Japan's Toshiba Corporation has withdrawn an application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to renew design certification (DC) its Toshiba's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The original ABWR DC issued by NRC in 1997 expired in 2012. Toshiba issued an application for DC renewal in 2010, seeking to extend the period of validity following a further design review by NRC. However, falling energy prices in the US mean that Toshiba does not foresee any new opportunities for ABWR construction projects there and sees no need to continue the DC renewal process. Toshiba has accordingly withdrawn the application and says its decision will have no impact on its overall nuclear power business.
The ABWR design was developed jointly by GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, prior to the merger of GE and Hitachi, and is derived from GE's BWR concept. Four units - Kashiwazaki Kariwa units 6 and 7, Hamaoka 5 and Shika 2 - have been built and operated commercially in Japan. ABWRs are now offered in slightly different versions by GE-Hitachi, Hitachi-GE and Toshiba. The NRC issued a final design certification rule for the ABWR in 1997, for a design some aspects of which are proprietary to GE-Hitachi. That certificate expired in 2012.
In February, the NRC issued a combined construction and operating licence (COL) to Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA) for two Toshiba ABWRs at the South Texas Project (STP) NPP. The COL application for STP units 3 and 4 was submitted in 2007 and references the certificate for the GE-Hitachi design. Toshiba's 2010 application to renew the design included revisions to bring the certified design in line with the STP units. GE-Hitachi also submitted an application to renew the design certification of its version of the reactor in 2010.
Development of STP 3 and 4 has looked unlikely since majority shareholder NRG Energy withdrew from the project in 2011. Earlier this year, Toshiba and CB&I terminated a number of agreements originally signed between Shaw Group and Toshiba related to construction of the units, a move Toshiba said would improve the STP investment environment for future investors. Today, Toshiba said the timing of the start of construction "is now under consideration and will not be impacted by the [design certification] withdrawal".
However, Toshiba and Westinghouse Electric Company say they will continue to pursue opportunities for new NPP construction projects in US and will seek opportunities in the global market for the ABWR and the Westinghouse AP1000 advanced pressurized water reactor.