Canadian design review for StarCore HTGR

08 November 2016

Canadian reactor designer StarCore Nuclear has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to begin the vendor design review process for its Generation IV high temperature gas reactor (HTGR).

StarCore's vision of its nuclear power plant (Image: StarCore)

Montréal-based StarCore, founded in 2008, is focused on developing small modular reactors (SMRs) to provide power and potable water to remote communities in Canada. Its standard HTGR unit would produce 20 MWe (36 MWth), expandable to 100 MWe, from a unit small enough to be delivered by truck. The helium-cooled reactor uses Triso fuel - spherical particles of uranium fuel coated by carbon which effectively gives each tiny particle its own primary containment system - manufactured by BWXT Technologies. Each reactor would require refuelling at five-yearly intervals.

StarCore describes its reactor as "inherently safe", with a steep negative thermal coefficient which eliminates the possibility of a core meltdown. The use of helium - which does not become radioactive - as a coolant means that any loss of coolant would be "inconsequential", the company says. The reactors would be embedded 50 metres underground in concrete silos sealed with ten-tonne caps.

The CNSC's pre-licensing vendor review process is an optional service to provide an assessment of a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor's reactor technology. The three-phase review is not a required part of the licensing process for a new nuclear power plant, but aims to verify the acceptability of a nuclear power plant design with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations. Earlier this year the CNSC agreed to conduct a phase 1 vendor design review for Terrestrial Energy's integral molten salt reactor design concept.

StarCore CEO David Dabney said the company's application to the CNSC, lodged on 24 October, marked the culmination of eight years' work. "We are confident that our plant size and technology will enable us to bring safe, clean energy to the many remote sites in Northern Canada that currently have no choice other than to use costly, unreliable and polluting carbon-based fuels," he said.

The company envisages building, owning, operating and decommissioning each plant, supplying its services through a power purchase agreement which it says would be "normally below" CAD 0.18 per kWh.

"We believe that it is time for a change in the traditional ways we generate energy - and that we, with our inherently safe plant design, are determined to become a vital part of Canada's bid to reduce carbon emissions," Chief Technology Officer David Poole said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News