Toshiba prepares for nuclear growth worldwide

25 October 2007

Toshiba will construct a new nuclear power engineering facility in Japan. The announcement came as the company began the process of pursuing design certification for its 4S reactor in the USA.


The new nuclear power engineering facility will be built at the Isogo Nuclear Engineering Centre (IEC) in Yokohama, Toshiba's main engineering centre for its nuclear power business. Construction of the facility is scheduled to begin in February 2008, with completion set by March 2009. With the addition of the new facility, more than 3000 people will be employed at IEC.


Toshiba said the new facility would be equipped with state-of-the-art engineering tools, including advanced computer-aided design (CAD), high-speed massively parallel processing computers and highly secure information networks. The facility will be earthquake-resistant and designed to withstand quakes of up to magnitude 6.8 on the Richter scale.


The IEC facility was built in 1982 and has since been Toshiba's core facility for promoting nuclear power plant engineering work for boiling water reactors (BWRs), fast breeder reactors (FBRs) and the nuclear fuel cycle. The company said that the new facility will "underpin Toshiba's continuing efforts to enhance engineering support for its domestic and overseas nuclear power plant business."


Meanwhile, in the USA, Toshiba has held its first meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding obtaining design certification of its Super-Safe, Small & Simple ('4S') nuclear power reactor. The licence is required to sell and construct the reactor in the USA.


At the 23 October pre-application meeting, Toshiba and the NRC discussed the scope, schedule and resource requirements for a potential pre-application review and subsequent design approval review. At the meeting, NRC staff were given an overall introduction to the 4S reactor design and its safety features. Further pre-application meetings with NRC are scheduled in the next few months. Toshiba is using its Westinghouse subsidiary as liaison with the NRC.


Toshiba said it expects the pre-application review to take approximately two years and that it expects to formally submit the application for design approval in 2009. The company anticipates a construction and operating licence (COL) application to be submitted in about 2012.


Super-safe small and simple...

The 4S design has been jointlydeveloped by Toshiba and Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI). The 4S 'nuclear battery' system uses sodium ascoolant (with electromagnetic pumps) and has passive safety features, notably negative temperature and void reactivity. There are two versions of the 4S design: one producing 10 MWe, the other 50 MWe. The whole reactor unit would be factory-built, transported to site, installed below ground level, and would drive a steam cycle. It is capable of three decades of continuous operation without refuelling. After 30 years the nuclear fuel would be allowed to cool for a year, then it would be removed and shipped for storage or disposal.


The design has gained considerable support in Alaska and toward the end of 2004 the town of Galena granted initial approval for Toshiba to build a 4S reactor in that remote location. The 4S design is sufficiently similar to Prism - General Electric's modular 150 MWe liquid metal-cooled inherently-safe reactor - which went part-way through NRC approval process for it to have good prospects of licensing.

Further information




WNA's Small Nuclear Power Reactors information paper