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GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Reaches Milestone in Deploying New ESBWR

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has completed its submittal of the design certification document for the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)—a key milestone in deploying the new advanced nuclear reactor design. (Earlier post.)

The new reactor design offers numerous advanced safety features and cost-saving advantages. GEH believes the ESBWR’s features make it the most advanced reactor design in the world, including passive safety systems, a further simplified design and even higher safety margins than the already safe, deployed US fleet. With the submittal, GEH has provided detailed information for the NRC to proceed with evaluating the ESBWR design for certification.

Detroit Edison of Michigan and Dominion Energy of Virginia have submitted NRC license applications referencing the ESBWR. NuStart Energy, a US Department of Energy-supported consortium of US utilities, has selected the ESBWR to receive engineering, licensing and commercialization support through the NP 2010 Program.

By submitting a revised design certification document for the 1,520-MWe ESBWR on 31 Aug, GEH’s goal is to have the most complete portfolio of nuclear reactors certified by the NRC. Data from the NRC’s review will support GEH’s future project opportunities in Europe and other regions.

GEH’s portfolio of nuclear reactors also includes the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), the world’s only Generation III reactor that has been certified in the United States and that has successful construction and operational experience. Four ABWRs are operating in Japan, and the global nuclear alliance of GE and Hitachi is building four more in Japan and Taiwan today.

The NRC certified GEH’s 1,350-MWe ABWR in 1997, and GEH has notified the NRC it intends to renew the ABWR design certification for an additional 15 years beyond 2012.

GEH is pursuing global deployment opportunities with both the ESBWR and ABWR. In India, GEH has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering resources in manufacturing and construction management for a potential multiple-unit project. The MOU is with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the country’s only nuclear utility, which operates 17 reactors.

ABWR and ESBWR reactors, compared to typical US electricity production, would avoid the annual emission of 6.7 million tons of CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 1.3 million cars. The ABWR and ESBWR technologies are expected to have, respectively, up to 34 and 40% lower operating and maintenance costs per-kilowatt-hour than currently operating Generation I and II nuclear reactors in the United States. This is primarily because of their increased generating capacity, as well as increased capacity factor and systems simplifications.


Stan Peterson

The Nuclear Renaissance continues. We are getting closer to full approval of the detailed design ESBWR by the NRC COL pre-approval review and final approval process, of all detail construction drawings and process manuals and instructions.

When completed sometime next year, the building pipeline of projects for the ESBWR can start to move into the actual construction phase.

No longer subject to monkey wrenching delays, these plants should be almost factory like construction efforts, or so it is hoped,with guaranteed costs and completion dates. Now that all designs are completed, checked to the last detail, and all approvals obtained before the first spade of earth is turned, that doesn't seem unreasonable or unfeasible.

When the new fleet of plants start generating electricity in 2016-2020, coal generation can sink from 48 percent to about 35%, while nuclear will climb to 35+% of the country's electric generation, from the 20% where it is today.

More than half the US electric supply will then come from clean or renewable sources. It will be principally nuclear, and hydro, but with a smattering of wind and solar too.

Even better the worst of the coal polluting generators will be scrapped. Thus providing a disproportionate amount of emissions clean-up.

It is a great clean way to supply lots of electricity to recharge the coming flood of electric cars; And to destroy OPEC, while also simultaneously cleaning our air a little more.

Henry Gibson

There is a mostly secret truth about nuclear reactors that almost all people don't know and that other people, including reactor builders wish to ignore: Efficiency is not highly important!! The reason large turbo-generators are built is because they are slightly more efficient. This large turbine is the mostly false reason for building large reactors.

At the very least, 65% of the heat from a nuclear reactor is wasted due to the requirements of nature and the thermodynamic cycle. But this heat does not cost very much in a nuclear reactor where four pounds of surplus uranium or plutonium from dismantled nuclear bombs can produce more than the heat from 10 million pounds of coal. One hundred pounds of used fuel rods now in storage can have just the fission products removed and the four pounds of surplus uranium added to make new fuel. With the non fissionable fission products removed the spent rods are far less radio-active and methods of handling the new fuel rods made from them are well known. All plutonium and other transuranic elements are left in the fuel where they will eventually be destroyed in the reactor and produce 10 million kilowatt hours of heat per pound in the process.

