ESBWR passes US safety test

27 October 2010

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's next-generation reactor model, the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), has passed a crucial safety review performed by an advisory committee for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

GE-Hitachi ESBWR
GE-Hitachi ESBWR

Completion of this review clears a key hurdle in the company’s bid for design certification of the ESBWR, which now begins the federal rulemaking process. This sets the stage for final NRC certification by the fall of 2011.

In its 20 October 2010 letter, the NRC’s independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) issued its safety recommendation for the ESBWR design, which is required before a new reactor technology can achieve final certification. From this point, the process takes approximately one calendar year to complete, thus keeping to the NRC’s schedule. As a result, GEH’s technology is on target to become a certified “Generation III+” reactor model. GE submitted the ESBWR to the NRC in August 2005.

GEH and Michigan utility DTE Energy are collaborating on a potential ESBWR project adjacent to its existing Fermi 2 nuclear plant, 35 miles south of Detroit. The NRC is currently reviewing the utility’s license application for the proposed “Fermi Unit 3.” DTE Energy, which operates Detroit Edison, Michigan's largest electric utility, has not yet made a decision to proceed with construction of the new reactor.

GEH offers utility customers what it believes is the most complete portfolio of NRC-certified reactor models. The ESBWR is an evolutionary design based on GEH's 1,350-MWe advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), certified by the NRC (in 1997). GEH intends to renew its ABWR certification for an additional 15 years beyond 2012.

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