GE Hitachi engineers guide the way for safe nuclear energy

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CASTLE HAYNE – GE Hitachi engineers have guided a second utility through the regulatory staff review needed to get a license to build GE’s newest nuclear power plant – an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.

The first to complete the effort was Michigan’s largest utility, Detroit Edison. The utility and its contractors, led by GE Hitachi, spent “more than a quarter-million man-hours” on the effort that led to a license to license to build and operate what GE Hitachi describes as the world’s safest approved reactor design.

The effort that led to issuance of the license in the spring of 2015 included nearly 70 thousand hours of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff time at a cost to Detroit Edison of over $18 million.

Last week, the NRC said its staff has completed the reviews for a license to build and operate a reactor at Dominion Resources’ North Anna site near Mineral, Virginia, adding there are no safety aspects that would preclude issuing the license for the proposed reactor, adjacent to two operating reactors about 40 miles northwest of Richmond.

During a hearing expected to take place later this year, the commission will examine whether the staff’s review supports the findings necessary to issue a license for a third North Anna reactor. Following the hearing, the commissioners will vote on whether to authorize the staff to issue the license.

The NRC staff review included a seismic analysis that included data from the Aug. 23, 2011, 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Mineral, “resulting in both units safely shutting down automatically,” Dominion spokesman David Botkins said in a statement.“The evaluation is the culmination of much hard work that looked at all aspects of nuclear safety,” he said.

GE Hitachi guided Dominion through the licensing process under a multi-year contract, providing dozens of jobs at its Castle Hayne headquarters, spokesman Christopher White noted in 2013.

“We congratulate Dominion on another positive step in the process to obtain a construction and operating license for the ESBWR, the world’s safest approved reactor design,” said Jon Ball, executive vice president, Nuclear Plant Projects, GE Hitachi.

With its advanced, true passive safety systems, the ESBWR is the world’s safest approved nuclear reactor design, based on core damage frequency, GE Hitachi explained. The reactor can cool itself for more than seven days with no on-site or off-site AC power or operator action.

Economic simplified describes the safety system’s use of about 25 percent fewer pumps and mechanical drives than reactors with active safety systems, the venture said, adding the design offers the lowest projected operating, maintenance and staffing costs in the nuclear industry on a per-kilowatt basis.

Dominion will make a decision on whether to build the reactor “sometime in the future” after the license has been issued, Botkins said.

-Content provided by Cape Fear energy reporter Jim Brumm

 For more from Jim, visit his Energy Thoughts site at http://jo1brumm.blogspot.com/

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