Two months after Exelon Nuclear dropped GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Economic & Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design as its preferred technology for a proposed two-unit nuclear facility in Victoria County, Texas, the company has reached agreement with GE-Hitachi for two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) for that site.
“Exelon has signed a services agreement and term sheet with Hitachi Power Systems America Ltd., for construction of the two ABWR’s in Victoria County Texas,” GE-Hitachi President and CEO Jack Fuller said in an e-mailed statement to POWERnews on Tuesday. “The alliance between GE and Hitachi provides world-class design technology, engineering, and proven construction experience and we are delighted to be working with Exelon on this project.”
As POWER had reported, Exelon Nuclear had negotiated separately with Toshiba and GE-Hitachi, both ABWR vendors, as well as with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for its US Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (US APWR). Earlier this year, it said it reconsidered the ESBWR because an internal analysis had shown that other technologies provided “the project greater commercial and schedule certainty.”
Securing financing for the project was imperative, and that certainty was critical to be considered for loan guarantees from the Department of Energy (DOE), Exelon told POWER.
Reuters reported last week that the DOE has narrowed its list of projects seeking loan guarantees from 10 companies proposing to build 16 reactors to five projects—and that Exelon’s Victoria project may not be one of them.
The five projects, according to Reuters’ “company sources,” included two Texas projects: The Comanche Peak project (two US APWRs), a joint venture between Luminant and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and NRG Energy’s South Texas Project (two ABWRs). UniStar Nuclear’s Calvert Cliffs project (a US EPR) in Maryland and SCANA Corp./Santee Cooper’s Summer station expansion (two AP1000s) in South Carolina would also likely receive guarantees, Reuters reported.
If the rumor is true, the DOE’s shortlist will contain two designs already certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)—the ABWR and Westinghouse’s AP1000 (though the NRC is reviewing an application amendment for the AP1000)—and two under certification: Mitsubishi’s US Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR) and AREVA’s US EPR. Approvals for AREVA’s EPR and Mitsubishi’s US APWR are expected in 2011.
The final reactor under certification, GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR, could also be approved by then, GE-Hitachi’s chief noted. “We are in the final stages of working with the NRC on closure of open items as they finalize their safety evaluation report,” Fuller said. “The NRC and [GE-Hitachi] are working toward a NRC final safety evaluation report by fall 2010 and certification in early 2011.”
The ESBWR remains Detroit Edison’s preferred technology for a new build at its Fermi station in Michigan.
Exelon Nuclear’s parent company, meanwhile, is in the middle of a hostile takeover of NRG Energy. If the companies merge, they would form the nation’s largest utility and generate more than 18,000 MW of nuclear power. Exelon’s choice of the ABWR aligns well with that of the South Texas Project in Matagorda County, of which NRG is the majority owner.
Sources: POWER, POWERnews, Reuters, Exelon, NRC