November 1, 2011 / 5:41 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 1-NRC approves South Texas amended ABWR reactor design

* New reactors are for South Texas plant
    * NRG stopped investing in new reactor project
    * GE-Hitachi also seeking amended ABWR approval

    NEW YORK, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) on Tuesday said it has approved a new version
of the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) nuclear power
plant design proposed by the South Texas nuclear power
project.
    In a release, the NRC said it directed its staff to publish
a final rule amending the ABWR design certification to address
the effects of the impact of a large commercial aircraft, in
accordance with the NRC's 2009 aircraft impact rule.
    Once the staff publishes that final rule, nuclear operators
can use the amended ABWR design in proposed new projects.
    South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co, which includes
U.S. power company NRG Energy , submitted an application
to amend the ABWR design in June 2009.
    The NRC's aircraft rules followed the attacks on September
11, 2001. The NRC said the aircraft rule requires new and
existing nuclear plants to show that the reactors can withstand
an aircraft impact with only minimal operator actions to keep
the reactor core and spent fuel cool, among other things.
    The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011 that
damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant showed how
radiation can escape from reactors when operators cannot keep
the reactor core and spent fuel cool.
    The approval of the amended ABWR comes as the nuclear
industry waits for the NRC to certify Westinghouse Electric's
amended AP1000 reactor design, which nuclear power operators
have already started building in Georgia and South Carolina.
Westinghouse is majority owned by Japan's Toshiba .
    The NRC is expected to certify the amended AP1000 design
later this year. Units of U.S. power companies Southern 
and Scana are building the new AP1000 reactors.
    NRG PULLED OUT
    The NRC moved forward with the approval process for the
South Texas amended ABWR even though NRG, the lead partner in
the project, stopped investing in the plan to build new
reactors at South Texas in April 2011.
    The ABWR was designed by units of General Electric ,
Hitachi and Toshiba. General Electric got the design
certified in the United States in 1997.
    NRG told the NRC it wanted to build two 1,350-megawatt
ABWRs at South Texas in 2006. In 2007, NRG filed an application
to build two of Toshiba's ABWRs at South Texas. Toshiba has
built ABWRs in Japan. The GE-Hitachi nuclear venture also
markets the ABWR.
    GE-Hitachi, which is waiting for NRC to certify their next
generation Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR)
design, applied with the NRC in late 2010 to extend the
original ABWR design certification for another 15 years beyond
June 2012, when it expires. That application also includes an
aircraft impact assessment.
    With NRG no longer funding the new reactor project for
South Texas, Toshiba, a minority partner in the project, has
been moving that process forward at the NRC.
    Officials at Toshiba however were not immediately available
for comment on the company's future plans for South Texas.

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