Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has begun dialogue with potential participants after unveiling its vision for the organisation's future. The long-term strategy, which  was released in late April,  considers infrastructure investments of more than CAD1.2bn ($873m) over 10 years and includes the development of a new small modular reactor (SMR) at Chalk River by 2026.

The strategy looks at the future of Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario after the high-flux National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, an important supplier of medical isotopes, closes down on 31 March 2018 after 60 years of operations.

Over the next 10 years, the Chalk River site will be "strategically consolidated and modernised" to support the nuclear research needs of the Canadian government and the science and technology needs of the Canadian and global nuclear industry. Some CAD1.2bn will be invested in infrastructure and facilities, enabling the construction of an Advanced Nuclear Materials Research Centre complex, with new shielded facilities advanced active laboratories for research involving active or irradiated materials. A new electrical switchyard, expanded natural gas service, potable water lines, and sanitary sewer system will improve the safety and reliability of the current systems; and modern, energy efficient facilities will be constructed to accommodate maintenance and operations activities, logistics and security, as well as a new business centre.

CNL will combine federal and commercial priorities and needs into four application-driven research and technology development programmes: energy, including work on life extension of existing reactors, fabrication of advanced nuclear fuel, the deployment of SMRs and decarbonisation of the transport sector; health, including radiobiology research and targeted alpha therapy; safety and security, including nuclear cyber security and nuclear forensics and response; and environment, including environmental stewardship and radioactive waste management.

The science and technology goals include the siting of a new SMR by 2026; development and demonstration of a suite of targeted alpha therapy compounds by 2022; the expansion of CNL's hydrogen programme, aiming to play a leading role in the demonstration of hydrogen-based bulk transport by 2020; the demonstration of a new advanced fuel fabrication concept by 2020; and the development, commercialisation and deployment of a nuclear industrial control cyber intrusion detection and mitigation system by 2022.

CNL's long-term vision is to be a recognised hub for SMRs, where multiple vendor-supported prototypes are built and tested, according to the strategy document. "As part of this long-term vision, CNL's goal in the next ten years is to host a prototype SMR," it says. Costs could be around CAD600m, with expected contributions from commercial entities, and executed through extensive partnering with technology vendors and end users, although the budget estimate will be refined over time through a non-binding call for expressions of interest.

Photo: Chalk River site