GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), a global alliance of GE and Hitachi that was formed last year, said on Monday it had notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of its intent to renew design certification for its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR).

The ABWR (PDF), which ranges in net capacity of 1,350 MW to 1,460 MW, was the first Generation III reactor design certified by the NRC in 1997. The design certification for the reactor, which covers a 15-year period, is set to expire on June 11, 2012. GEH said it plans to file the renewal in mid-2010, well within the 12- to 36-month timeframe required by the NRC before the initial certification expires.

The ABWR is licensed in Japan and Taiwan and has been built successfully using advanced modular construction techniques. In Japan, four ABWR units are in operation, two more are under construction, and additional ABWR units are in the planning stages.

The South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Operating Co. in September last year submitted a combined construction and operating license (COL) for two ABWR units at its STP site near Bay City in Matagorda County, Texas. “It is feasible that an ABWR plant could be built in the United States and be commercially operational by 2012,” GE said on its web site.

GEH and partner Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy, headquartered in Japan, have launched the Global Unified Project Office at GEH’s facility in San Jose, Calif. There, engineering teams are combining GEH’s U.S.-certified ABWR nuclear technology and U.S. design with HGNE’s proven experience in the construction of ABWRs in Japan to further reduce construction costs and improve schedule certainty. The initiative is developing the project deployment model for U.S. and global customers.

The NRC is currently reviewing GEH’s August 2005 certification application for its Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design and expects that certification process to continue through 2010. Three companies whose COL applications the NRC has so far received—Detroit Edison, Entergy, and Dominion—have selected the ESBWR as their preferred technology for planned nuclear plants.

Exelon Corp., which in November 2007 announced the selection of the ESBWR for two reactors at its Victoria site in Texas, last month said that it had been in discussions with other reactor manufacturers since August “after an internal analysis” conducted this summer showed that “technologies other than the ESBWR provide the project greater commercial and schedule certainty.”

These improvements would enhance Exelon’s ability to obtain federal loan guarantees, which the company said were essential for financing a new nuclear development project.

Sources: GE Hitachi, NRC, Exelon