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Updated: 11/14/2014

GE Supports Customers' Efforts to Obtain Nuclear Licenses

(Star News Online)  

With certification of GE Hitachi's safe, economical nuclear reactor effective, the Castle Hayne venture is supporting its customers' efforts to obtain licenses for construction and operation of reactors using the new technology.

Describing the process in September, Jay Wileman, senior vice president for nuclear plant projects, said: "When we do sign up for a large project, we do put a lot of our equity at risk" after spending putting hundreds of millions of dollars into innovation. He was discussing changes in financing nuclear power projects at the World Nuclear Association's 2014 Symposium in London.

The final rule certifying the economic simplified boiling water reactor, or ESBWR, approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September, took effect Friday -- 30 days after being published in the Federal Register.

With regulatory approval of the technology completed, "We are focused on supporting our customers, DTE Energy and Dominion Virginia Power, in their efforts to obtain combined operating licenses from the NRC," GE Hitachi spokesman Jon Allen said Wednesday.

Among those providing that support are the "up to 100 instrumentation and control and electrical engineers" GE Hitachi expected to hire this year.

"They will mainly focus on designing the control systems for the Dominion North Anna project," spokesman Christopher White explained in a 2013 email.

The NRC website says the target date for the final safety evaluation report for DTE's Fermi Unit 3 reactor is January, leaving two steps in the regulatory process – a hearing and final NRC decision on the combined license – before the Michigan utility can go ahead with construction.

March 2016 is the target date set by the NRC staff for a safety evaluation report for Dominion's North Anna Unit 3 reactor.

The ESBWR is the world's safest approved nuclear reactor design, based on core damage frequency, the industry standard measure of safety, GE Hitachi said in a statement.

Describing the ESBWR as an evolution of GE's advanced boiling water reactor, Wileman said "simplified" means 25 percent less infrastructure than the ABWR, which has been powering generators for 18 years.

With a modular design for ease of construction, the new reactor promises increased fuel efficiency and the lowest projected operating, maintenance and staffing costs per megawatt hour in the industry, according to GE Hitachi.

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