CNL, Moltex collaborate on SMR fuel development

24 April 2020

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has entered into a collaboration agreement with UK-based Moltex Energy. Funded through CNL's Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the agreement includes work to support aspects of Moltex Energy’s nuclear fuel development programme for its Stable Salt Reactor, a 300 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) design.

Moltex's vision of an SSR plant (Image: Moltex)

The programme will support the second and third phases of the Oxide Nuclear WAste Reduction Demonstration (ONWARD) project to explore the commercial viability of the WAste To Stable Salts (WATSS) technology to convert used CANDU fuel into new fuel that can produce more clean energy from a Stable Salt Reactor. The first phase is in progress.

Under the proposed CNRI 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 with parallel complementary activities at the University of Manchester in the UK. More specifically, the CNRI project will see CNL supporting 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. The data collected will support the design and licensing of a WATSS facility at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick being developed jointly by Moltex Energy, the government of New Brunswick and NB Power.

"This is positive news and will advance our project in Canada," said Rory O'Sullivan, CEO for North America at Moltex Energy. "Nuclear power is essential to address our global energy issues as intermittent renewables alone cannot meet the current and future demand. Many countries around the world have stores of used nuclear fuel from their current nuclear plants and we have discovered a clean, safe and economical way to recycle what some consider waste into a fuel for our Stable Salt Reactor to create more clean energy and significantly reduce the amount of long-lived radio-nuclides."

Moltex's SSR uses fuel dissolved in a molten fluoride or chloride salt, which also functions as the reactor's coolant and operate at atmospheric pressure. In its SSR design, molten salt fuel is held in vented tubes bundled into fuel assemblies which make up the reactor's core modules. Each 150 MW module is factory built and contains a support structure for the fuel assemblies, heat exchangers and all other pumps and controls. The rectangular core modules are held in a larger tank, which is filled with a molten salt coolant. A second similar coolant salt system takes heat from the primary coolant salt.

CNL launched the CNRI initiative in July last year to accelerate SMR deployment by enabling research and development and connecting global vendors of SMR technology with the facilities and expertise within Canada's national nuclear laboratories. Recipients are expected to match the value contributed by CNL either in monetary or in-kind contributions. Kairos Power, Moltex Canada, Terrestrial Energy Inc and UltraSafe Nuclear Corporation were selected in November as the first recipients of support under the initiative.

"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."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News