Bechtel will join researchers from reactor designer GE Hitachi (GEH), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Exelon Power Generation Company as recipients of US Department of Energy funding from its Advanced Nuclear Technology Development program. The research will investigate ways to efficiently build a plant using GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs) (earlier post).
The BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the NRC-certified ESBWR. Through significant design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require up to 60% less capital cost per MW 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.
We’ll look at ways to bring innovation and modular technology to the project with the goal of reducing cost and schedule, which are key factors for companies and utilities examining SMRs.—Mike Robinson, operations manager of Bechtel’s nuclear power group
The DOE award will provide 80% of the expected research costs up to about $2 million. (Earlier post.)
SMRs reduce costs through simplified designs and smaller sizes when compared with traditional light-water reactors. That results in the use of fewer construction materials and the ability to apply unique modularization and innovative construction techniques. In some cases, SMRs and modules can be built inside factories and then shipped to plant construction sites for final installation.
Bechtel has been a leader in nuclear services across the facility lifecycle. Since the 1950s Bechtel has performed services on more than 150 nuclear power units around the world, including Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee, the last reactor to start up in the US and the first to come online in the 21st century.
Bechtel is now completing construction on Plants Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia, the only active new nuclear plant construction project in the US.