Canadian Nuclear Laboratories agrees collaboration with Moltex Energy

27 April 2020

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has entered into a collaboration agreement with molten salt reactor developer Moltex Energy.

The agreement, funded though CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), includes work to support aspects of Moltex Energy’s nuclear fuel development programme for its 300MW Stable Salt Reactor.

The CNRI programme, launched in 2019, was established by CNL to accelerate the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada by enabling research and development, and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories.

Through the programme, participants are able to optimise resources, share technical knowledge, and gain access to CNL’s expertise to help advance the commercialisation of SMR technologies.

“CNL has built considerable expertise in nuclear fuel handling and processing over the past decades, and advanced fuel research is recognised as one of our key strategic areas of strength," said Jeff Griffin, CNL vice-president of Science and Technology.

"We have made significant investments into our fuel programme and will continue to do so over the coming years. The CNRI programme helps reactor developers – such as Moltex Energy – tap into these key capabilities in a cost-effective way,”he added.

Many of the small modular reactor designs under development or consideration in Canada use evolutionary – or even revolutionary - fuels and manufacturing processes, CNL said. These advances in fuels promise greater levels of efficiency, safety and in the case of Moltex Energy, a reduction in fuel waste inventories. However, before these benefits are realised, research and development must be undertaken to prove out the concepts, and readiness of the technology for the nuclear licensing process.

Under the proposed project, Moltex Energy, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and CNL will design, build and optimise a fuel testing apparatus at UNB’s Centre for Nuclear Energy Research. Work will be carried out in parallel with complementary activities at the University of Manchester.

CNL will support Moltex Energy on specialised equipment preparation, installation and commissioning. While the initial testing is conducted using surrogate inactive materials, CNL’s expertise is also supporting the planning, design, costing and safety analysis required to move the apparatus into a shielded facility, or “hot cell”, where the testing could be completed using actual fuels and active materials.

Te data collected will be used to support the design and licensing of a full-scale facility in New Brunswick being developed jointly by Moltex Energy, the Government of New Brunswick and NB Power.  

“The financial support and technical expertise from CNL is important for the success of our project and will help us advance research and development,” said Rory O’Sullivan, CEO for North America at Moltex Energy.  

CNRI is an annual programme that invites organisations to submit proposals for cost-sharing R&D projects in support of SMR development. CNL received a strong response to the initial intake, including four applications from key vendors in the SMR industry in Canada and abroad. The agreement with Moltex Energy is the second project to reach this stage in the programme. The next call for CNRI proposals is expected to be released shortly.

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