GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design has been certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), after a nine-year review process.

"The commission’s action acknowledges the finding by NRC staff that the ESBWR design meets all safety and regulatory requirements," GEH said.

The ESBWR is a 4500 MWt (1594 MWe) reactor, which uses natural circulation for normal operation and has passive safety features.

GEH submitted its application for ESBWR certification to the NRC in August 2005; NRC issued a final safety evaluation report (FSER) and final design approval for the ESBWR in March 2011, but later supplemented the draft certification rule in May 2014 to account for changes in analysis of the design’s steam dryer. The NRC said it received no comments on the supplemental rule.

The final ESBWR design certification rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register by the end of September, and will go into effect 30 days after publication.

Two combined licence applications referencing ESBWR technology are currently pending with the NRC. Detroit Edison Company is seeking a licence for Fermi Unit 3 in Monroe County, Michigan, while Dominion is seeking a licence for North Anna Unit 3 in Louisa County, Virgina. Licences from the NRC are expected in 2015 for Fermi 3, and 2016 for North Anna, according to GEH.

GEH says that in addition to US projects the design certification also paves the way for the ESBWR to be built in other locations around the globe.

"Achieving design certification means the ESBWR, the world’s safest reactor, can now become reality," said Caroline Reda, president and CEO of GEH. "Design certification will not only benefit our US customers, it marks a crucial step forward for the ESBWR’s commercial advancement globally."

Key global commercial projects include Finland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Vietnam and others, GEH says.

Photo: ESBWR cut-away (Source: GEH)