GE Hitachi Starts Licensing Small Modular Nuclear Reactor

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has officially started the regulatory licensing process for its BWRX-300 reactor design. On 30 December, the company submitted the first licensing topical report for the small modular reactor to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).


* Will be price competitive with natural gas
* Small Reactor projects will be $1-2 billion instead of $10+ billion for large reactors

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe 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 NRC in 2014. It will leverage the existing ESBWR design certification, and uses licensed and proven nuclear fuel designs, incorporating proven components and supply chains, and implementing simplification innovations, the BWRX-300 can, become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas plants and renewable energy platforms.

26 thoughts on “GE Hitachi Starts Licensing Small Modular Nuclear Reactor”

  1. You have a point that many of the worst accidents from Windscale to Chernobyl to SL1 were caused by design flaws. My assumption was that any reactor we are discussing WRT passive safety in 2020 wasn’t designed to explode and simply had to mitigate being isolated from its normal heatsink….

  2. Because power reactors are designed with negative void coefficients and negative thermal coefficients in the west and because operators are disallowed from doing stupid things. There isn’t a natural law that this must be so. See e.g. the SL-1 reactor.

  3. Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2019

    Seek out that pdf on U.S. Energy Information Administration’s website if you’re interested in some projections out to 2040. Still no hope in sight for poor solar thermal.

  4. You have a good chance of being right, especially over nuclear & coal and in the nearer term(20-30Years).

    (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2019

    Table 1b. Estimated levelized cost of electricity (unweighted average) for new generation resources entering service in 2023 (2018 $/MWh)

    CCS=carbon capture and sequestration. CC=combined-cycle (natural gas)

    Total system LCOE

    Advanced CC 41.2

    Advanced CC with CCS 67.5

    Advanced nuclear 77.5

    Coal with 90% CCS 98.6

    Coal with 30% CCS 104.3

  5. I think that predicting anything more than 100 years out is just fantasy.

    Just think about it, by 2120 just about everything might be completely different. It’s even possible that the B52s could have retired from service.

  6. “For passive cooling It’s mainly about power density and surface area to volume relation.”

    For passive cooling in shutdown, it is about not interrupting the “isolation condensers” (first) and the gravity driven cooling lines (second).

    Isolation condensers have been used on/off in BWR since forever and a similar device is found now in AP1000 and NuScale.

    Gravity driven make-up to the depressurized vessel is a common theme for AP1000 and late model BWRs.

    NuScale, being a natural driven PWR (asinine) does require a low power density (about 2.5 kw/ft) to maintain margin to dry out in steady-state. The AP1000 and ESBWR do not have low power density – it is quite high (up to 13 kw/ft) because they have great and good (respectively) coolant flow rate. Forced flow in AP1000 and 2-phase natural circulation in ESBWR derivatives. Two phase natural circulation provides real driving head and flow rates are ~60% of forced circulation BWRs…

    Core damage happens when the reactor is shutdown, so all that stuff about TRIGA and surface area to volume are not germane.

  7. I recall reading that was the motivation for the 1st antinuclear power activists in California in the 1960s.
    Nuclear power = reasonably cheap electricity = industry = more people crowding & so wrecking the beautiful wild parts of California.
    Since that was before the baby boom really went bust, there might have been some excuse for not thinking that easily available contraception could solve the problem of overpopulaion.

  8. It has been prevailing among malthusians for a long time. Club of rome types. Peak oil types. If billions need to die anyway, it’s better they die quickly than starve; of course, utterly all of their predictions have been wrong about utterly everything.

    Malthus himself thought contraceptives were so sinful that nobody would accept them, thus everyone would get married at 15 and pump out kids until the wife died during labour or became infertile.

    Making predictions is hard, especially about the future, and most especially if you have a present-bias. Inventions and technological progress can’t be known in advance, because if we knew, we would already have invented it and used them. Problems are easy to see and easy to extrapolate until doom, just fit an exponential and call it a day.

  9. For passive cooling It’s mainly about power density and surface area to volume relation.

    There is also passive safety from the reactivity side of things. This has more to do with design than with size, but size can help it respond faster and with a stronger negative feedback(e.g. go look at a TRIGA research reactor “pulsing” for an impressive example). The average temperature of moderated neutrons matters to the collision crossection for fission. A higher core temperature also expands the distance between fuel atoms and distance between moderator atoms; making both “optically thinner” to neutrons; meaning they’ll on average become less moderated and more likely leak out of the core region without interacting with the fuel. In a bigger core, the neutrons are much less likely to leak out, so you’re more reliant on having control rods and burnable poisons to absorb excess neutrons, but you still have the same effect.

