The U-Battery consortium, led by enrichment company Urenco, has successfully completed the first stage of the evaluation process in Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) invitation to site a first-of–a-kind small modular reactor (SMR) at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s (AECL) Chalk River Laboratories campus in Chalk River, Ontario.

The consortium is now invited to proceed to the due diligence stage, in which CNL will evaluate the proposed design, assess its financial viability and review the necessary security and integrity requirements.

U-Battery General Manager Steve Threlfall has led a concerted effort to progress U-Battery in Canada and the UK, as part of its dual-track approach.

U-Battery has also made significant progress through the UK’s Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Programme. U-Battery was successful in receiving funding support through Phase 1, and is currently awaiting the results of Phase 2. Urenco said it is looking forward to progressing U-Battery over the Phase 2 funding period.

“This is an exciting time for U-Battery as we are now a step closer to establishing a first-of-a-kind SMR at the Chalk River research facility,” said Threlfall. “We are entering the energy sector at a critical time in Canada’s energy transformation, and U-Battery has the potential to drive significant regional economic benefits across Canada while addressing urgent climate change needs.”

U-Battery is a 4MWe high-temperature gas-cooled micro nuclear reactor which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs. The project was initiated by Urenco in 2008 and the concept design was developed by the Universities of Manchester and Dalton Institute in the UK and Technology University of Delft in the Netherlands. The consortium said the technology, which uses high-integrity TRISO fuel, aims to replace diesel power with clean, safe, and cost-effective energy for a variety of applications, including remote communities and other off-grid locations such as mining operations.

CNL aims to site an SMR at one of its locations by 2026, under a long term strategy in which it aims to become a global hub for SMR development. It launched its staged invitation process after a 2017 request for expressions of interest received responses from 19 technology developers interested in building a prototype or demonstration reactor at a CNL site.

The other proponents engaged in the invitation process are StarCore Nuclear, with a proposed14 MWe high-temperature gas reactor; Terrestrial Energy, with its 190MWe integral molten salt reactor, and Global First Power (GFP), with a 5MWe high-temperature gas reactor. All have completed the first phase of the process, and GFP's design has entered the third phase, which includes preliminary discussions on land arrangements, project risk management and contractual terms. The fourth and final project execution phase includes construction, testing, commissioning, operation and finally decommissioning of an SMR unit. An environmental assessment of the GFP project is under way. GFP submitted an application to the CNSC earlier this year to prepare a site at Chalk River, the first licence application for an SMR to be received by the Canadian regulator.

Photo: The U-Battery reactor (credit: U-Battery)