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NRC Computer Model of ESBWR layout.

The reactor formally known as Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) is a passively safe generation III+ reactor which builds on the success of the ABWR. Both are designs by General Electric, and are based on their BWR design.

The ESBWR uses natural circulation with no recirculation pumps or their associated piping, thereby greatly increasing design integrity and reducing overall costs.

The passively safe characteristics are mainly based on isolation condensers, which are heat exchangers that take steam from the vessel (isolation condensers, IC) or the containment (passive containment cooling system, PCCS), condense the steam, transfer the heat to a water pool, and introduce the water into the vessel again.

This is also based on the gravity driven cooling system (GDCS), which are pools above the vessel. When very low water level is detected in the reactor, the depressurization system opens several very large valves to reduce vessel pressure and finally to allow these GDCS pools to re-flood the vessel.

All of the safety systems operate without using pumps, thereby further increasing design safety reliability and reducing costs.

The core is made shorter than conventional BWR plants in an effort to reduce the pressure drop over the fuel, thereby enabling natural circulation. There are 1132 bundles and the thermal power is 4500 MWth. The nominal summertime output is rated at 1575-1600 MWe, yielding an overall plant efficiency of 35%.[1]

In the case of an accident, the ESBWR can remain stabilized for 72 hours without any operator action. Below the vessel, there is a piping structure which allows for cooling of the core during a very severe accident. These pipes divide the molten core and cool it with water flowing through the piping.

The probability of radioactivity release to the atmosphere is several orders of magnitude lower than conventional nuclear power plants, and the building cost is 60-70% of other light water reactors.

The energy production cost is lower than other plants due to:

  1. Lower initial capital cost
  2. Lower operational and maintenance cost

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