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Dominion Energy To Invest In GE Hitachi's Small Reactor Design

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted May 21, 2018
 Wilmington-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy announced Monday that Dominion Energy Inc. is investing in the advancement of GEH's small modular reactor (SMR) design.

The funding from Virginia-based Dominion Energy will help move the BWRX-300, a 300 MWe (megawatts electric) SMR design being developed by GEH, forward, according to a news release.

The majority of this engineering and development for the BWRX-300 will occur at GEH's site in Wilmington, according to Jon Allen, spokesman for the company.

The goal of this development, Allen said, is to be "the most cost-competitive SMR in the segment."

GEH is a provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services and is made up of a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi. 

Dominion Energy’s funding of the BWRX-300 provides seed money to further work that could lead to commercializing this technology, officials said in the release. The Virginia-based company has no plan at this time to build one at any of its commercial nuclear stations.

The details of Dominion Energy's investment were not disclosed, Allen said.

“Engaging customers is critical to product development, and we are thrilled that Dominion will invest in our new SMR to advance its commercialization,” said Jon Ball, executive vice president of Nuclear Plant Projects for GEH, in the release. “The BWRX-300 represents a significant improvement in the economics of new nuclear, an imperative for the long-term viability of the industry. It is more efficient, simpler, safer and needs a fraction of the footprint compared to the current fleet of light water reactors.”
 
The new SMR concept was developed last year, but GE Hitachi is leveraging decades of work that went into its Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), Allen said. (Pictured in this story: A graphic of the reactor vessel for the BWRX-300 design. Courtesy of GE Hitachi.)

The BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-certified ESBWR. Through dramatic design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require up to 60 percent less capital cost per MW (megawatt) when compared to other water-cooled SMRs or existing large nuclear designs.

"If these savings can be achieved, the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas and renewables," GEH officials said in the release.

GE Hitachi is working with others in the industry in the development of the BWRX-300, but has not made any further announcements at this time, Allen said. 

The BWRX-300 is the company’s 10th-generation boiling water reactor design.

“We believe that nuclear power has a vital role in ensuring a clean, reliable, and cost-effective supply of electricity to meet the needs of a growing economy,” Dan Stoddard, chief nuclear officer for Dominion Energy, said in the release. “We also believe the innovations GE Hitachi is pursuing with the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor have the potential to make it a strong competitor in the marketplace. Our view is that a modest investment now to support further development of this technology is in the interest of both companies.”

On the company's Twitter page Monday, Jay Wileman, president and CEO of GEH, said he was excited that GEH was working with Dominion on this "game-changing technology."

The announcement comes on the same day as the start of an annual conference, which Wileman and Ball are attending this week to help lead discussions on innovation in nuclear.

Nuclear Energy Institute's 65th annual Industry Conference and Supplier Expo: Nuclear Energy Assembly is being held today through Wednesday in Atlanta. This is a yearly conference of the nuclear technologies industry brings together leaders from all levels of the industry. The NEA conference is joined with the annual meeting of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), and celebrates the future of nuclear energy.

Ball was slated to participate in a discussion about innovation at large companies on Monday afternoon as part of the NAYGN's agenda.

Wileman is moderating a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon called "Nurturing the Seeds of Innovation to Feed Nuclear’s Next Generation" with leaders from Enfission LLC, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and TerraPower, according to the NEA agenda.
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