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GE Hitachi Collaborates To Bring Small Modular Reactor Design To Estonia

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Oct 4, 2019
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and an Estonia-based firm have signed an agreement that could potentially lead to the construction of GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor design, according to a news release.

GE Hitachi and Fermi Energia OÜ have signed an agreement to examine the economic feasibility of constructing a BWRX-3000 in Estonia, stated the release. The companies will also review siting requirements and assess nuclear regulatory requirements of building the GE Hitachi-engineered model.

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

Most of the engineering work for the BWRX-300 has taken place at GE Hitachi headquarters in Wilmington, said Jon Allen, spokesman for GE Hitachi, in an email.

“This work will continue here as we commercialize this technology,” he said.

The BWRX-3000 is a 300 MWe (megawatt electric) water-cooled, natural circulation small modular reactor with passive safety systems, according to the release. It leverages the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design, which has been certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Estonia needs to consider new generation small nuclear technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality,” said Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, in the release. “Boiling water reactors have been proven in the Nordics to be safe, economic and reliable providers of carbon-free energy for decades and the design of the BWRX-300 makes it investible and highly competitive technology.”

The BWRX-300 is GE Hitachi’s 10th-generation boiling water reactor design.

“GEH’s BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began commercializing nuclear reactors in 1955,” stated the release.

Officials said that Fermi Energia plans to publicize its feasibility study on the suitability of small modular reactors (SMRs) for Estonia in January.

“We anticipate the study will reinforce that this technology is an ideal solution for Estonia’s energy needs,” Allen said.

The BWRX-300 has been the subject of other news in the United States and Canada, however, this collaboration in Estonia is the first such study to construct the BWRX-300.

In May, GE Hitachi announced the model was in vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Virginia-based Dominion Energy Inc. in May 2018 said it was investing the BWRX-300 design for further work that could lead to commercializing the technology. At the time, officials said the Virginia-based company had no plans to build the model at any of its commercial nuclear stations.

And the U.S. Department of Energy in July 2018 announced it was providing $1.9 million in federal funds toward a GE Hitachi-led project to bring together a team to examine ways to simplify the reactor design, reduce plant construction costs and lower operations and maintenance costs for the BWRX-300.

“Our BWRX-300 small modular reactor is breakthrough technology that is designed to be cost-competitive with gas and renewables and we think it represents an ideal solution for Estonia’s carbon-free energy needs,” Jon Ball, executive vice president of nuclear plant projects for GE Hitachi, said in the release. “We look forward to working with Fermi Energia to highlight the technical capabilities, safety features and cost benefits of this innovative reactor technology.”

Correction: This story has been changed to reflect the correct year of BWRX-300 announcements.
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