Canada SMR Roadmap signals 'call to action'

08 November 2018

Canada is well positioned to become a global leader in the development and deployment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi said yesterday at the release of a report outlining the potential applications for SMRs in the country.

NuScale's vision of an SMR power plant (Image: NuScale)

The report, A Call to Action: A Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors, was unveiled at the Generation IV and Small Reactor (G4SR) conference in Ottawa. The report is the culmination of an initiative launched in February by Canada's Department of Natural Resources. The ten-month process involved expert analysis, consultation with industry and end users, and initial engagement with indigenous communities and organisations. It includes more than 50 recommendations on, for example, waste management, regulatory readiness and international engagement.

SMRs are smaller in scale than traditional nuclear power plants, with lower up-front capital costs and enhanced safety features. They also have the potential to provide non-carbon emitting energy in a wide range of applications, such as grid-scale electricity generation and heavy industry, including in remote communities such as those found in Canada's northern regions, mining and oil sands operations.

"Small modular reactors represent a promising area of energy innovation in Canada. The Roadmap includes recommendations that will help inform ongoing collaboration among federal, provincial and territorial governments - as well as other stakeholders and indigenous communities - to ensure Canada becomes a global leader in the development of this new technology", Sohi sad.

The report recommends actions according to four pillars. The first pillar, Demonstration and Deployment, includes calling on the federal government, and provincial governments interested in SMRs, to provide funding to cost-share with industry in one or more SMR demonstration projects for advanced reactor designs. Federal and provincial governments should implement measures to share risk with private investors to incentivise first commercial deployment of SMRs in Canada, with the potential of exporting SMR technologies and related innovations developed in Canada to international markets.

The second pillar, Policy, Legislation and Regulation, identifies priority actions under the Canadian impact assessment process, to ensure that nuclear liability limits for SMRs are aligned with the risks they pose; regulatory engagement; and action on waste management, including engagement of technology vendors with Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organisation to ensure that planning for the country's deep geological repository is well-informed by the technical specifications of SMR technologies.

The third pillar, Capacity, Engagement, and Public Confidence, prioritises indigenous engagement, while the fourth pillar, International Partnerships and Markets, focuses on frameworks for strong and effective international engagement on SMRs.

The report concludes that SMRs are a responde to market forces for "smaller, simpler and cheaper" nuclear energy. If successful, it says, there will be a large global market for this technology, "driven not just by climate change and clean energy policies but also by the imperatives of energy security and access".

It adds that Canada "has what it needs to seize the opportunity but the time for action is now". With nuclear power plant refurbishments under way in Ontario and a revitalised nuclear science campus at Chalk River, the country "has the opportunity to leverage [its] longstanding leadership in nuclear energy to make this happen".

The report's recommendations are now being reviewed by the Canadian government.

Industry support

The Canadian Nuclear Association's (CNA) Vision 2050: Canada's Nuclear Advantage, which described the Canadian nuclear industry's vision of its role in leading SMR manufacture and deployment in Canada, preceded the Roadmap initiative.

CNA President and CEO John Barrett said the Roadmap lays the groundwork for Canada to lead in the development of innovative low-carbon nuclear technologies.

"SMRs are an exciting innovation story in the nuclear and natural resources sector. But more than that, they can help bring Canada and other countries closer and faster to their GHG reduction target," he said. "The Canadian nuclear industry looks forward to working with federal and provincial governments to get these innovative power sources to market, both in Canada and abroad."

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) last year set the goal of siting a new SMR on its Chalk River site by 2026, and co-hosted an SMR Vendor Roundtable on the margins of the G4SR conference.

"As a safe, reliable and low-carbon source of energy, SMRs have a number of unique features that could make them a unifying technology here in Canada," CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski said. "In particular, SMRs are ideal for remote locations, such as mine sites, the oil sands or willing communities, which typically rely on diesel-fuelled generators for electricity. They can also be deployed alongside renewables, including wind and solar, offering reliable baseload power to these otherwise intermittent forms of energy."

Canada's mature nuclear supply chain and "vibrant pool" of skilled, innovative companies gives the country a distinct advantage in the deployment of SMR technology, he said.

Vendor support

Also at the G4SR conference, NuScale Power announced that Ontario Power Generation Inc (OPG) had agreed to support NuScale in its vendor design review (VDR) for its SMR with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding on the agreement, which NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins said was an "important milestone" in the company's efforts to bring its reactor to Canada.

"We are extremely fortunate to have OPG’s valuable nuclear regulatory and utility expertise, and we know that they will be an incredibly helpful partner in our efforts to ensure that our new and innovative technology meets Canadian regulatory requirements and customer needs," he said.

Under the agreement, OPG will offer expertise to support NuScale’s VDR application, which is currently under development with the CNSC, as well as the further evaluation of development, licensing, and deployment of the first NuScale power plant in Canada.

Jeff Lehman, OPG’s vice president of New Nuclear Development, said: "In support of Canada’s climate change goals, we look forward to supporting NuScale as they move through the Canadian regulatory process."

The CNSC offers the pre-licensing VDR as an optional service to provide an assessment of a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor's reactor technology. The regulator announced in February that it had received NuScale's application for a review of the self-contained 50 MWe integral pressurised water reactor, and is now developing a service agreement prior to setting a start date for the review.

NuScale's SMR is also undergoing design certification review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News