Westinghouse micro-reactor feasible option for Canada, study finds

27 October 2021

The eVinci micro-reactor can provide necessary, clean and cost-competitive energy to decentralised, off-grid markets in Canada, a feasibility report prepared by Bruce Power and Westinghouse has found.

The eVinci heat-pipe reactor is described as a "small battery" in the report (Image: Westinghouse)

The report comes a year after the two companies agreed to explore applications of Westinghouse's eVinci technology programme within Canada. A 12-page executive summary, providing a market overview of opportunities for the deployment of the reactor in Canada, its benefits and opportunities, has been shared by the companies. The document also considers the key federal, provincial, and territorial policy and regulatory enablers needed for its deployment.

The eVinci micro-reactor is described in the report as a "small battery" for decentralised generation markets and for micro grids, such as remote communities, remote industrial mines and critical infrastructure. The nominal 5 MWe heat pipe reactor, which has a heat capability of 14 MWt, features a design that Westinghouse says provides competitive and resilient power as well as superior reliability with minimal maintenance. It is small enough to allow for standard transportation methods, making it perfectly suited for remote locations and rapid, on-site deployment. These features, the company says, make it a viable option for mines and remote and off-grid communities.

A single eVinci micro-reactor is expected to be between 14% and 44% more economic than a diesel generator, depending upon the price of diesel fuel and the price for carbon, and in mining scenarios, such a unit - with diesel back-up - could reduce carbon emissions by about 90%, the report notes in its key takeaways.

Successful deployment would depend on achieving a regulatory model that considers the unit's size and has a predictable outcome, to reduce risk to operations at the host site, it finds. Westinghouse applied in February 2018 to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a pre-licensing vendor design review of the eVinci. The report estimates that the first commercial unit in Canada "should be licensed within three years," but adds that broad public and host community acceptance will be essential to reactor deployment.

The study concludes that the eVinci micro-reactor represents a "feasible alternative" to diesel generation at mines and in remote communities, where it can provide opportunities to reduce or eliminate dependence on expensive diesel generation with a more economic option that also reduces emissions. The reduced cost electricity and heating provided by the reactor can also provide opportunities for economic growth.

"The strong partnership between Bruce Power and Westinghouse has set the stage for the deployment of a leading eVinci micro-reactor programme within Canada, to provide a reliable source of carbon-free energy in grid-edge and off-grid communities," it says. "These efforts support actions by the federal and provincial governments to study applications for nuclear technology to reach their goal of a net-zero Canada by 2050."

Mike Shaqqo, senior vice president for advanced reactors at Westinghouse, said the Canadian government's Small Modular Reactor Roadmap had set out the opportunity for nuclear energy to support the country’s decarbonisation goals in remote, off-grid communities. "The feasibility study shows the unique features and advantages of eVinci micro-reactor make it the right solution, including a small footprint, mobility, flexibility, lifespan and cost," he said.

"The nuclear industry is a leader in addressing global challenges, and Bruce Power is committed to decarbonising our economy and helping Canada achieve net-zero emissions by 2050," said Heather Kleb, director of next generation nuclear technology at Bruce Power. "Nuclear energy is a clean, reliable source of baseload power, and the industry is evolving further with new technologies, such as the eVinci micro reactor, that will expand its clean energy impact."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News