NRC Holds Up Westinghouse AP1000 Design Certification, Citing New Technical Issues

Efforts to confirm regulatory review of Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design have resulted in the uncovering of “additional technical issues,” which Westinghouse must resolve before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) can consider finalizing certification for the design, NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko said on Friday.

“When the Commission approved issuance of the proposed certification rule earlier this year, the rule language noted the need for what, at the time, were additional calculations to confirm the staff’s technical analysis,” he said. “That work has led to more questions regarding the AP1000’s shield building, as well as the peak accident pressures expected within containment.”

Westinghouse said on Friday it would continue to work with the NRC to address what it called were the “few remaining confirmatory items,” none that are “safety significant and several of which are self-identified by Westinghouse.”

It is unclear how the NRC’s findings will impact the AP1000 design amendment and combined construction and operation license applications utilities that have chosen the reactor design in plants in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Four AP1000s are under construction in China.

Jaczko said the NRC will determine how it will deal with the issues “after the staff examines the company’s response” to them. Westinghouse will submit more information to the NRC in June. 

Westinghouse must prove to the NRC’s “satisfaction” that the company has appropriately and completely documented the adequacy of the design. NRC staff is expected to examine Westinghouse’s quality assurance and corrective actions programs as part of an inspection next week.

Westinghouse said it is confident in the AP1000 design and its passive safety features, adding that it is one of the most studied, reviewed and analyzed nuclear power plant designs in the history of the commercial nuclear power industry.  “No other reactor design has received such scrutiny before or has gone through such thorough analytical review by the NRC and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), as well as highly respected independent experts and university scholars,” the company said.

“The AP1000 design takes proven Westinghouse technology to the next level of safety with its passive cooling safety features; it is a testament to Westinghouse’s commitment to make nuclear power even safer than it already is,” it said.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, Westinghouse

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