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March 11, 2011
Nuclear Townhall

Things are starting to move at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. On top of renewing Vermont Yankee’s license, the NRC has awarded design approval to GE Hitachi’s ESBWR, giving a boost to the consortium’s international efforts.

“The FSER [final safety evaluation report] and FDA [final design approval] mark a crucial step forward for the ESBWR’s global commercial prospects,” said Caroline Reda, president and CEO of GEH. “We appreciate the diligence of the NRC during the review process, which enables the ESBWR to remain on track to receive the NRC’s final design certification by this fall.”

Although Michigan’s DTE has chosen the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) for its proposed Fermi Unit 3 near Detroit, the first construction will probably be abroad. India is experiencing a nuclear renaissance and has designed a site for multiple ESBWRs. The GE Hitachi consortium is also making inroads in Poland. Last month it signed a memorandum of understanding with POLATOM, the research institute that advises the Polish government on nuclear issues.

Thirty years ago, GE and Westinghouse dominated the reactor industry. GE’s boiling water reactor constituting one-third of America’s 100 reactor fleet while Westinghouse’s pressurized water reactor most of the other two-thirds. GE has not built a BWR since the ill-fated Shoreham plant, which never opened. Former GE CEO Jack Welsh was openly contemptuous of nuclear and current CEO Jeff Immelt notes that “no GE CEO has ever made money in nuclear.”  Westinghouse’s fortunes revived after it was bought by Toshiba in 2006, however, and GE followed by partnering with Hitachi in 2007.

The ESBWR is a “Gen III” reactor, designed to reduce costs and achieve greater safety by simplifying the design and using natural convection in cooling. The approval puts GE Hitachi one step ahead of Westinghouse, which is still awaiting approval of its Gen III design, the AP1000

Read more about it at Business Wire


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