ARC Clean Technology Canada (ARC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Invest Alberta Corporation (IAC) for co-operation in the commercialisation in Alberta of ARC’s advanced Small Modular Reactor (aSMR) technology. The province of Alberta, along with New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan, has agreed to a joint strategic plan to support SMR development.

ARC will begin the process to expand its operations in Alberta with the aim of developing a fleet of ARC-100 reactors. With IAC support, ARC will begin engagement and partnership activities with industry and stakeholders. ARC said it will also develop the associated supply chains and manufacturing, operating and support services necessary for the construction and operation of multiple ARC-100 units.

The ARC-100 was earlier selected in 2018 for deployment at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) in New Brunswick as part of Canada’s SMR Roadmap, with operation planned for 2029. The ARC-100 design completed the first of three phases of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Vendor Design Review (VDR) in 2019. Also in 2019, ARC signed an agreement with US-based global infrastructure firm AECOM to continue its development of the ARC-100 technology.

In July 2022, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) entered into a collaboration agreement with ARC, funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), for work to advance the fuel development and manufacturing processes to produce fuel for ARC’s technology. The following December, Canada’s Belledune Port Authority also proposed using an ARC aSMR to generate a minimum of 1GW of heat and power for industrial users at the port’s Green Energy Hub. Pending feasibility studies, environmental approvals and CNSC licensing, the project is planned for commercial operation between 2030 and 2035.

The ARC-100 is a 100MWe integrated sodium-cooled fast reactor with a metallic uranium alloy core. The design is based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) fast reactor prototype which operated at the USA's Argonne National Laboratory from 1961 to 1994. ARC Nuclear signed an agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy in March 2017 to collaborate on the development and licensing of an SMR using proprietary technology from GEH's PRISM reactor, which is also based on the EBR-II.

However, all fast reactor projects in Europe and North America were essentially abandoned in the 1970a and 1980s and had effectively ceased in Europe and the US by the 1990s. Although interest in fast reactor technology is now reviving in Europe and the USA, both through collaborative projects and government support for private company initiatives, it remains at the design phase. The projected operation dates for the ARC-100 may, therefore, prove to be optimistic. Currently fast reactor development continues apace only in Russia, China and India, where there are now five fast reactors in operation and five more under development.

William Labbe, president & CEO of ARC Clean Technology Canada, said early deployment of the company's SMR technology would bring high quality jobs, significant investment, and economic benefits. "With Alberta being Canada's energy and heavy industry leader, it is a natural market for ARC's industrial applications and will be a key stepping stone for the global deployment of Canadian SMR technology," he said.

IAC CEO Rick Christiaanse believes meaningful partnerships with leading cleantech innovators such as ARC bring "impactful net-zero solutions" to the province. He said: "Momentum is building in Alberta around SMR technology, with Invest Alberta signing MOUs with several companies that are on the path to launching proven sustainable energy supplies in the province."

Invest Alberta, a Crown corporation of the Government of Alberta, is also supporting other SMR projects. An MOU was signed with X-Energy Canada to develop economic opportunities supporting the potential deployment of the Xe-100 SMR. IAC has also supported Terrestrial Energy’s plans to expand its operations into Alberta to pursue commercial development of its Integral Molten Salt Reactor plant for industrial cogeneration in western Canada.

Image: ARC Clean Technology and Invest Alberta have signed an agreement to support the deployment of advanced Small Modular Reactors in Canada (courtesy of ARC Clean Technology)