NRC certifies GE-Hitachi nuclear reactor design

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The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a rule to certify GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH)’s Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR) design for use in the U.S.

The NRC’s certification Sept. 16 means the reactor design meets the commission’s safety requirements. The certification rule notice includes discussion of public comments on a March 2011 proposed rule, as well as information turned in to the NRC after the Fukushima accident in Japan.

Staff asked GEH for additional information on the steam dryer, which prevents excess moisture from damaging a nuclear power plant’s turbine, between 2011 and 2013. The NRC supplemented the draft certification rule in May 2014 with the information received from GEH.

GEH submitted its certification application on Aug. 24, 2005 for the 1,594-MW electric, natural circulation reactor. The design includes passive safety features that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for human intervention, including enhanced natural circulation via a taller reactor vessel, a shorter core and improved water flow; an isolation condenser system to control water levels and remove decay heat while the reactor is pressurized; and a gravity-driven cooling system to maintain water levels when the reactor pressure has dropped.

NRC is currently reviewing two combined license applications that plan to use the GEH design: DTE is seeking a license for the Fermi 3 unit in Michigan, and Dominion is seeking a license for North Anna 3 in Virginia.

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