Mitsubishi delays certification of APWR

12 November 2013

Mitsubishi will slow down work to obtain design certification of the Advanced Pressurized Water Reactors (APWR) in the USA. In response, Luminant has suspended its application to build two such units at the Comanche Peak plant in Texas.

US-APWR cutaway (NRC)
A cut-away of the US-APWR design
(Image: NRC)

Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems (MNES) - the US subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) - said that it will "shift its commercial priorities" in the USA starting next year. The company will focus on its services and components business for reactors already in operation. The change in focus comes as MHI "shifts resources and work to secure the restart of the Japanese nuclear power plants."

MNES said that it remains committed to obtaining design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the US-APWR, but it will "continue the activity under an extended schedule."

MHI submitted its application to the NRC in late December 2007 and this was formally accepted in March 2008. MHI subsequently made structural changes to the US-APWR design which required a new seismic analysis. The NRC's review of the design had been due to be completed in September 2015.

Comanche Peak application

Luminant is proposing the 1700 MWe APWR design for units 3 and 4 at the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Texas.

In response to MNES' announcement, Luminant has decided to suspend its application for a combined construction and operating licence (COL) for the Comanche Peak units. The application is dependent on design certification of the APWR. The NRC had earlier said that it expected to make a final decision on the COL in November 2015.

In a statement, Luminant said that Mitsubishi had "informed us that they will materially slow the development of their design control document for their new reactor design by several years." It added that both companies "understand the current economic reality of low Texas power prices driven in large part by the boom in natural gas."

Luminant said it "understands Mitsubishi's decision to reprioritize their resources and their need for nuclear engineering expertise to support their domestic power requirements for restarts. However, it is also prudent to suspend our efforts until more progress can be made on the design control document."

In a letter to the NRC, Luminant said that it had concluded that "it does not make sense to continue to expend Luminant and NRC resources on the COL application review" and that they will "develop a mutually agreeable plan" to suspend it. The company anticipates all review activities to be suspended by the end of March 2014.

Dominion originally selected GE-Hitachi's Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) in 2005 as the favoured technology for the proposed third unit at North Anna plant in Virginia. However, in 2010 the utility said that it had chosen the APWR after failing to negotiate a contract with GE-Hitachi. In April this year, Dominion reverted to GE-Hitachi's ESBWR as the preferred technology.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News