Formal licence review begins for Canadian SMR

20 May 2021

Global First Power Ltd's (GFP) application for a licence to prepare a site for a small modular reactor (SMR) at Chalk River in Ontario has moved to the technical review phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's (CNSC) licensing process. GFP plans to build and operate a Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) unit by 2026.

USNC's vision of its MMR concept (Image: USNC)

"This milestone is an achievement not only for GFP but also for Canada's environment and climate change goals as we move one step closer to transforming the energy industry," GFP President and CEO  Robby Sohi said. "With federal government support, we look forward to advancing this project and bringing this low-carbon nuclear option to market."

GFP is a joint venture launched in 2020 by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Ontario Power Generation to build, own and operate a proposed MMR at the Chalk River Laboratories site. The 15 MW (thermal) MMR high temperature gas-cooled reactor would provide process heat to an adjacent plant via a molten salt heat exchange system, and would serve as a model for future SMR deployments. It is based on UNSC's proprietary Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated fuel technology, which is a tristructural-isotropic - or TRISO - fuel.

Chalk River Laboratories, about 200 km northwest of Ottawa, is owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and managed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). Those organisations are working to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMRs and to position Canada as a leader in SMR prototype testing and technology development support. The Canadian government in 2018 released a roadmap for the deployment of SMRs and the same year CNL invited SMR developers to apply to site a demonstration reactor at one of its sites. GFP is now in the third of four stages in CNL's invitation process and is the most advanced concept towards demonstration, CNL said.

AECL President and CEO Fred Dermarkar said the milestone was a major development towards achieving Canada's climate change goals. "Nuclear energy and SMRs will have to be part of our energy mix if we want to meet our objective of reaching net-zero by 2050. As pioneers of innovative nuclear technology in this country, it is exciting to see continued progress towards the deployment of this promising clean energy technology at our Chalk River site," he said.

"The licensing of a new nuclear reactor must be underpinned by a robust scientific understanding, and sound environmental research," CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said. "The acceptance of this licence application into formal review is evidence of the viability and safety of this project, and the diligence of the GFP team in preparing their application."

In addition to GFP's MMR, the SMR concepts currently involved in CNL's invitation process are: U-Battery Canada Ltd, with a design for a 4 MWe high-temperature gas reactor; StarCore Nuclear, with a proposed 14 MWe high-temperature gas reactor; and Terrestrial Energy, with a 190 MWe integral molten salt reactor.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News