ACR-1000 completes pre-project regulatory review

3 February 2011

AECL's new Candu reactor design, the light-water cooled, heavy-water moderated, enriched uranium-fuelled 1165MWe ACR-1000, has completed the third and final stage of a voluntary regulatory review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The safety and security review is intended to determine any barriers to Canadian licencing, should an application for a licence be forthcoming. So far, there are none. In 2009, the Ontario government rejected an ACR-1000 bid for new reactors at Darlington on the grounds of price. However, it has since indicated it would be willing to reconsider, once AECL was restructured.

The vendor pre-project review of the ACR-1000 began in April 2008, and has gone into progressively more technical detail, although CNSC stressed that review of a licence application would be even more detailed. Phase one, regulatory compliance review, was completed on 31 December 2008. Phase two, identification of fundamental barriers, was completed on 31 August 2009 (it found none). In phase 3, follow up, AECL chose particular areas of its implementation of the phase 2 suggestions for CNSC to follow up on.

The conclusions of the review report were broadly positive. The CNSC found 'satisfactory methodologies' in five of the 11 topics reviewed: classification of structures, systems and components, online preventative maintenance, severe accidents, probabilistic safety assessments and safety analysis.

Although the descriptions of the conclusions on the other six topics in the CNSC's executive summary were not negative, their approval of the design seemed to be contingent to a greater extent on other work, some of which is specified and some of which is not.

It was most positive in its review of a new computer code called Tsunami for ACR-1000 physics calculations. In the report, although CNSC says that the code is new to licencing in Canada [and therefore presumably a completely unknown quantity], it concludes that AECL has made progress in developing an analytical methodology that could be applied to support licensing.

It also concluded that AECL has made 'satisfactory progress' in design, R&D and testing activities of three of the topics that are new in the ACR-1000 reactor design: reactor core nuclear design, fuel design and the emergency core cooling system.

It was slightly less positive about two other topics, human factors and quality assurance, saying, "CNSC staff also finds that, overall, AECL is satisfactorily taking into account CNSC observations made during the Phase 2 review."

CNSC said that in general, AECL is 'progressing satisfactorily' to resolve Phase 2 issues raised. It also said: "The progress made to date, and subject to the successful completion of the remaining planned activities, the specific items on each of the 11 topics covered in Phase 3 will be satisfactorily addressed within a reasonable timeframe."

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