GEH begins US licensing process for BWRX-300 SMR

3 February 2020

Cutaway of the BWRX-300 (Credit: GEH)US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) said on 30 January that it had begun the US licensing process for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR).

GEH, an alliance between US GE and Japan’s Hitachi, said it had submitted the first licensing topical report (LTR) for the BWRX-300 to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on 30 December 2019.

“GEH expects such LTRs to serve as a foundation for the development of a Preliminary Safety Analysis Report that could potentially be submitted to the NRC by a utility customer,” the company said.

GHE added that submission of the LTR marks a “significant milestone in the commercialisation” of the BWRX-300.

Jon Ball, executive vice president of Nuclear Products for GEH said the company had set an “aggressive timeline” to commercialise the technology.

“As the global demand for carbon-free energy increases, we are seeing significant interest in this groundbreaking SMR technology and are excited about continuing to work toward US licensing,” Ball said.

The BWRX-300 is the 10th evolution of the GE’s boiling water reactor (BWR) technology, which GEH said represents “the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began developing nuclear reactors in 1955.”

The BWRX-300 design is based on the 1520MWe Generation 3+ Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), which the NRC certified in 2014.

By leveraging existing ESBWR design certification, using licensed nuclear fuel designs, and incorporating proven components and supply chains, GEH believes the BWRX-300 can “become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas plants and renewable energy platforms”.

The BWRX-300 SMR is designed to provide flexible baseload power that is estimated to have “the lifecycle costs of typical natural gas combined-cycle plants." GEH has said it is targeting $2000/kW for nth-of-a-kind implementations of the technology.

Compared with the ESBWR, the BWRX-300 achieves about a 90% volume deduction in plant layout, GEH said. Notably, the reactor is designed to reduce building volume by about 50% per megawatt, which “should account for 50% less concrete per megawatt.” As a result, the BWRX-300 will “significantly improve the next generation of reactors due to its affordability and advantageous size,” GEH said.

As a smart reactor, BWRX-300 uses natural circulation and passive cooling isolation condenser systems to promote simple and safe operating rhythms.

In March 2019, GEH submitted an application for a service agreement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to conduct a vendor design review of the BWRX-300. The CNSC review was initiated in May.

Photo: Cutaway of the BWRX-300 (Credit: GEH)

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