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 Post subject: GE-Hitachi BWRX-300
PostPosted: Apr 21, 2018 9:54 pm 
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Innovation seen as key to GE Hitachi’s future

GE Hitachi will need to innovate if it is going to remain viable in an age where the economics of sprawling nuclear power plants often wrap the construction of new facilities in red tape, a senior official said this week at the 2018 State Energy Conference of North Carolina.

“We simply said, we’ve got to do something dramatically different. If this industry is going to survive going forward, we’ve got to think about it differently,” said Jon Ball, the executive vice president of Wilmington-headquartered GE Hitachi.

To find an answer, the company turned to customers and asked what products they are seeking, with responses indicating plants need to be competitive with natural gas. The company is now in the midst of developing a reactor, called the BWRX-300 that is much smaller than traditional reactors and, the company believes, cost-competitive.

“We’re designing it to become the most economical light water reactor in the world,” Ball said. “Right now, we don’t see another design that really comes close from a cost-effective standpoint.”

The BWRX-300 would be about 15,500 cubic meters, Ball said, compared to some other reactors that can stand as large as 161,000 cubic meters. To reach that, the GE Hitachi team stripped out cooling pools and backup systems that are designed to protect against a catastrophic loss-of-coolant accident, building a model that they believe prevents the possibility of such an incident. Furthermore, the estimated $700 million reactor would sit in a 20-meter diameter shaft drilled into the ground -- think a missile silo -- and covered with a concrete lid that would not be accessed outside of maintenance outages. When the GE Hitachi team set out to develop the technology, it targeted $2,000 per kilowatt production, a number where federal estimates show nuclear is extremely competitive with renewable technologies. Right now, it has the costs of BWRX-300 production estimated at $2,250 per kilowatt.

“Hitting this ($2,000 per kilowatt) target is relevant and, really, if new nuclear is going to have a future going forward,” Ball said, “these are the kind of price targets that we’re going to have to hit.”

GE, GE Hitachi and the joint GE and Hitachi holding Global Nuclear Fuel Holding Co. are housed together on GE’s Castle Hayne campus. According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, the companies each employee between 500 and 1,000 people and are the 15th-, 16th- and 17th-largest employers in New Hanover County. In 2017, GE Hitachi announced two rounds of layoffs, one in February and another shortly before Christmas. The announcements came around the time construction of two new reactors at Scana’s VC Summer Plant in South Carolina was canceled after costs swelled and questions swirled around the future of another planned pair of reactors in Georgia.

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