CANDU reactors produce 60,000 kilowatt hours of electricity from a pound of unenriched natural uranium. At $0.10 per KWH this is $6000 and %65 of the heat was wasted. Clearly, uranium and its fission heat are cheap. Less than one percent of the uranium was used in the process, and the remaining uranium could fuel Accelerator Driven Reactors and other type reactors.

Build several small reactors and turbines on the same site, five or more. Large countainment buildings are not more cost effective than several small ones. A single out of sevice reactor reduces power output by only a fraction. Automatic control allows for fewer operators and managers on site so labour costs can be kept at the same level or lower.

The difference between a loss of %70 of the heat and %65 of the heat makes very little difference and in fact the monetary loss will be erased upon a singe outage of one of the smaller units instead of the large unit. ..HG..

The Goracle


Solar power is roughly 15% efficient.

The best diesel engine 50% efficient.

The best gas engine 40% efficient.

Go Nuclear!!! We need more clean, safe, nuclear power to run our electric focused future. Rolling brownouts (see California a few years ago, and a couple of years ago, and...) are not the answer.



Msr Stan Peterson Henry Gibson and The Goracle (as it is clear that these 3 pseudo are a same and only person)

The percentage of nuclear electricity in the mix will decrease in the decade to come, like it or not. The reason is that less new reactors will be build than old one decomissioned, both in Europe and in US. That might be a bad news but that's what it is. in USA, nuclear is deemed too expensive and no one want the waste in its backyard, in Europe a lot of people oppose nuclear energy including countries on their whole like Germany and Spain. Asides the resources in uranium are questionable if they are enough to scale Nuclear energy
further than it is today.

So the rosy scenario that Msr Stan Peterson is describring is pure BS

Henry Gibson

Dear Treehugger:

Your comments are appreciated.

That three people have a similar opinion at times is not proof that they are the same person.

Nuclear power production is increasing in much of the world and in spite of no reactors being started building in the US since Three Mile Island, some were finished and put into operation. Even the first reactor at TMI was bought back into operation after several years. The amount of power produced by nuclear now in the US has actually increased since TMI and it produces about %20 of all electricity in the US. The power from these older reactors is very cheap for their owners because the capital costs have been paid for and the cost of uranium is not a big part of the cost of generating and distributing power. Even the cost of coal only represents about %25 of the cost or less.

The US could make a slight modification to the standard design of CANDU 600 reactor fueling proceedure and built them in the US and use the free used fuel rods now in storage by just changing the bundle sizes with no reprocessing and only slight repackaging. So no new fuel would have to be mined for years if not decades for these new reactors. But there is more than enough uranium in Canada for as many US reactors as are needed. There are also enough known uranium deposits in the US.

It is known how to use thorium and all isotopes of uranium as nuclear fission fuel, but even lead has been fissioned, and the money spent on fusion of hydrogen might have produced a method of fissioning lead and gold and other heavy elements that produce a great amount of net energy. This is not needed because it has been shown that coal ash contains uranium and thorium, and uranium can be extracted from sea water in unlimited amounts at a cost low enough to be used in Reactors.

France is building a new nuclear reactor and has ordered a second. France makes about 3 billion dollars a year selling nuclear power to England, Germany and Italy, and a new reactor is in final plans for Italy. France has about 80% nuclear power, built since 1970. But if France considered all of the power that it exported to be non-nuclear, then nearly one hundred precent of the electricity in France is generated in nuclear power plants.

China has built two nuclear reactors reactors recently and has ordered or planned others. These reactors were both built in less than five years each, but the start of construction of the second was a year or so later than the start of construction of the other.

A new reactor is being built in Finland, but with un- predicted delays because it is a new type. CANDU reactors are being finished in eastern Europe.

Russia will not give up making and installing nuclear reactors because it is more profitable to sell their oil and gas than to burn it. Several RMBK (chernobyl)type reactors are still in operation in Russia and former Soviet countries, and they seem to be safe enough if their automatic protection is not disabled as it was at Chernobyl. More people were killed by a burst pipe at a dam than were killed by the radiation at Chernobyl in the first month. Some dam breaks and floods have killed tens of thousands of people.

