Canada’s first MMR achieves licensing milestone

24 May 2021

Canada’s Global First Power Ltd (GFP) announced on 19 May that its Micro Modular Reactor(™) (MMR(™)) Project was moving to the next phase of licensing with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The announcement moves GFP closer to owning, constructing, and operating Canada’s first small modular reactor (SMR) with first power slated for 2026. The CNSC website provided details on GFP's Licence to Prepare Site, indicating that the Project had fulfilled requirements to move to the formal phase in this process, which will involve a detailed technical review.

The 15 MWt (approximately 5MWe) MMR(™) plant will be developed at the Chalk River Laboratories site, which is owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and managed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). The demonstration Project is intended to serve as a model for future SMR deployments, as specified in Canada’s SMR Roadmap and Action Plan, by producing competitively-priced clean energy for remote communities and heavy industry such as mining and resource projects.

“This milestone is an achievement not only for GFP but also for Canada’s environment and climate change goals as we move one step closer to transforming the energy industry,” said Robby Sohi, GFP President and CEO. “With Federal government support, we look forward to advancing this Project and bringing this low-carbon nuclear option to market.”

In March and April 2021, GFP submitted management system documentation in support of its application for a licence to prepare a site for a SMR at the Chalk River Laboratories site. On 6 May, CNSC determined that this documentation and GFP’s plan for additional submissions were sufficient to begin the technical review as part of the licensing application process. Stay tuned to this webpage for future updates.

The reactor design that GFP is proposing to operate at the Chalk River site is the MMR(™) technology system, designed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp (USNC). GFP is a joint venture formed by USNC-Power, a wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary of USNC, and Ontario Power Generation (OPG). USNC said the licensing progess with CNSC “follows more than four years of engagement by USNC with the CNSC in its Vendor Design Review (VDR) process, which ensures proposed nuclear technologies achieve the necessary design and safety qualifications to be considered for full licensing”. The ongoing VDR process encompasses not only the reactor technology but also USNC's proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated fuel, which was recently fabricated successfully by CNL.

“Being the first 4th Generation nuclear technology to formally enter licensing in Canada is testament to our innovative reactor design and its safety advantages," said Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC. “We look forward to the next phase in the CNSC process and striving for near-term completion of our MMR Energy System, demonstrating the commercial potential of our technology to deliver safe, reliable, carbon-free energy to industry and remote communities."

UNSC said the MMR Energy System is a zero-carbon nuclear power plant, integrating one or several standardised MMRs with a heat storage unit and the adjacent plant for power conversion and utilisation. Electrical power or process heat (or a mix of both) is produced in the Energy System, depending on configuration. Nuclear heat is transferred from the micro reactors to a molten salt energy storage unit that decouples the nuclear system from the power utilization system, greatly simplifying operations and allowing flexible use of the energy generated. The Energy System can be used to provide carbon-free, high-quality process heat for co-located industrial applications, and for high-efficiency hydrogen production.

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