US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are teaming up with Canada’s Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Poland’s Synthos Green Energy (SGE) to advance global deployment of the GEH BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR).
The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s ESBWR which has US Nuclear Regulatory Commission certification. As a result of design simplification, GEH claims the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW compared with other SMR designs. GEH says the BWRX-300 is being designed to reduce construction and operating costs below other nuclear power generation technologies. It will leverage a combination of existing fuel, plant simplifications, proven components as well as a design based on an already licensed reactor.
TVA, OPG and SGE will invest in the development of the BWRX-300 standard design and detailed design for key components, including reactor pressure vessel and internals. GEH says it is committed to standard design development and anticipates a total investment of around $400m associated with the development. Each party will fund a share of GEH's overall cost and together will form a Design Centre Working Group to ensure the standard design is deployable in multiple jurisdictions. The long-term goal is for the BWRX-300 design to be licensed and deployed in Canada, the USA and Poland as well as globally.
The agreement came a few days after Ontario-based BWX Technologies (BWXT) was awarded an engineering contract by GEH for the BWRX-300 reactor pressure vessel (RPV). Earlier in March, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) completed a combined phases 1&2 vendor design review (VDR) of the BWRX-300. The VDR is an optional service provided by CNSC at the request of a vendor and does not involve issuance of a licence, or influence subsequent CNSC decisions.
GEH President & CEO Jay Wileman said the new collaboration “will offer benefits to each of the team members and demonstrates confidence in the role that our SMR technology will play in helping nations meet decarbonisation and energy security goals. Building on our design-to-cost approach, this collaboration will further strengthen the cost competitiveness of the BWRX-300."
TVA President & CEO Jeff Lyash said: "Working together, we are taking intentional steps to advance new nuclear in the US and around the world. TVA is leading the way for the nation by investing and helping to shape the standard design of the GEH BWRX-300, which will add more reliable, resilient, affordable and clean energy on the grid."
The BWRX-300 has drawn interest from a number of key companies, including those involved in the new collaboration. In February, Estonia's Fermi Energia selected the BWRX-300 for potential deployment by the early 2030s and expects to sign a project development and preliminary works contract with GEH. In January, GEH, OPG, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon signed a contract for the deployment of a BWRX-300 SMR at OPG's Darlington site. In August 2022, TVA began planning and preliminary licensing for potential deployment of a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site in Tennessee. Canada's SaskPower in June 2022 selected the BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s.
GEH says site preparation is now underway for a BWRX-300 at OPG's Darlington New Nuclear Project site in Clarington, Ontario, with construction expected to be complete by the end of 2028. TVA is preparing a construction permit application for a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge and is exploring additional sites in the TVA service area for potential SMR deployment. ORLEN Synthos Green Energy (OSGE), a joint venture between SGE and PKN Orlen, and its partners have started the pre-licensing process in Poland by submitting an application to the National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the BWRX-300. OSGE has initiated a site selection process for its proposed first BWRX-300 and intends to deploy this first unit by the end of this decade with the future potential for a fleet of BWRX-300s.
"Nuclear power will play a key role in meeting increasing clean electricity needs in Ontario and beyond, which is why OPG is constructing North America's first grid-scale SMR at the Darlington New Nuclear Project site," said OPG President & CEO Ken Hartwick.
Rafal Kasprów, CEO of Synthos Green Energy said: "For the first time ever, a private Polish company is investing in a design for nuclear power plants. We do this because GE Hitachi's state-of-the-art modular technology is simply ideal for decarbonising energy and heat production in Poland, and also for our other zero emission projects in the United Kingdom and throughout Central Europe."
US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said the partnership was a model for "precisely the kind of first-mover visionary private investment-driven effort" needed to drive deployment at scale. "It takes a lot of dollars to make real change happen, and the federal government can't provide all of those dollars. Our one dollar needs to turn into trillions of dollars on the private side, and this group of individuals is doing just that," she said.
US Department of Energy (DOE) recently published the first of its Commercial Liftoff reports, to support dialogue with the private sector on the pathways to "commercial lift-off" for a range of technologies including advanced nuclear. "This partnership is precisely what will result in commercial lift-off for small modular reactors which DOE is really excited about as a technology," Huff noted.
Image: From L-R - Jay Wileman, GEH; Jeff Lyash, TVA; Ken Hartwick, OPG; and Rafal Kasprów, SGE at the signing ceremony (courtesy of TVA)