Cost put at $1bn per unit with construction scheduled for end of decade
US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has launched a “game-changing” mid-sized nuclear power plant that is scaled from the company’s existing AP1000 large reactor and could be under construction at a cost of $1bn per unit by the end of the decade.
The company said the AP300 is the only SMR based on reactor technology that is already in operation. It will effectively reuse systems and supply chains from the AP1000, making it “readily deployable” and bringing construction time down to about three years.
Westinghouse expects the new design will get federal approval in 2027 and the first unit may start delivering power to the grid in about 2033. The compact plant would have a generating capacity of 300 MW, making it a suitable replacement for coal plants that are being retired because they are polluting.
David Durham, Westinghouse’s president of energy systems, told a press conference on Thursday (4 May) the company is in discussions with customers and has been for a while, but “I won’t name them”. He said: “We also envision there will be non-utility customers who want to get off the grid and decarbonise.”
Initial Focus On Design Licensing In US
Durham said Westinghouse is initially focused on design licensing in the US, but will aim for licensing in other countries later.
The plant could be used for clean electricity production and additional applications such as district heating and water desalination. It is ideally suited for integration with renewable resources and will “pave the way” towards the hydrogen economy by enabling the production of clean hydrogen.
Westinghouse has named Rita Baranwal, currently chief technology officer, to senior vice-president to lead the team developing the AP300 SMR. Baranwal is the former assistant secretary of nuclear energy at the US Department of Energy.
The AP300 is one of dozens of SMRs that are expected to be made in factories and assembled on site, an approach advocates say will make them faster and cheaper to build. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved only one design to date, the NuScale Voygr SMR.
There are four Westinghouse AP1000 units in commercial operation, two at Sanmen in China and two at Haiyang in China, with six more under construction in China. Two are nearing completion at Vogtle in the US state of Georgia.
The Vogtle project has seen delays and cost overruns. Asked about the Vogtle project, Westinghouse president and chief executive officer Patrick Fragman said when the project began the AP1000 design was not stable, the supply chain was not there and Westinghouse EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) role was “not really in our comfort zone because we are more a technology provider”.
The US had not built a new nuclear plant in decades and then Covid came, Fragman said. “We have taken hard lessons from this and we now have a very good line of sight on new AP1000s and new AP300s.”