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NRC Quickly Applies New Information to Technical Reviews

When the NRC says we consider new and significant information, we mean it. The latest example came as we were finalizing our review of a design for a new nuclear plant called the Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR).

General Electric-Hitachi asked the NRC to review this new design in August of 2005. We did and issued a final safety evaluation report for the design in March 2011.

Our next step in the process would normally involve giving our Commissioners a draft final rule that would approve (or certify) the ESBWR. But that is not going to happen right now because new information has come to our attention that needs to be closely reviewed.

The new information came to light because of a request by an existing nuclear power plant, Grand Gulf. In September 2010, that plant asked the NRC for permission to, among other things, replace its steam dryer with a version designed using the same methods proposed for the ESBWR. (A steam dryer prevents excess moisture from damaging the plant’s turbine.) As we reviewed Grand Gulf’s request, we asked for more information. After we reviewed that additional information, we realized there were errors in the information we were initially given to determine how the ESBWR steam dryer would react when that design is operating.

Addressing these errors could mean the NRC will have to revise or supplement the safety evaluation report or the applicant might have to revise its design control document. Either of those options would delay a final decision on certifying the design. The agency will discuss this issue with General Electric-Hitachi on Jan. 31 at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md.

Meanwhile, Detroit Edison has asked the NRC for a Combined License to build and operate an ESBWR next to the current Fermi nuclear power plant near Detroit. The agency must come to a final decision on design certification before we can complete our work on that license request.

Scott Burnell
Public Affairs Officer

9 responses to “NRC Quickly Applies New Information to Technical Reviews

  1. borber February 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    “After we reviewed that additional information, we realized there were errors in the information we were initially given to determine how the ESBWR steam dryer would react when that design is operating.” – does it mean that something similar to Chernobyl Catastrophe could happen?!

    • All-American Pressure Canner February 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      How in the world could it take 6 years for the initial review to begin with, and didn’t the original submitters have aTD or something to ensure the information submitted was correct?! I hope they are held accountable for the reprocussions of not disclosing the truth. This is scary. What happens if you approve something based off faulty information and a Chernobyl does happen!!

      • Moderator February 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

        The NRC takes whatever time is necessary to ensure a design is properly analyzed before we decide whether the design is safe for use in the United States. All reactor designers and users must follow quality assurance and control guidelines. In this case, additional information led the NRC to ask more questions before we reach our final decision on the ESBWR.

        Scott Burnell

    • Moderator February 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm

      The ESBWR design completely avoids the circumstances that led to the Chernobyl accident. The issue we’re looking at involves how the steam dryer, a very large metal structure, will vibrate and otherwise respond to the pressures and forces involved when the reactor is operating.

      Scott Burnell

  2. Alliance Tickets February 8, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I’m glad it took 6 years for a final safety report for the design after submitting the plans. How long will it take before it will actually be built

    • Moderator February 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      At this time we continue to review a single application for permission to build an ESBWR. If the NRC finds the design acceptable, our current schedule for the license review expects a final decision late in 2013. If a license is issued, Detroit Edison would need several additional years to build the reactor.

      Scott Burnell

  3. palaceonweb February 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    great information for my wife’s project on Nuclear power. Thanks..

  4. Heribertus February 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Good review and information about nuclear power plant… very nice information to share… thank you… :D

  5. Charles Bell January 30, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    When GGNS started up, the Pressure Reference setpoint initially was 920 psig as best as I can remember Then later its was changed to 950 psig. I wonder if that disparity has anything to do with the problem you are analyzing.

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