Polish regulator gives positive opinion on BWRX-300

25 May 2023

The president of Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA - Panstwowa Agencja Atomistyki) has issued a general opinion that GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) technology complies with Polish nuclear safety and radiological protection standards.

Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) – a joint venture between chemical producers Synthos Green Energy (SGE) and PKN Orlen – applied to the PAA for an assessment in July 2022. The opinion aims to determine whether the planned organisational and technical solutions comply with the requirements of nuclear safety and radiological protection resulting from the provisions of the country's Atomic Law Act, or whether the investor should make appropriate modifications. OSGE submitted documentation covering 13 areas of the BWRX-300 technology.

According to the PAA, a general opinion, "as a pre-licence instrument, may apply to any solutions planned by the investor, including design, technological and organisational solutions, which will have a direct impact on the issues of nuclear safety and radiological protection".

PAA analysed various aspects of the BWRX-300 technology including hazard identification and reactor protection against internal and external hazards, requirements for the reactor control room, safety containment systems and classification of safety systems, reactor core design requirements and electrical systems. Solutions for control and measurement apparatus, waste and nuclear fuel management systems were also analysed.

The technical documentation submitted by OSGE was based on documentation prepared by GEH for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) as part of the Vendor Design Review Phase 1 and Phase 2 process - a pre-licence technology review. The BWRX-300 became the first SMR to complete such a process in Canada when CNSC issued a positive decision in March.

Despite the positive opinion, the PAA president identified one technical assumption of the BWRX-300 reactor technology, which needs to be re-verified before starting the proper administrative process related to obtaining permits. OSGE CEO Rafal Kasprów, nevertheless, said the general opinion “is an important first step on the road of licensing works necessary for the construction of GEH's modular nuclear power plants in Poland”. He added: "It should be noted that following the technical collaboration agreement signed in Washington in March this year, a complete power plant design based on the BWRX-300 technology – including a nuclear island – is being developed in the US. The project will take into account all regulatory requirements and technical standards required by Polish law."

Sean Sexstone, executive vice president of advanced nuclear at GEH said the BWRX-300 “is the first SMR technology to have completed the general opinion phase of the PAA's rigorous pre-licensing process, an important step in the deployment of this technology in conjunction with OSGE”. Dialogue with PAA will continue to evaluate local requirements with a view to the next regulatory steps.

In December 2021, GE Hitachi, BWXT Canada and SGE signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate in deploying BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland. The aim is to deploy the first BWRX-300 in 2029 and to have at least 10 of the reactors in operation by the early 2030s. In April, OSGE submitted applications to Poland's Ministry of Climate for a decision-in-principle on the construction of power plants based on BWRX-300 SMRs at six locations.

PKN Orlen – which holds the exclusive right to use the BWRX-300 in Poland is to announce 13 more locations for SMR plants. President Daniel Obalytek said: “We are obviously analysing more places, it is a matter of geological surveys.”

Image: BWRX-300 (courtesy of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy)

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