Toshiba withdraws ABWR certification application

01 July 2016

Japan's Toshiba Corporation has withdrawn its application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to renew the design certification for its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), saying it does not expect any new opportunities to build the reactor in the USA.

Toshiba's ABWR (Image: Toshiba)

Toshiba said, "As it has become increasingly clear that energy price declines in the US prevent Toshiba from expecting additional opportunities for ABWR construction projects there, Toshiba has determined that it is no longer necessary to continue the [design certification] renewal process. Toshiba has accordingly withdrawn the application." The decision would have no impact on Toshiba's overall nuclear power business, it added.

The NRC's design certification process determines whether a reactor design meets US safety requirements, independent of any specific site or plan to build. It is a required step before a reactor design can be built in the USA, as it can be referenced in construction and operation licence (COL) applications for specific reactor projects. Design certification is valid for 15 years from the date of issuance but can be renewed for a period of ten to 15 years.

The ABWR design was developed jointly by GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, prior to the merger of GE and Hitachi, and is derived from GE's BWR concept. Four units - Kashiwazaki Kariwa units 6 and 7, Hamaoka 5 and Shika 2 - have been built and operated commercially in Japan. ABWRs are now offered in slightly different versions by GE-Hitachi, Hitachi-GE and Toshiba. The NRC issued a final design certification rule for the ABWR in 1997, for a design some aspects of which are proprietary to GE-Hitachi. That certificate expired in 2012.

In February, the NRC issued a combined construction and operating licence (COL) to Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA) for two Toshiba ABWRs at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear power plant in Matagorda County, Texas. The COL application for STP units 3 and 4 was submitted in 2007 and references the certificate for the GE-Hitachi design. Toshiba's 2010 application to renew the design included revisions to bring the certified design in line with the STP units. GE-Hitachi also submitted an application to renew the design certification of its version of the reactor in 2010.

Development of STP 3 and 4 has looked unlikely since majority shareholder NRG Energy withdrew from the project in 2011. Earlier this year, Toshiba and CB&I terminated a number of agreements originally signed between Shaw Group and Toshiba related to construction of the units, a move Toshiba said would improve the STP investment environment for future investors. Today, Toshiba said the timing of the start of construction "is now under consideration and will not be impacted by the [design certification] withdrawal".

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News