GE-Hitachi (GEH) Nuclear Energy last week said it had submitted a final design certification document for the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The submittal allows the regulatory agency to proceed with its evaluation of the third-generation reactor design.

The document was Revision 6 of the design certification document for the ESBWR design. “Such revisions are a routine part of the certification process. At the time of the DCD Revision 6 submittal on Aug. 31, GEH had answered all of the NRC’s RAIs [requests for additional information]—going from approximately 6,100 RAIs to zero RAIs,” GEH spokesperson Edward Glascock told POWERnews last week. “Combined, these are a key part of the reason we believe this announcement to be such a big milestone for the ESBWR.”

Earlier this year, the reactor design had been dropped by Exelon and Entergy as the preferred technology for plants in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Exelon cited commercial and schedule uncertainties, whereas Entergy said it had been unable to come to acceptable business terms with GEH. The NRC is currently considering combined construction and operation license applications (COLs) from Detroit Edison and Dominion Energy, utilities that had chosen the ESBWR for planned sites.

Neither of those sites will make the Department of Energy’s nuclear loan guarantee shortlist, however. The four new reactors to enter the final phase of due diligence for a portion of $18.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear projects include: Southern Co.’s Vogtle plant Units 3 and 4 in Georgia (AP1000s); Scana Corp.’s Units 2 and 3 (AP1000s) at the Summer plant in South Carolina; Constellation Energy Group’s Calvert Cliffs Plant Unit 3 (US-EPR) in Maryland; and NRG Energy’s South Texas Project Units 3 and 4 (GEH advanced boiling water reactors [ABWRs]). Under the loan guarantee program, the government promises to assume the companies’ debt obligations if they default on loans for the nuclear projects.

Only two of five reactor designs submitted for consideration are currently certified by the NRC: GEH’s ABWR and Westinghouse’s AP1000 pressurized water reactor. In March 2007, however, Westinghouse applied to amend the design certification to reflect a variety of technical changes to the AP1000. That process has been plagued with delays—the most recent stemming from Westinghouse’s failures to provide timely technical answers about the reactor’s coolant recirculation system, as reported in The Energy Daily, POWERnews’s sister publication, on Tuesday. Westinghouse reportedly said that it now expects to receive the design certification amendment for the AP1000 by the summer of 2011.

The NRC’s design review for the ESBWR, which was expected to begin later this year, was delayed this February to next year. The NRC has not published a target date for certification, though it indicates that a final safety evaluation report could be issued by August 2010. GEH told POWERnews last week that certification for the design is on course and that a final decision could be issued in late 2010 or in the first quarter of 2011.

The NRC received design certification applications for the final two reactors—AREVA’s US-EPR and Mitsubishi’s US-APWR—in late December 2007. The regulatory agency expects to issue final safety evaluation reports for both reactors in September 2011, but it has indicated that it expects to issue a final decision in February 2012 only for the US-EPR.

Sources: GEH, The Energy Daily, POWERnews, POWER