GEH receives federal funds for BWRX-300 development

17 July 2018

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is to receive USD1.9 million in funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to lead research into ways to efficiently building a power plant based on GE Hitachi's BWRX-300 small modular reactor. The research team includes Bechtel, Exelon, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy (HGNE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The team will examine ways to simplify the reactor design, reduce plant construction costs, and lower operations and maintenance costs for the BWRX-300. The research aims to identify ways to reduce plant completion costs by 40-60% compared with other SMR designs in development. This, GEH says, would make it cost-competitive with combined cycle gas and renewables.

Last week, the DOE announced it had selected nine projects to receive almost USD20 million in funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies. The GEH-led project is to receive USD1,925,038 in DOE funding, it said. These awards were the second group selected under a DOE Office of Nuclear Energy's funding opportunity for cost-shared projects to develop innovative, industry-driven reactor designs and accompanying technologies with high potential to advance nuclear power in the USA.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe SMR derived from GEH's 1520 MWe Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design. According to GEH, the BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the ESBWR, which received design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2014. GEH estimates that, compared with the ESBWR, the BWRX-300 would feature more than 50% less concrete and steel on a per MW basis.

"We are excited to announce our continued industry collaboration to develop the BWRX-300, a potentially game changing technology," said Jon Ball, executive vice president of nuclear plant projects for GEH. "We have assembled a strong team of experts in nuclear plant design, construction methods and plant operations, with the goal of developing a clean energy solution that is cost-competitive with combined cycle gas generation and renewables."

Marilyn Kray, vice president of nuclear technology and strategy for Exelon Generation, said: "Our participation in the BWRX-300 effort affirms our commitment to a strong and successful future for customers who expect clean forms of energy. As the nation's largest source of zero-emission energy, nuclear is critical to achieving the clean energy goals of our customers and communities, and must continue to be part of the US energy mix."

"The BWRX-300 is the ultimate simplification of the boiling water reactor which already had the intrinsic advantage of the direct steam cycle," said Masahito Yoshimura, senior vice president of the Global Business Development & Management Division for HGNE. "We will contribute to this exciting project by bringing our advanced manufacturing and construction expertise, instrumental in completing our Japanese nuclear power plant projects on schedule and on budget, as well as our recently enhanced engineering capabilities developed for our UK ABWR project."

Jacopo Buongiorno, Tepco professor and associate head of MIT's Nuclear Science and Engineering Department, said: "It's an imperative of the nuclear industry to reduce the cost of deploying new plants." He added, "In this project, Professor Franz-Josef Ulm from MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and I will work with GE Hitachi to design a new small modular nuclear reactor that adopts advanced concrete solutions and innovative construction techniques."

In May, GEH announced that US utility Dominion Energy would provide funding for development of the BWRX-300. The size of that funding was not disclosed. At that time, GEH said Dominion's funding provided "seed money" to further work that could lead to commercialisation of the technology, but noted that Dominion "has no plan at this time" to build the reactor at any of its commercial nuclear plants.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News