Westinghouse Electric Company has unveiled its newest nuclear technology, a small modular reactor (SMR) that it hopes will become a valuable tool in increasing the implementation of clean energy.
The AP300 SMR is a 300-MWe single-loop pressurized water reactor, and its design is scaled from Westinghouse’s operational AP1000 reactor. It is a compact, modular-constructed unit that will utilize identical technology as its larger predecessor, including passive safety, fuel, and instrumentation and fuel systems, Westinghouse said.
The SMR will use technology that has regulatory approval in the United States, Great Britain, and Chain, the company said, as well as compliance with European Utility Requirement standards for nuclear power plants. Westinghouse said the SMR’s design certification is anticipated to be completed by 2027, with site-specific licensing and construction on the first unit taking place by the end of the decade.
“The AP300 is the only small modular reactor offering available that is based on deployed, operating and advanced reactor technology,” said Westinghouse President and CEO Patrick Fragman.
Westinghouse, which has developed nuclear energy technology for 70 years, told CNBC that the estimated cost of a single AP300 unit will be around $1 billion. That is a fraction of the nearly $7 billion of an AP1000 reactor. The company has had initial talks with groups in Ohio and West Virginia about building AP300s at former coal plants in those states, according to Reuters.
The AP300 produces about a quarter of the energy as the AP1000, but it is enough to power 300,000 homes and businesses, according to CNBC. The SMR produces a similar amount of energy as a traditional coal power plant, the report said.
Nuclear Power the Future of Clean Energy?
Nuclear power could be key in increasing access to and use of clean and renewable energy. The Biden Administration has made nuclear energy a focus of its 2050 net-zero plans.
Nuclear power provides approximately half of the US’s carbon-free energy, according to the Department of Energy. Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have caused 13 nuclear power plants to close since 2013, the DOE said.
Safety concerns have also held back advancing nuclear energy. Westinghouse said it has an advanced passive safety system that automatically achieves a safe shutdown without operator action and eliminates the need for backup power and cooling supply.
The company also said this has simplified the design of the SMR and lowered its footprint. The unit is designed to operate for more than 80 years.
The AP300 SMR will produce reliable and clean electricity, Westinghouse said, and will have additional applications for district heating and water desalination. It will be able to integrate with renewable resources, and can enable hydrogen production integrated with the plant, the company said.
Westinghouse has named its current chief technology officer Dr. Rita Baranwal as senior vice president in the energy services business to lead the development of the AP300 SMR. Baranwal has served as the assistant secretary of nuclear energy for the DOE and also was previously the director of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation In Nuclear initiative at the Idaho National Lab.