Japan's Toshiba has signed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) at the South Texas Project (STP).
|An artist's impression of how STP 3 and 4 could look (Image: STPNOC)
Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corp - a US-based subsidiary of Toshiba - signed the agreement with STP Nuclear Operating Co (STPNOC), operator of the STP plant. STPNOC was acting as agent for Nuclear Innovation North America LLC (Nina) and CPS Energy. Nina was formed last year as an ABWR nuclear development company jointly owned by NRG Energy and Toshiba.
Toshiba signed a project services agreement in 2007 for STP units 3 and 4, under which the company is carrying out key pre-engineering work and procuring major components with long lead times. In March 2008, Toshiba was selected by NRG and CPS Energy to be the prime contractor for the development of STP units 3 and 4. Toshiba said that its Westinghouse subsidiary is also expected to participate in the project.
The ABWR design is already in use at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (Tepco's) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, where two units started up in 1996 and 1997. Another is at Chubu Electric Power Company's Hamaoka site and two more are under construction at Lungmen on Taiwan.
The ABWR was developed jointly by GE, Toshiba and Hitachi, following on from GE's development of the BWR concept in the 1950s. The three firms partnered for build at Kashiwazaki Kariwa and Lungmen and now both GE-Hitachi (which merged their nuclear businesses in 2007) and Toshiba assert the right to build ABWRs. However, GE-Hitachi owns the very specific design certified for use in the USA by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
In September 2007, NRG and STPNOC filed with the NRC the first full application for a combined construction and operating licence (COL) for two 1358 MWe GE-Hitachi ABWRs to come on line in 2014-15 at the STP site. Nina intends to use the certified design, with a limited number of changes it said would enhance safety and construction schedules, and to file a revision to the original COL application. NRG said it believes that "the modest delay in licensing that is expected as a result of these revisions will be outweighed by the advantages the changes create in price and schedule certainty." Given the revisions to the COL application, NRG anticipates STP units 3 and 4 will come online in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Yasuharu Igarashi, Toshiba's vice president, said: "We are very pleased to take our involvement in the STP units 3 and 4 projects to the next level." He added, "We look forward to working closely with STPNOC through our US subsidiary, and to establishing the ABWR as a key power generation option in the US."
The South Texas Project currently consists of two pressurized water reactors (PWRs), which together produce some 2700 MWe. The reactors were brought online in August 1988 and June 1989. The facility is operated by STPNOC and owned by NRG Texas (44%), CPS Energy (40%) and Austin Energy (16%).