Closing In on Finishing the ESBWR Design Review

Michael Mayfield
Director, Advanced Reactor and Rulemaking Program
 

After a lot of technical discussions, the NRC is ready to take the next step in considering whether GE-Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor meets our standards for U.S. use.

esbwrWe’ve been reviewing this new reactor design for several years. This design includes new types of safety systems that would use gravity to direct cooling water into the core during an emergency, even when electrical power is lost. Our review path took a major turn in 2011.

In March of that year we issued our technical conclusions on the design. The NRC then drafted a regulation that would approve the ESBWR, but later in 2011, we received additional information related to the steam dryer design that made us pause. (The steam dryer prevents excess moisture from damaging the plant’s turbine.)

We spent 2012 and 2013 making sure we had all the necessary information from GE-Hitachi on the ESBWR steam dryer design.  We’ve completed the review of the additional steam dryer design information and now have what we need to complete the design certification.

The NRC expects to seek public comment on a supplemental proposed certification rule next month and to send a draft final rule to the five-member Commission in July. This process could lead to final certification of the ESBWR later this year.

Utilities interested in new reactors can reference NRC-certified designs to simplify parts of their license reviews. The utilities applying for licenses to build ESBWRs, Detroit Edison in Michigan and Dominion in Virginia, will have to update their applications to account for any changes to the design.

Our letter to GE-Hitachi on these developments is available in the NRC’s electronic document database.