Remember people have alway been radio-active themselves, but they do not know this and pretend that nuclear reactors are more dangerous than driving cars.

How people vote in voting booths and in surveys is different than how they vote with their money. Most people in Germany would not buy solar power at the price it costs to make it if nuclear power were offered to them from France at the price French people pay for it. The people who want nuclear power should be allowed to buy it.

The opinions about how safe nuclear power is compared to driving on roads is false. Nuclear power is one of the safest activities the human race has ever engaged in. Farming in mosquito infested parts of Africa kills at least a million people a year. ..HG..

Henry Gibson

The question can also be asked how many lives have been lost because more nuclear power has not been used. ..HG..


America bases it's homeland survival on nuclear power in aircraft carriers, ships, and submarines. Even oil police adventurism knows to use these dependable power sources.

US naval nuclear power has safely operated in the world's most corrosive (seawater), violent (typhoons, hurricanes,..), and crowded (ship/submarine) conditions for over fifty years.

If radiation fears hinder relatively simple land-based nuclear plants - build in isolated locations with efficient transmission lines. LA already gets 48.7% of it's electric power from 800 miles away. ( )

The biggest practical constraint may be the greed and corruption of 'big project' politics and contractors. Two hundred and three hundred percent over-runs of billion dollar projects have been historically taken for granted.

Imprison the responsible parties by enforcing existing laws and these 100%+ over-runs would cease. Technology advances and standardized factory-built nuclear power modules also reduce costs and improve safety.


Let's interject some nuclear and reality facts into this.

Missouri's Ameren utility has stopped plans for it's EPR reactor when it was not allowed to charge ratepayers now before construction had even started. Both Florida L&P and Georgia Power have allowed to charge ratepayers for nuclear power plants that won't be completed by 2016 and 2020.

Such pre-completion rate hikes were and are disallowed to utilities worldwide because they were abused. It allowed utilities to make unilateral and often unwise decisions that led to huge deficits which they then charged their customers who had and have little choice. This type of deregulation is considerably risky behaviour which wouldn't and shouldn't be allowed and isn't for any other source.

In Ontario both the gov't and Bruce power have dropped plans for for 4-5 reactors. For the gov't, a call for contracts was put out. It called for complete pricing of reactors with the gov't not paying for price over runs. Areva submitted plans which didn't include this but even then the price was over $7000/kW installed. The only ones able to present complete plans was AECL's ACR1000. It costed at $10800/kW, which created a twin nuclear scenario of $26 billion. GE wouldn't even bother. All these plans fell short especially on cost. Bruce power has abandoned its Ontario plans but has kept its Alberta plans alive for now.

And let's not forget Olkiluoto. At more than 3 years late and 50% over budget, Areva has now put the project on no fixed completion date. Extra costs to consumers is over 4 billion for power alone, not including construction cost over runs. The new French EPR being built is also delayed.

So far, the real cost of these new reactor types is way over the $2000/kW installed of MIT's Future of Nuclear Power report, where that price is the point of cost parity with coal. We easily have figures like FLP's $4000-8000. And then we have financial analysis of these reactors (Moody's) and see the huge uncertainty in price.

This isn't lost on the utilities. Unistar is a limited liability company of Constellation Energy and it's largest shareholder EDF. It estimates that reactors will cost $4000-$6000/kW installed. And yet the parent corporations only have put in enough money to create Unistar with 400-700 million dollars worth of assets into Unistar. The liability of reactors that Unistar wants to build : 25-38 billion by it's own reckoning. God help it, if the figures are like FPL's upper figures or Moody's. But it won't be God, it'll be the taxpayer and ratepayer.

According to Unistar testimony to the Maryland Public Service Commission, "the U.S. Treasury is expected to backstop 80 percent of the total costs through the DOE loan guarantee program ... and possibly to put up funds via its Federal Finance Bank arm. To cover the remainder, UniStar plans to seek loans from the French import/export bank COFACE." Its a great strategic plan. But its also cynical and conniving and bit much when they proclaim the great economics of nuclear power and yet minimize their own exposure.

