DOE project unites GE-Hitachi, Exelon, Bechtel for nuclear venture

A U.S. Department of Energy project is bringing together the private sector with research and utility leaders to work on developing advanced nuclear technology.

The GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy joint venture will lead a team that includes Exelon Generation, Bechtel and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to look at new ways to simplify reactor design and reduce plant construction costs. The effort also will examine ways to lower operations and maintenance costs for the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300, a 300-MW small modular reactor.

DOE will allocate more than $1.9 million in funding for the project. It is part of nearly $20 million overall in advanced nuclear technology studies announced Monday by the Energy Department.

“It’s an imperative of the nuclear industry to reduce the cost of deploying new plants,” Jacopo Buongiorno, TEPCO Professor and Associate Department Head, Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT, said in a statement. “In this project Professor Franz-Josef Ulm from MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and I will work with GE Hitachi to design a new small modular nuclear reactor that adopts advanced concrete solutions and innovative construction techniques, which are expected to drastically cut its cost and schedule.”

GE Hitachi estimated that the BWRX-300 will cost 60 percent less in capital per MW compared to other water-cooled small modular reactors or existing large nuclear designs. The goal is to find savings that makes the small modular nuclear reactor cost-competitive with power generation from combined-cycle gas and renewables.

 “Our participation in the BWRX-300 effort affirms our commitment to a strong and successful future for customers who expect clean forms of energy,” Marilyn Kray, vice president of nuclear technology and strategy for Exelon Generation, said. “As the nation’s largest source of zero-emission energy, nuclear is critical to achieving the clean energy goals of our customers and communities and must continue to be part of the U.S. energy mix.”

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is a joint venture started in 2007. Exelon Generation is a subsidiary of utility holding company Exelon Corp., and operates 20,300 MW of nuclear capacity from 23 reactors at 14 facilities in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Bechtel is a global engineering, construction and project management firm. A second GE-Hitachi venture, focused on nuclear plant manufacturing, also will participate in the project.

A Power Engineering story in May noted that Dominion Energy also was providing seed money to help GE-Hitachi develop the BWRX-300. The BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the NRC-certified ESBWR.

U.S. nuclear plants generated about 805 billion kWh of power last year, 20 percent of the overall national generation mix, according to the Energy Information Administration.


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