    If all you do is draw out the control rods slightly to insert some reactivity, the power does not exponentially increase to the moon; it just rises a bit and then levels off and it sits and stews at that higher temperature/higher power state. If you manage to increase cooling to keep the temperature constant then the power really would increase until you can’t keep up anymore. This makes things easier to control.

  10. There’s a wing of the environmental movement that basically believes more dead humans or fewer living humans = less pollution = good

  11. How did this bizarre, pro-virus ideology spring up? Where on Earth did it come from?
    One possibility is that this is some trick being played on the gullible fools: If they act on this baffling idea then maybe they all die (or get terribly sick) before the next election (any election, any country, it all works).

  12. Core damage frequency has to do with reliability of passive shutdown cooling. The power density of ESBWR derivatives is similar to all other BWR3/4/5/6 and ABWR (i.e. ~60kw/l with max hot spot of ~13kw/ft).

  13. ?

    Even overpowered, capacity factor tops out at 17/18 over a cycle for that plant – must have been 1st year of the cycle with a cold winter

  14. Sounds like you’re referring to roof top solar, I was referring to utility scale. Roof top solar wasn’t even a contender, it’s another example of paying a lot more for a lot less.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6449.108

  15. Electricity costs tend to be about half generation and half grid. Batteries can act as a “grid replacement” so get to play in both markets. So “near firm” wind+solar+lithium battery storage will be the most cost competitive addition to even the California ISO grid (which already has a lot of solar compared to almost the entirety of the rest of the USA) for the next 10 years.
    Flow battery cost curves push that out another 10 years (for topping off on the weekends for use during the week).
    So we’re looking at 20 years before nuclear could be competitive based on seasonal deltas. Maybe. Probably not – because Allam cycle gas plants with carbon capture (or without of course) is already significantly cheaper than nuclear, and they’ll be building those things for the next 20 years and pushing the price down the Wright scaling learning curve….that’s not likely to happen much with new nuclear.
    California can double their renewables % by the early 2030s as planned just with lithium (and then flow) batteries.

  16. It is cheaper in places that import liquefied natural gas. That is according to their numbers, but history has shown us the nuclear industry tends to be rather wildly optimistic.

  17. If neither you nor any of your friends & relatives are part of that 2%, and you have no empathy for people you don’t know.

  18. Solar plus batteries might compete on an island in the tropics where the alternative is generators using very expensive diesel. In most places capacity factor is about 20%, and in winter maybe half that. The amount of storage required would be orders of magnitude higher than any currently installed, or planned. It only makes sense if a few people are using it to supplement the grid. If a lot of people did so, it would eat it’s own lunch – the grid would have to start charging peaker rates where it used to charge baseload.

  19. Pity nobody built an ESBWR. Googling to see who’d tried, I noticed that your plant had a 103.8 % capacity factor in 2017. Must be doing something right !

  20. Is this because if the smallness (in mass) of the reactor core, it produces less concentrated heat, thus, safer?

  21. I have the same questions but if it’s competitive with gas so that its electricity price is $50/MWh, then that’s OK. Renewables are unlikely to be truly competitive.

  22. Small Reactor projects will be $1-2 billion instead of $10+ billion for large reactors

    Is this thing actually cheaper, other than the fact it was designed to produce 1/5 the MWe of it’s big brother ESBWR? If you had to build 5 to equal a ESBWR, the estimate would be $5-10 billion.
    You can get a 1500 MWe combined-cycle natural gas plant for 1.5 billion. If you don’t care about the CO₂ thing, and most don’t, why would anyone go for a BWRX-300 at this price point. Maybe we can talk if it was under $500m. I always feared SMRs will be like the micro apartment scam, you’re so happy you can afford it that you don’t notice you’re paying a lot more for a lot less.
    For electricity, I expect solar+storage to eat SMR’s lunch.

  23. I think the Chinese government should stop being stupid and let corona virus run its course….2% dead rate isn’t that bad…

Comments are closed.