"Without the federal loan guarantees, this whole thing will come to a stop," UniStar CEO George Vanderheyden said. And the same thing was echoed by Duke and PPL.

The Congression Budget office has put the failure rate of these new reactors at over 50%. And who knows when, if ever, these companies can get the cost down to competitive prices, where private money is used. To keep up nuclear contribution to its present level will require 60 brand new reactors to replace those going out of service over the next few decades. Given a $4000/kW installed estimate, which isn't out of line given the range, that creates a 7 billion dollar pricetag per reactor or a 60 reactor prictag of over 420 billion dollars minimum of which how much will be subsidized and nannied by the gov't? For a contribution of a little over 40% would require over a trillion dollars. Closest build time for reactors 2016? That's if everthing goes right. Then we have the shortages problems in trained engineers, infrastructure companies, supply companies, etc. And we still don't have a place to store the waste? You want to reprocess? Add a couple of hundred billion to the costs. The Us recently decomissioned a couple of reprocessing plants. It cost a 100 billion. Britain one as well, 95 billion. An extremely high nuclear future? Don't bet on it.

Given the extremely high costs and uncertainty around the nuclear option, as well as the timetables involved, nuclear power will be lucky to maintain its level of contribution. It far cheaper to lower demand through conservation. In terms of renewables, look at wind power. According to the EIA, wind costs are only $0.96/kWh to produce and to the DOE, only around $1500-1700/kWh to install. In the 2006-2008 period, enough wind was put in to generate the equivalent of over 4 1000 MW plants. This at a measily cost of 18-19 billion. Far cheaper than nuclear with none of the undesirably effects. For the equivalent cost of maintaining nuclear's contribution you could enable sci am Solar grand plan. It would replace most of the present nuclear and coal with solar, storage technologies and infrastructure upgrades. Just looking at what that money can buy in terms of alternatives should give people pause.

"We concentrated so much on nuclear that we lost sight of everything else. And nuclear has failed to deliver," a finnish official has said.

The Candu reactor is not licensed in the US. It's doubtful it ever will. The DUPIC fueling process requires the old style Candu reactor. It is also not as simple as changing the bundle sizes. It requires re sintering new pellets. The neutron efficiency of heavy water for both cooling and moderation are necessary. These don't exist in the ACR series which are light water cooled, which requires enriched uranium. The old style Candu's were not built for specific reasons. The core and hence the containment vessels were bigger for the Candu. This heavily increases capital costs where capital costs already are inflated and a cause for many a projects downfall. The closest was a Dominion energy statement for ACR1000's in 2005, which it retracted just a couple of weeks or months later.

Nuclear reactors were not cheaper than fossil fuels. Only recently has the production cost of nuclear dipped below that of coal generation in the US. The capital costs are much more than fossil fuels. The reason that Russia and France choose and continue to build plants have more to do with the fact that they are gov't owned nuclear manufacturers and about balance of trade concerns. France has stated that they "had no oil, no gas and therefore no choice". And Russia would rather internalize higher costing electricity to themselves and get hard real currency exports of oil and gas from Europe. Of the 45 nuclear reactors being built in the world today, 22 are behind schedule or stalled.

I expect nuclear to keep a significant contribution to the energy supply mix. The reactors are there and there's no reason to prematurely mothball them if they keep up their operational times. I expect new build reactors to test out actual technololgy and I support gov't action to try to maintain some sort of core skills. But the significant hurdles that the nuclear industry have and continue to have, have not been addressed at all. It is a fairly mature after 50-60 years and yet still requires huge amounts of support. This is unsupportable when other maturing technologies are showing the promise of superceding nuclear. Build them only if necessary but it is becoming more obvious that you really don't need them.



Your contribution is a bit long but quite detailed and valuable (though you don't mention the problem of uranium questionnable resources) on overwhole it reflects what I wrote above.

In my view the nuclear will grow again with generation IV type of reactors (but only after 2040) and Thorium (but when ? is anybody guess) Still we will have to adress the problem of huge capital investment that only governmental program can tackle. In the meantime Nuclear will keep going with EPR but its share in the electricity mix will go down.

Stan Peterson


Thanks for your observations.

