The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given final design approval for Westinghouse Nuclear’s AP600 advanced ‘passive’ reactor design. The action takes Westinghouse one step closer to winning certification of the AP600 design, which requires a regulatory rulemaking and period of public comment.
“Approval of Westinghouse’s AP600 completes the nuclear industry’s drive to engineer standardised, next-generation nuclear plant designs that will compete in world and US markets and maintain America’s global leadership in safe, clean nuclear-energy technology,” NRC Chairman Shirley Jackson said at a FDA award ceremony in Washington, DC on 11 September. Two larger advanced nuclear power plants have already won approval from the NRC – General Electric’s ABWR and ABB Combustion Engineering’s System 80+.
Once the NRC certifies the AP600, a US buyer could apply for a combined permit to build and operate the reactor, thus avoiding the time and expense of the old two-step US licensing process. A prospective buyer could also obtain advance approval of a planned site where the reactor would be built. No US utility has yet applied for such site approval.