Westinghouse launches AP300 small modular reactor

10 May 2023

US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has submitted its pre-application Regulatory Engagement Plan with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its recently launched AP300 small modular reactor (SMR). Westinghouse claims it is the only SMR “truly based on an Nth-of-a-kind operating plant” and describes it as a “game-changer”. The 300 MWe single-loop pressurised water reactor is a scaled-down version of its AP1000.

It will utilise identical AP1000 technology, to include major equipment, structural components, passive safety, proven fuel, and I&C systems. Westinghouse says the AP300 “will bring to bear a mature supply chain, constructability lessons learned, fast load-follow capabilities and proven O&M procedures and best practices from 18 reactor years of safe AP1000 operations.”

The advanced passive safety system “automatically achieves safe shutdown without operator action and eliminates the need for backup power and cooling supply”. This also directly translates into a simplified design, lower CAPEX and smaller footprint. Like the AP1000, the AP300 is designed to operate for an 80+ year life cycle.

Westinghouse notes that the Gen III+ technology has regulatory approval in the US, the UK and China, as well as compliance with European Utility Requirements (EUR) standards for NPPs. “Design certification is anticipated by 2027, followed by site specific licensing and construction on the first unit toward the end of the decade.”

Westinghouse President & CEO Patrick Fragman said it is “the only SMR offering available that is based on deployed, operating and advanced reactor technology”. He added: "It is using the DNA of the AP1000 in terms of technology." It “has unique advantages in terms of robustness of the safety case, simplicity of the design, with huge implications in terms of costs and time to construct and obviously an ease of deployment because, with the AP1000 being already deployed, the AP300 SMR will leverage the existing supply chain, the existing design, the existing licensing pedigree". Fragman described it as “no more and no less than an AP1000 with one loop instead of two loops”. This means it is reusing a majority of components, systems, equipment. “The fuel is identical, the constructability lessons are identical," he said.

Dr Rita Baranwal, currently Westinghouse Chief Technology Officer, has been named as Senior Vice President in the Energy Systems business unit and will lead the team developing the AP300 SMR. Baranwal is a former Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy at the US Department of Energy and was director of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative at Idaho National Laboratory.

Currently, the AP1000 is not licensed or operating anywhere in Europe. In the USA, two AP1000 reactors are under construction at the Vogle NPP (units 3&4) in Georgia. Unit 3 was finally connected to the grid in April and unit 4 is nearing completion. However, both are significantly delayed and overbudget. When construction began in 2009 they were expected to cost about $14bn and to enter service in 2016 and 2017. Cost has more than doubled.

Two Westinghouse AP1000 units are in operation at each of China’s Sanmen and Haiyang NPPs after some delays and two CAP1000 units, the Chinese version of the AP1000, are being built as the second phase at each station. The proposed construction of four CAP1000 reactors (units 1-4) at China’s Lufeng NPP was approved by the National Development & Reform Commission but has not yet received State Council approval. Plans to build further AP1000 units in China, however, have been dropped in favour of Chinese Hualong-One units.

Westinghouse has, meanwhile, been lobbying hard in former Eastern European countries. As a result, AP1000 units have recently been selected in Poland and are being considered by Bulgaria, while nine others are planned in Ukraine.

As to SMRs, the AP300 may face stiff competition. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) most recent edition of its biennial IAEA booklet, Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments provides data on SMRs around the world, including detailed descriptions of 83 reactors under development or construction in 18 countries.

IAEA notes in its introduction: “Several major milestones have been reached in SMR technology deployment. The Akademik Lomonosov floating power unit in the Russian Federation with two-module KLT-40S was connected to the grid in December 2019 and started commercial operation in May 2020. The HTR-PM demonstrator in China was connected to the grid in December 2021 and is expected to reach full power operation by the end of 2022. The CAREM25 in Argentina is under construction and is expected to reach first criticality in 2026. The construction of ACP100 in China started in July 2021 and is targeted to start commercial operation by the end of 2026. The construction of BREST-OD-300 in Russian Federation began in June 2021 and is also planned to be completed in 2026. The NuScale Power Module in the United States has received Standard Design Approval from US NRC in September 2020. The NRC has directed to issue a final rule that certifies NuScale’s SMR design for use in the United States.”

Image: Westinghouse SMR CGR realisation (courtesy of Westinghouse)

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