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High Bridge, Exelon and AECOM team to commercialize GE Hitachi's PRISM reactor

A new nuclear consortium led by High Bridge Associates' subsidiary High Bridge Energy Development Co. is working on the licensing and deployment of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's advanced PRISM sodium-cooled fast reactor design.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Hitachi Ltd., joined with management consulting firm High Bridge Associates, Exelon Corp. subsidiary Exelon Generation Co. LLC and AECOM subsidiary and contractor URS Nuclear LLC on June 2 to announce their collaboration to develop and commercialize GE Hitachi's high-energy neutron reactor. The group also signed a teaming agreement to pursue U.S. Department of Energy advanced reactor research and development funding as a public-private partnerships. GE Hitachi's PRISM design is based on Argonne National Laboratory's EBR-II integral fast reactor prototype that ran for more than 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho.

GE Hitachi Executive Vice President Jon Ball said PRISM technology is poised to lead the advanced nuclear industry and help maintain American leadership in nuclear energy. He said the design's use of high energy neutrons, liquid sodium cooling and metallic fuels enables a safer and more economic reactor than existing water-cooled units. Its operational flexibility is also intended to complement intermittent renewable generation by providing a continuous supply of baseload electricity.

“We believe that no U.S. fast spectrum reactor technology has more testing, design or operational basis than PRISM," said High Bridge Energy CEO Steve Maehr. "PRISM is well positioned to provide a regulatory path for licensing and deployment of advanced reactor technology in the U.S."

In March, GE Hitachi and Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC, also known as ARC Nuclear, agreed to a partnership to develop and license an advanced small modular reactor, or SMR, using the same sodium-cooled, fast-reactor technology based off of the EBR-II as well. The project will initially seek regulatory approval and deployment in Canada.

Both firms had already been developing designs based off of the EBR-II that share many features. However, while GE Hitachi's PRISM is designed to refuel every year to two years and close the fuel cycle by consuming transuranics, or radioactive waste that often has very long half-lives, ARC Nuclear's 100-MW ARC-100 advanced SMR design is meant to operate for up to 20 years without refueling.

In October 2016, GE Hitachi also signed a memorandum of understanding with Southern Co. subsidiary Southern Nuclear Operating Co. to collaborate on advanced reactor licensing projects, including GE Hitachi's PRISM design.