Joint venture created for Chalk River MMR project​

10 June 2020

A joint venture has been formed between Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build, own and operate the proposed Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) project at the Chalk River Laboratories site. The joint venture – the Global First Power Limited Partnership – is owned equally by OPG and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC.

The Micro Modular Reactor design (Image: USNC)

Ottawa-headquartered Global First Power (GFP), which initiated the project last year, will act on behalf of the Limited Partnership to oversee the proposed MMR project. It will provide project development, licensing, construction and operation of the commercial demonstration reactor at Chalk River.

GFP, USNC and OPG have been collaborating on the Chalk River project for several years, which has led to the joint-ownership arrangement and creation of the Limited Partnership.

"The partnership demonstrates the companies' mutual commitment to making low-carbon, small nuclear reactors a reality for Canada, and a viable alternative to diesel and other fossil fuels," they said in a joint statement yesterday. The Chalk River project, the partners said, "will serve as a model for potential future GFP projects across Canada, to provide safe and sustainable low-carbon power and heat to industries, such as mining, and remote communities."

"The backing of OPG combined with USNC's advanced reactor and fuel designs will allow us to continue to lead the way in delivering a small-reactor solution in Canada," said GFP CEO Joe Howieson. "This joint venture is a very important milestone, marking new levels of commitment by an innovator in nuclear power-generation technologies and a forward-thinking, major utility."

"While there are many small reactor companies boasting about the progress they're making, no other organisation is closer to constructing a micro reactor in Canada than we are," said Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC. "Through this joint venture, we're committed to proving how viable, safe, and valuable our MMR technology is to Canada and to the rest of the world."

OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick added: "We are excited about the advancement of low-carbon small modular reactors in Canada and see them as an innovative growth opportunity for our company, one that fits well with our existing clean energy portfolio."

The MMR is a 15 MW thermal, 5 MW electrical high-temperature gas reactor, drawing on operational experience from reactors developed by China, Germany, Japan and the USA. According to World Nuclear Association information, the reactor uses fuel in prismatic graphite blocks and has a sealed transportable core. The reactor completed the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pre-licensing vendor design review process in January 2019. The MMR project is in the third stage of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' (CNL's) four-stage process to site a demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) at Chalk River Laboratories. The MMR project is currently undergoing an environmental assessment.

CNL has identified SMRs as one of eight strategic initiatives it is pursuing as part of its long-term strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR by 2026. At present four proponents are engaged in the four-stage invitation process launched in 2018 to evaluate the construction and operation of a demonstration SMR at a CNL site. 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, have all completed the first stage of the process.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News