Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has finalised a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with New Brunswick Power.

The partnership agreement “formalises the already strong working relationship between the two organisations”, CNL said.

Specifically, the MOU establishes plans to pursue collaboration opportunities in nuclear research, including the development of small modular reactor technology in New Brunswick.

“This agreement formally connects CNL with the growing research cluster of utilities, universities and academic research, and SMR vendors within New Brunswick,” explained CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski.

As momentum behind SMR technology "continues to build" all across Canada, such agreements enable sharing of knowledge, facilities and other resources.

The MOU will focus on demonstrating and improving the technical performance, safety and efficiency of sodium-cooled fast reactors and molten salt reactor technologies. These are two technologies currently being proposed for siting at NB Power’s Point Lepreau campus.

The two organisations will also examine areas of shared interest across the SMR industry, including reactor siting and licensing, advanced fuel development and qualification, and materials performance and corrosion.

The MOU also outlines plans for the exchange of scientific and technical staff, consultancy services, and sharing of knowledge. Both CNL and NB Power are working towards the deployment of SMRs.  

CNL to support research on MMR

The previous day, CNL announced that it had entered into a collaboration agreement with USNC-Power, a subsidiary of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), to pursue research in support of USNC’s Micro Modular Reactor (MMR).

The helium-cooled MMR features a core of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of ceramic fuel pellets, which is designed to have a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes.

The project, funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), will include research related to the manufacturing of USNC’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel, designing an irradiation programme for USNC’s graphite core, and establishing a laboratory for fuel analysis at CNL’s Chalk River campus.

The project will involve preliminary activities to explore the feasibility of siting a fuel manufacturing facility at the Chalk River campus.

It also includes the development of a multi-year testing programme to support the validation of the MMR's fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review process.

The CNRI programme, launched in 2019, was established by CNL to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada. The programme enables research and development and connects the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories.

“CNL is working to make the next-generation of nuclear reactors a reality here in Canada, and this agreement with USNC-Power represents another step forward in pursuit of that goal,” commented Lesinski.

“Based on our ongoing dialogue with SMR vendors, it’s clear that there is a need for increased access to our expertise and facilities to support SMR research and development."

"The CNRI programme is intended to fill this void, and I’m pleased that we will be working alongside USNC on our first CNRI research project.”

CNRI is an annual programme that invites organisations to submit proposals for cost-sharing R&D projects in support of SMR development.

CNL received four applications from vendors in the SMR industry in Canada and abroad. The agreement with USNC, the first CNRI project, will look at various aspects of the USNC SMR, most notably fuel development and examination. The agreement includes $1.5 million of in-kind contributions from CNL for the project and will be completed by the spring of 2021. Three other applications are currently at various stages of review and negotiations.

CNL has identified SMRs as one of eight strategic initiatives the company is pursuing as part of its Long-Term Strategy, intending to site an SMR by 2026.

As part of the programme, CNL issued an invitation in 2018 to SMR developers for the construction and operation of an SMR demonstration reactor at a CNL-managed site.  

Four proponents are engaged in a four-stage invitation process launched in 2018

  • U-Battery Canada Ltd, with a 4MWe high-temperature gas reactor;
  • StarCore Nuclear, with a proposed 14MWe high-temperature gas reactor; 
  • Terrestrial Energy, with a 190MWe integral molten salt reactor; and
  • Global First Power, with a proposal for a 5MWe MMR supported by USNC and Ontario Power Generation.