BWRX-300 meets Polish safety requirements, says regulator

24 May 2023

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) technology is compliant with Polish nuclear safety and radiological protection standards, the president of the National Atomic Energy Agency (Państwowa Agencja Atomistyki, PAA) said in a general opinion.

The general opinion (Image: OSGE)

Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) - a joint venture between chemical producers Synthos Green Energy (SGE) and PKN Orlen - submitted an application to the PAA in July 2022 for an assessment of the BWRX-300.

According to the PAA, a general opinion, "as a pre-licence instrument, may apply to any solutions planned by the investor, including design, technological and organisational solutions, which will have a direct impact on the issues of nuclear safety and radiological protection". The opinion aims to determine whether the planned organisational and technical solutions comply with the requirements of nuclear safety and radiological protection resulting from the provisions of the country's Atomic Law Act, or whether the investor should make appropriate modifications.

As part of the works on the opinion, the PAA analysed such aspects of the BWRX-300 technology as hazard identification and reactor protection against internal and external hazards, requirements for the reactor control room, safety containment systems and classification of safety systems, reactor core design requirements and electrical systems. Solutions for control and measurement apparatus, waste and nuclear fuel management systems were also analysed. In total, OSGE submitted documentation covering 13 areas of the BWRX-300 technology.

The technical documentation that OSGE submitted is based on documentation prepared by GEH for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) as part of the Vendor Design Review Phase 1 and Phase 2 process - a pre-license technology review. The CNSC issued a positive decision in March this year, making the BWRX-300 the first SMR to complete such a process in Canada.

In an opinion issued on 23 May, the president of the PAA concludes that the assumptions adopted in the design of the BWRX-300 technology are correct and meet the requirements of Poland's Atomic Law and selected regulations on the safety of nuclear facilities. The conclusions published by the PAA will be taken into account in the standard and detailed design process of the BWRX-300 reactors that are planned to be constructed in Poland.

The PAA president also indicated in the general opinion one technical assumption of the BWRX-300 reactor technology, which must be re-verified before starting the proper administrative process related to obtaining permits.

"The general opinion received by OSGE concerning the BWRX-300 technology is an important first step on the road of licensing works necessary for the construction of GEH's modular nuclear power plants in Poland," said OSGE CEO Rafał Kasprów. "It should be noted that following the technical collaboration agreement signed in Washington in March this year, a complete power plant design based on the BWRX-300 technology - including a nuclear island - is being developed in the US. The project will take into account all regulatory requirements and technical standards required by Polish law."

"The BWRX-300 is the first SMR technology to have completed the general opinion phase of the PAA's rigorous pre-licensing process, an important step in the deployment of this technology in conjunction with OSGE," said Sean Sexstone, executive vice president of advanced nuclear at GEH. "OSGE and GEH will continue dialogue with PAA to evaluate local requirements and look forward to the next steps of regulatory engagement."

In December 2021, GE Hitachi, BWXT Canada and SGE signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate in deploying BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland. SGE, together with its partners, aims to deploy the first BWRX-300 in 2029 and to have at least 10 of the reactors in operation by the early 2030s. In April, OSGE submitted applications to Poland's Ministry of Climate for a decision-in-principle on the construction of power plants based on BWRX-300 SMRs at six locations.

PKN Orlen - which holds holds the exclusive right to use the BWRX-300 in Poland - will announce 13 more locations for SMR plants, the Polish Press Agency reported today. The company's CEO, Daniel Obajtek, said work was under way to assess further locations for SMRs and added that some, after initial analysis, did not qualify "for further steps".

According to the latest survey conducted by IBRiS on behalf of PKN Orlen, 57% of respondents believe that modern nuclear technologies are safe and 58% of respondents consider SMRs as a source of stable energy supply. A similar percentage believe that at least several SMRs are needed in the country and that they should be one of the pillars of Poland's energy transformation. In the towns that have been pre-selected by OSGE as locations for the construction of the first power plants of this type, the approval for investing in an SMR power plant is even higher.

"Small modular reactors are primarily a source of stable, zero-emission and safe energy that will facilitate the energy transformation in Poland," Obajtek said. "The results of the IBRiS survey prove that this is also understood by the majority of Poles who support the SMR technology and would even agree to the construction of such a power plant in their close vicinity. The conducted study is a solid basis for the dialogue that we will want to conduct with local communities in each of the potential locations for such investments."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News