GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Savannah River Nuclear Solution, a partnership comprising Fluor, Northrop Grumman, and Honeywell, have agreed to explore the potential of deploying a prototype of the Generation IV PRISM reactor at a proposed demonstration of small modular reactor technologies at the Energy Department’s Savannah River site.

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding that allows for continued discussions on licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and deployment of the 299-MW reactor at the federally owned facility. Savannah River Nuclear Solution manages and operates the site for the DOE.

The PRISM reactor design, which completed NRC pre-application reviews in 1994, builds on national research on and development of sodium-cooled reactors, GEH said on Wednesday. “A key attribute of PRISM technology is that it generates additional electricity from recycling used nuclear fuel,” the company said.

In a related story, GEH announced on Tuesday that its next-generation reactor model, the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), passed a crucial safety review performed by an advisory committee for the NRC. Completion of this review clears a key hurdle in the company’s bid for design certification of the ESBWR, which now begins the federal rulemaking process. Final NRC certification is expected by the fall of 2011.

The NRC’s independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) issued its safety recommendation for the 1,520-MW ESBWR design, which is required before a new reactor technology can achieve final certification. From this point, the process takes approximately one year to complete.

“The ESBWR design is robust and there is reasonable assurance that it can be built and operated without undue risk to the health and safety of the public,” ACRS Chairman Said Abdel-Khalik wrote in the agency’s safety recommendation.

GEH and Michigan utility DTE Energy are collaborating on a potential ESBWR project adjacent to its existing Fermi 2 nuclear plant, 35 miles south of Detroit. The NRC is currently reviewing the utility’s license application for the proposed “Fermi Unit 3.” DTE Energy, which operates Detroit Edison, Michigan’s largest electric utility, has not yet made a decision to proceed with construction of the new reactor.

For in-depth stories on the ESBWR and small modular reactors, see POWER’s forthcoming November 2010 issue.

Sources: GEH, NRC, POWERnews