AP1000 nuclear reactor certification amended by NRC

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has voted to approve a rule certifying an amended version of Westinghouse’s 1,100 MW AP1000 reactor design for use in the United States. The amended certification, which will be incorporated into the NRC’s regulations, will be valid for 15 years.

“The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials,” said NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko.

The Commission has also found good cause to make the rule immediately effective once it is published in the Federal Register. NRC rules normally become effective 30 days after publication.

The design certification process provides for public participation and early resolution of safety issues for proposed reactor designs. NRC certification, in the form of a final rule, means the design meets the agency’s applicable safety requirements. If an applicant for a nuclear power plant license references a certified design, the applicant need not submit safety information for the design. Instead, the license application and the NRC’s safety review would address the remaining safety issues specific to the proposed nuclear power plant.

Westinghouse submitted an application for certification of the original AP1000 standard plant design on March 28, 2002; the NRC issued a rule certifying that design on Jan. 27, 2006.

Westinghouse submitted an application to amend the AP1000 on May 27, 2007. The NRC’s extensive technical review of the amendment request focused on ensuring the agency’s safety requirements have been met. This transparent process, including input from the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, led to the NRC issuing a final safety evaluation report on the amended AP1000 in August. The NRC issued a proposed rule for the amended design in January. Stakeholders provided more than 12,000 comments on the proposed rule; the NRC staff considered these comments in developing the final rule.

The Shaw Group (NYSE: SHAW) congratulated Westinghouse on receiving the final certification for the AP1000.

"The final design certification of the AP1000 reactor from the NRC is a testament to the nuclear industry's dedication to safety and dependability in reactor design," said J.M. Bernhard Jr., chairman, president and chief executive officer of Shaw. "The AP1000 design is a significant advancement in the safety of nuclear energy, and now with the design certification in place, the technology will play an important role in providing safe, clean and reliable energy for our future."

The NRC is currently reviewing six Combined License applications that reference the amended AP1000 design. The NRC has certified three other standard reactor designs: the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, System 80+, and AP600. The agency is currently reviewing applications to certify the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor, the U.S. Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor and the EPR pressurized-water reactor.

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