GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s “Generation III+” ESBWR (Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor) has received a positive review from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS), a key step in getting design certification. A federal rulemaking process now starts, setting the stage for final NRC certification by the autumn of 2011.

GEH believes its 1520 MW ESBWR has “the world’s most advanced passive safety features, simplified construction and operation and the lowest core damage frequency on the market today. In addition, the ESBWR’s innovative digital instrumentation and control design and development process are rigorously compliant to nuclear regulations and globally recognised standards.”

“Our team has been successful in keeping the ESBWR on track to become the first reactor with the extent of passive safety features and reliance on natural circulation cooling yet to be certified,” said Caroline Reda, president and CEO of GEH.

GEH and Michigan utility DTE Energy are collaborating on a potential ESBWR project adjacent to its existing Fermi 2 nuclear plant, 35 miles south of Detroit.

But so far the ESBWR has made less commercial headway than Westinghouse’s Generation III+ PWR offering, the AP1000, the first of which are under construction in China.

GEH is also developing a Generation IV design, the sodium cooled PRISM reactor, and has signed an MoU with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions to “explore the potential” of deploying a 299 MW PRISM prototype on US DoE owned Savannah River site.

PRISM is a “fast burner” reactor and the cornerstone of GEH’s proposed Advanced Recycling Center (ARC) concept for extracting power from spent fuel, which the company is currently promoting vigorously following the demise of the Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository project and the appointment of a “blue ribbon commission” by the US government to examine spent fuel management options.

GE announced recently that ARC had been approved as part of its “ecomagination” portfolio.