX-300 project.

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