ARC Clean Technology Supply Chain Manager, Anthony Jackman says the procurement process for long-lead items for the ARC-100 commercial demonstration unit at Canada’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, such as the reactor vessel and intermediate heat exchangers, will begin in 2024. Contract awards are expected in the latter part of 2025 and the procurement schedule for other items will follow, he told “New Brunswick SMRs: A Collaborative Journey Towards Net Zero”. The meeting was a supply chain event for New Brunswick small modular reactor (SMR) industry leaders, government officials and experts hosted by Opportunities New Brunswick.

Speaking to stakeholders involved in New Brunswick’s SMR future, he noted: “SMRs are a new way to construct nuclear power plants. The unique ARC-100 design has a small nuclear island, which reduces the amount of specialised equipment and hardware. This increases the opportunity for New Brunswick companies that currently supply similar services to heavy industry to participate in the construction of the ARC-100 plant beginning with the first unit.”

ARC, in partnership with NB Power, aims to commission an ARC-100 unit at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station by the end of the decade. In June of 2023, NB Power submitted a licence to prepare site application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, making it one of only three SMR projects in Canada with a submitted licence application to prepare a site. ARC plans to manufacture ARC-100 units in New Brunswick for export to other jurisdictions, creating economic benefits for the province.

ARC Clean Technology President & CEO Bill Labbe said: “Momentum is building, and the time has come for us to work together to build the plan for a robust SMR supply chain that will bring significant economic benefits to our province.”

The ARC-100 is a 100 MWe 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 1970s 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.

Image: Artist's impression of the ARC-100 SMR (courtesy of ARC Clean Technology)