The US Department of Energy (DOE) funding of $1,925,038 granted to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) recently – one of nine projects receiving almost $20m in funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies – will be used for the development of a power plant based on GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR).

In May, GEH announced that US utility Dominion Energy would provide an undisclosed amount of funding to develop the BWRX-300. GEH said this provided "seed money" to further work that could lead to commercialisation of the technology, although Dominion has no plan to build the reactor at any of its commercial nuclear plants.

The BWRX-300 is a 300MWe SMR developed from GEH's 1520MWe Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), certified the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2014.  GEH said BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the ESBWR and estimates that the BWRX-300 would require more than 50% less concrete and steel on a per MW basis.

Jon Ball, executive vice president of nuclear plant projects at GEH welcomed “continued industry collaboration to develop the BWRX-300, a potentially game-changing technology”. He added: "We have assembled a strong team of experts in nuclear plant design, construction methods and plant operations, with the goal of developing a clean energy solution that is cost-competitive with combined cycle gas generation and renewables."

The BWRX-300 research team includes Bechtel, Exelon, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy (HGNE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It will investigate ways to simplify the reactor design, reduce construction costs, and reduce operations and maintenance costs for the BWRX-300. “Through design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require up to 60% less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMRs or existing large nuclear designs,” GEH said. “If these savings can be achieved, the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas and renewables.”

Senior vice president of the Global Business Development & Management Division for HGNE, Masahito Yoshimura, noted that BWRX-300 is the "ultimate simplification of the boiling water reactor which already had the intrinsic advantage of the direct steam cycle."