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Dominion sets sights on new design

Posted on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Dominion Virginia Power officials select new nuclear reactor design for proposed Unit 3 at North Anna Nuclear Power Station at Lake Anna.

Although Dominion Virginia Power has not decided whether it will build Unit 3 at North Anna Power Station, the utility company is continuing to move through the process as if it were.

Dominion announced late last week that it has decided to use General Electric-Hitachi ESBWR technology for Unit 3 rather than the Mitsubishi product the company had originally chosen for the reactor.

“We currently are the only company in the United States that is conducting the development of a new nuclear unit in a fully competitive manner,” said Eugene Grecheck, vice president of nuclear engineering and development at Dominion Nuclear.

In evaluating the product, Dominion determined that the ESBWR, which has been described as a passive design, will provide the best value for the company. The expected lifespan of the unit is 60 years.

The advanced design will generate a net of 1,470 megawatts, enough energy to power 368,000 homes at peak demand in the Commonwealth, with virtually no emissions that can contribute to global climate change.

“If you have a major accident with the plant, the plant can pretty much take care of itself without requiring electrical power,” Grecheck said.

Emergency diesel generators kick on to power emergency equipment when there is a power outage at existing Units 1 and 2 at North Anna Power Station. The new reactor design would not require pumps.

In the event of a nuclear emergency, such as what happened after the earthquake and tsunami at Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in March of 2011, the newly proposed technology would automatically keep the core covered with water from above.

“The way you would avoid having to have these big pumps pump water into the core—water is housed in containment above the core,” he said.  “As the water level drops and requires water, it would flow by gravity to keep the reactor [cool] up to seven days.”

Workers would then need to refill the tanks about every seven days until that task is no longer needed.

 To read the entire story, see the May 2 edition of The Central Virginian.