I am surprised at your comments about accepting Gen IV nuclear fission plants. A formerly principled nuclear critic, I am now a proponent of present "perfected LWR nuclear power" hoping a large number of Gen III+ plants will be built. After all that is why we started opposing the premature nuclear plants of the 1970s.

But I would accept only grudgingly, if ever, a handful of Gen IVs ever being built. For the combined but expressed purpose to serve as full "Actinide burners" capable of cracking the tougher, odd-numbered Transuranics isotopes; and secondly to generate a bit of electricity to pay for themselves.

BTW, we are separate individuals.

Stan Peterson


I even question whether the Gen IV fission designs will ever be fully completed or the plants built. I oppose them because they will have to run just too close to the edge of safety. I know preliminary work is being done, but the several billion dollar design and certification cost may never be spent. I think of it more as a back-stop effort.

When not if, ITER building at Cadarache, succeeds brilliantly, I think the World's powers will vie for, and perhaps then engage in a Sputnik-like race to building the first commercial Fusion power plant(s).

That success is for-ordained as virtually all its expected scientific achievements, have now been met or exceeded during the long on-again, off-again, on-again, gestation of ITER.

Only the bringing together of advances achieved in all the smaller reactors worldwide, and scale up to commercial power plant size, is left for ITER to do. The scale-up, should only help not hinder the Fusion tractions and containment achievements.

It has taken more than half a century of gradually creating, hotter, denser, plasmas only to discover new instabilities, at every increase,toward the final goal, to understand and to overcome and then doing so, has been exhausting. But the end has been achieved, already. Lots of small reactors have produced hot enough, dense enough, and stable enough, and contained enough plasmas, to produce substantial amounts of thermonuclear energy. There are no more "next instabilities" to be found. They all have been seen and conquered. After ITER a mixed last scientific and first engineering experiment, there will be lots of engineering to do. It will be much easier than the highly radioactive and tougher to safely control fission plants. So it will go rapidly.

Its too bad that it took so long to bring inexhaustible Fusion power. Fusion power has been delayed by a decade or more. Due to the environmentalists opposition, of all things.


The detailed postings here seem to say that there is and has never been economical nuclear energy at any scale, which questions why so many hundreds were built and remain operating.


" took so long to bring inexhaustable Fusion power."

Where is it?


The reasons for all those plants differed by country and time. In the US, it was to created to promote a peaceful use of atomic energy. Eisenhower promoted Atoms for Peace. Meanwhile early reactors were used to create the nuclear fissionables for weapon stockpiles until specialty reactors could be built. Gov't encouraged the military/industrial complex to build reactors. Some of it was anticipation of keeping to 7% electricity demand growth which collapsed in the 70's. Some of it came from technical scientific worship. The utilities were more monopolistic entities back then, more insulated from the market. Nuclear companies were wildly optimistic and gave unrealistic pricing. Congressional science reports show an average cost of 207% over the bids. A whole host of reasons arose to try to sell nuclear energy and many bit and were bitten.

In the 80's Washington Public Power Supply System, who went nuclear and failed, defaulted on a 2.25 billion dollar bond.

There are situations that could create market conditions where maybe nuclear can be said to have superior characteristics. China maybe that example. Wind in 70% cheaper for instance. I haven't checked out what it is for nuclear, I think I've seen $1500/kW. But those conditions are their market not the market in general. And they soon will be developing their own reactors and instituitional knowledge in them. It may not be transferable at competitive costs. Even then would something as nationalistic as nuclear power be imported? How many Russian reactor are there in France or the US or Germany? It will be framed by local decisions and views.

Let's take a look back. In 1989, the IAEA stats on the state of nuclear power. 426 reactors, 96 in construction, output 318 271 MWe. Today, 436 reactors, 47 under construction, output 370 221 MWe. Over 70 reactors worldwide will reach over 40 years of age in just the next 8 years, where the chances of retirement are large. And we haven't really dealt with waste cost issues, recycling issues, fuel shortage issues.

Nuclear is a technology. It isn't magic and shouldn't be treated like magic.

Looking at ITER's website, you will see that the estimated costs of fusion power will initially be more than regular nuclear. And not for another 30-40 years.

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