Sunday, June 4, 2017

US NRC Approves ESBWR Nuclear Reactor for Virginia

Subtitle: New Reactor is Approved - But Likely Won't Be Built
Yet another new nuclear plant is approved for construction in the US, this time a Boiling Water Reactor, 1600 MWe, in Virginia. It remains to be seen if the licensee, Dominion Virginia Power, actually builds what will no doubt be an extremely expensive plant, so expensive that the power cannot be sold profitably. Meanwhile, reactors in the same PJM area are being shut down due to huge financial losses.  
Reactor Vessel for ESBWR - source NRC
In addition, as written earlier on SLB, the PJM grid planners anticipate great difficulties in achieving the renewable energy production targets while simultaneously absorbing the almost-constant baseload power from roughly 30 nuclear power plants.   The average renewable energy target is 25 percent of all power sold in the PJM grid, by the year 2025.  PJM analysis concludes that 20 percent is the absolute maximum the grid can handle with adequate stability.  However, it is known that using flexible, gas-fired generators that can ramp up and down as required is a feature that is friendly to higher renewable energy input to a grid. 
In that scenario, it makes zero sense for Dominion Virginia Power to build and startup 1600 MW of new nuclear power.   see link to NRC document on issuing the Combined License to Construct and Operate.  The NRC document is shown below. 
“No: 17-025 May 31, 2017
Contact: Scott Burnell, 301-415-8200
NRC to Issue New Reactor License to Dominion for North Anna Site
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized the issuance of a Combined License for Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna site in Virginia. The license grants Dominion permission to build and operate an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design at the site, near Mineral, Va. [just north of Richmond; site is in the PJM grid territory- Sowell comment]
The Commission authorized the agency’s Office of New Reactors to issue the license following a hearing on March 23. The Commission found the staff’s review of Dominion’s application to be adequate to make the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings. NRC expects to issue the license in the next few days.
The license contains conditions, including:
• Specific actions associated with the agency’s post-Fukushima requirements for Mitigation
Strategies and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation;
• A pre-startup schedule for post-Fukushima aspects of the new reactor’s emergency
preparedness plans and procedures.
Dominion submitted the North Anna application for an ESBWR adjacent to the company’s two existing reactors to NRC on Nov. 26, 2007. The NRC certified the 1,600-megawatt ESBWR design following a Commission vote in September 2014. More information on the ESBWR certification process is available on the NRC website.
The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards independently reviewed aspects of the application that concern safety, as well as the staff’s final safety evaluation report. The committee provided the results of its review to the Commission on Nov. 15, 2016. The NRC completed its environmental review and published the final impact statement for the proposed reactor in February 2010.”

Documents on the NRC site give the following for the ESBWR reactor at 1600 MWe. 
The reactor itself is 25 feet outside diameter, and approximately 110 feet long.  It is a vertical cylindrical vessel with alloy steel wall with a 3 mm inner clad lining.  The wall is 7.17 inches thick.  The reactor has a welded bottom head and a flanged and bolted top head.   The reactor vessel has a weight in excess of 1,000 tons.  (see figure above)
The reactor is to operate at 1,050 psia and approximately 550 degrees F to produce saturated steam.   The reactor has control rods inserted from the bottom, through the bottom head.  The reactor core is in the lower portion of the reactor vessel.  Above the core is a steam/water separator system that returns liquid water to the core.  Boiler feedwater is injected by high-pressure pumps into an annular space near the reactor vessel wall.   Inside the reactor, no pumps exist; water must circulate by density difference only.  

The overall thermal efficiency of the plant is approximately 35 percent, with the reactor core output of 4500 MW, electrical generation of 1594 MW, losses to cooling water of 2906 MW, and parasitic electrical load of 60 MW.  

Logistics of transporting and installing such a reactor to the North Anna site in Virginia are daunting, to say the least.   North Anna is approximately 40 miles north-west of Richmond, on a lake created by a dam in a river valley.    Good luck with this one, fellows. 
Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California
copyright (c) 2017 by Roger Sowell - all rights reserved

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