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Stakeholders show interest in Canadian small reactor plans

August 21, 2017

Over 70 organisations have submitted responses to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) request for expressions of interest in small modular reactors (SMRs), including more than 15 expressions of interest in building a prototype or demonstration reactor.

The Canadian nuclear science and technology organisation earlier this year released a long-term strategy including the goal of siting a new SMR on its Chalk River site by 2026. It issued the request in June, to inform the conversation on the potential for an SMR industry in Canada and CNL’s potential role in bringing SMR technology to market. CNL hopes to gain a better understanding of its existing capabilities, technology gaps, needs and requirements, and overall market interest.

The request for expressions of interest, which closed on 31 July, received input from technology developers, potential end users, and other interested parties and stakeholders, including host communities, the nuclear supply chain and research and academic institutions.

CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario is the home to the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, which is due to close down on 31 March 2018 after 60 years of operations. During that time, the NRU has been one of the largest and most versatile high-flux research reactors in the world, and an important supplier of medical isotopes. Over the next 10 years, the site is to be developed to support the nuclear research needs of the Canadian government and the science and technology needs of the Canadian and global nuclear industry.

SMRs provide a potential alternative to large-scale nuclear power reactors, and CNL said the technology holds opportunities for Canada, particularly for remote communities and industrial sites. Advantages over traditional technologies include the ability to purchase and construct in a modular way, decreased up-front capital costs through simpler, less complex plants, and a reduced staff complement. Designs can also bring greater efficiency and systems which are inherently safe. SMRs could also be integrated in overall energy plans with applications as varied as district heating, co-generation, energy storage, desalination, or hydrogen production.

CNL president and CEO Mark Lesinski said the organisation’s vision is to serve as global hub for the SMR development community. “The request was issued to give us a better understanding of the industry’s interest in pursuing SMR technology, and the part that CNL could play in that process. I’m happy to say that the response has been beyond our expectations”, he said.

Kathryn McCarthy, CNL’s Vice-President of Research & Development, said it represented a “very strong start” to the process of constructing an SMR at Chalk River. “The feedback we received from these stakeholders allows us to better shape our program, ensuring we have the right capabilities and expertise to meet the needs of industry every step of the way”, she said.

CNL will now review and analyse the submissions received through the request, before publishing a summary of its findings.

Source: World Nuclear News

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