GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Estonia’s Fermi Energia last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on potential deployment applications for GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor in Estonia. The companies agreed to examine the economic feasibility of constructing a in Estonia, to review siting requirements and to assess nuclear regulatory requirements, GEH said.
The BWRX-300, a 300MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems, is based on the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) which has been certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Authority. GEH said that, through dramatic design simplification, the BWRX-300 is expected to require up to 60% less capital cost per MWe compared with other water-cooled SMRs or large nuclear reactor designs. “By leveraging the ESBWR design certification, utilising licensed and proven fuel, incorporating proven components and supply chains and implementing simplification innovations, GEH believes that the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas and renewables.”
As the tenth evolution of GE’s first Boiling Water Reactor design, GEH said the BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR since GE began commercialising nuclear reactors in 1955. “Our BWRX-300 small modular reactor is breakthrough technology that is designed to be cost competitive with gas and renewables and we think it represents an ideal solution for Estonia’s carbon-free energy needs,” said Jon Ball, Executive Vice President of Nuclear Plant Projects for GEH. ”
Commenting on the country's energy needs Fermi Energia CEO Kalev Kallemets said: “Estonia needs to consider new generation small nuclear technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality." He added that boiling water reactors have been proven in the Nordics to be safe, economic and reliable providers of carbon-free energy for decades and the design of the BWRX-300 makes it an "investible and highly competitive" technology.
Jon Ball, GEH's vice president of nuclear power plant projects, said the purpose of the agreement is to analyse the economic possibilities of creating a BWRX-300 low-power boiling water reactor, the choice of location and the legal framework of Estonia. Most of the engineering work for the BWRX-300 has taken place at GE Hitachi headquarters in Wilmington, said GEH spokesman Jon Allen. “This work will continue here as we commercialise this technology,” he said.
In May, GE Hitachi announced the BWRX-300 was undergoing vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The US Department of Energy in July 2018 announced it was providing $1.9 million in federal funds toward a GE Hitachi-led project to bring together a team to examine ways to simplify the reactor design, reduce construction costs and lower operations and maintenance costs for the BWRX-300.
In July, after a financing round from investers and shareholders, Fermi Energia began a feasibility study on the suitability of small modular reactors for Estonia’s electricity supply and climate goals beyond 2030. It has chosen four SMR designs to be included in the feasibility study: Moltex Energy SSR-W300, Terrestrial Energy IMSR-400, GE Hitachi BWRX-300 and NuScale SMR. Fermi Energia plans to publish the feasibility study in January 2020. “We anticipate the study will reinforce that this technology is an ideal solution for Estonia’s energy needs,” Allen said.