Canadian pre-licensing review starts for BWRX-300

22 May 2019

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has initiated a vendor design review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor.

A cutaway of the BWRX-300 reactor design (Image: GEH)

The CNSC's pre-licensing vendor design review is an optional service to provide an assessment of a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor's reactor technology. It is not a required part of the licensing process for a new nuclear power plant, but aims to verify the acceptability of a design with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations.

The review involves three phases: a pre-licensing assessment of compliance with regulatory requirements; an assessment of any potential fundamental barriers to licensing; and a follow-up phase allowing the vendor to respond to findings from the second phase. These findings will be taken into account in any subsequent construction licence application, increasing the efficiency of technical reviews, according to the CNSC. The duration of each review is estimated based on the vendor's proposed schedule. A Phase 1 review typically takes 12–18 months and a Phase 2 review takes 24 months.

GEH submitted its application in March this year for a service agreement with the CNSC to conduct a vendor design review of the BWRX-300. A service agreement is a legal document that establishes the terms and conditions between the CNSC and a reactor vendor.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe small modular reactor (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 in 2014.

In July last year, GEH announced it is to receive USD1.9 million in funding from the US Department of Energy to lead research into ways to efficiently building a power plant based on its BWRX-300. The research team includes Bechtel, Exelon, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 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.

"We are designing the BWRX-300 small modular reactor to be cost competitive with gas and renewables," said Jon Ball, executive vice president of nuclear plant projects for GEH. "This review is an important step in the commercialisation of this breakthrough technology."

According to Wilmington, North Carolina based GEH, "As the tenth evolution of the boiling water reactor, the BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began developing nuclear reactors in 1955."

Established in 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry.

A number of SMR designs are currently undergoing vendor design reviews by the CNSC. Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor was the first advanced reactor to complete the first phase of the CNSC's regulatory pre-licensing review in November 2017.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News