After high profile setbacks, and false starts, some bright spots point to potential for success for ESBWR
Tractor pull anyone?
Bringing a new nuclear reactor design to market is like competing in a county fair tractor pull. A lot of horsepower is applied in a very short period of time to move a huge weight over a measured, but very significant, distance.
The parallel process for a new reactor is that once the design comes off the drawing boards, or out of the CAD program, as much as 8,000 electronic pages of text and drawings must be hauled over to the Nuclear Regulator Commission for review. Once there, the applicant must answer hundreds of questions, often more than once, and pay for the privilege of getting the safety analysis done at rates approaching $300/hr.
GE Hitachi's ESBWR reactor has had a rough couple of years, but the firm is now making progress. It has a firm date from the NRC for completion of the safety evaluation report by 2011. The first orders may come in the U.K. by 2015. Detroit Edison is also moving ahead with plans for the FERMI III project in Michigan. Overall, it's longer term prospects are looking better.
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