CANDU Owners Group, Nuclear Energy Agency to collaborate on PHWRs

01 October 2020

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the CANDU Owners Group (COG) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in research and activities related to pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs). The purpose of the MoU is to advance the scientific and technical knowledge base for PHWRs and foster cooperation amongst research organisations that support PHWRs.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, operator of three PHWR units at the Wolsong plant, is a member of COG (Image: KHNP)

The MoU outlines the scope of a five-year agreement and provides a framework for collaboration between the NEA and COG. Under the new framework, the organisations will develop joint research activities and workshops, and exchange views on a range of technical subjects.

The PHWR has been developed since the 1950s in Canada as the CANDU, and from 1980s also in India. PHWRs generally use natural uranium oxide as fuel, and hence need a more efficient moderator, in this case heavy water. The PHWR produces more energy per kilogram of mined uranium than other designs, but also produces a much larger amount of used fuel per unit output. Newer PHWR designs, such as the Advanced Candu Reactor, have light water cooling and slightly-enriched fuel. CANDU reactors can accept a variety of fuels. They may be run on recycled uranium from reprocessing light-water reactor (LWR) used fuel, or a blend of this and depleted uranium left over from enrichment plants.

The NEA facilitates cooperation among countries with advanced nuclear technology infrastructures to seek excellence in nuclear safety, technology, science, related environmental and economic matters and law. It noted PHWRs, such as the Canadian-designed CANDU, are currently in operation in four of its member countries: Argentina, Canada, South Korea and Romania. The NEA said it also has "active engagement and discussions" about nuclear reactor safety with other countries using PHWR technology, particularly China and India.

"The NEA has done much to bring countries together to conduct research in areas particularly related to nuclear safety. We have not, however, done very much in the area of PHWRs as the vast majority of our members operate LWRs," said NEA Director‑General William Magwood. "This MoU gives us an immediate boost as we try to become more cognisant, more active in this area, because we can join hands with COG instead of recreating the wheel. This is a tremendous benefit to our member countries."

The COG is a private, not-for-profit corporation funded voluntarily by CANDU operating utilities worldwide, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and supplier participants.

Fred Dermarkar, outgoing COG president and CEO, said: "I see a big opportunity to work together on workshops where we're exchanging information and initiating joint projects to advance technology: things that benefit both COG members and NEA membership."

Incoming COG President and CEO Stephanie Smith added, "Collaboration is really what is needed to make progress in many areas, so we look forward to working with the NEA.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News