Canada has a proud history in innovative nuclear technologies. Canada’s domestic power reactor design has been successfully deployed around the globe, providing the clean, reliable, low-carbon electricity the world needs. Now, more than ever, the world needs to advance that technology, bringing the next generation of reactors from the design desk to safe and successful operation.
Small or very small modular reactors (SMR / vSMR) are cutting edge reactor designs, which build on the knowledge gained through deployment of previous generations of reactors, providing unprecedented enhancements in safety, in efficiency, in construction and in deployment. While the size and output of the reactor varies from design to design, the smaller size and energy output make the units deployable in remote locations such as northern or isolated communities, industrial sites or island nations; the modular approach to construction and deployment means that additional units can be added as electrical needs grow.
The world has taken notice of this opportunity. There are more than 90 vendors currently working to bring their version of the technology through the design and licencing processes and ultimately to market. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is ideally positioned to aid in this process.
Canada and CNL provide a number of advantages to vendors that seek to move their technologies forward. As a nation, Canada provides a world leading regulatory framework and a regulator that is capable of assessing these new designs and an established, nuclear supply chain that helps position Canada as an efficient gateway to SMR deployment in North America. We have a domestic need for a technology to provide low-carbon energy to remote sites and northern communities, and, we have a government that is supportive of innovative approaches to help address climate change.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories stands ready to assist vendors every step of the way; from supporting research and development activities to prototype deployment at one of our sites. A prototype SMR at CNL would be co-located with the world-class research facilities and scientists needed to solve key technology challenges with capabilities for fuel manufacturing, and examination, and novel waste solutions to efficiently move a project to deployment. CNL has an existing and broad site licence; we have operated several nuclear reactors on our sites safely over the last 60 years, with key supporting infrastructure and services – security, radiation protection, environmental protection, and many others – already in place.
Time is of the essence if Canada is to fully seize the opportunity. Other nuclear nations are taking steps to move SMRs forward; for example, both the United States and the United Kingdom have begun ambitious programs to support the deployment of this technology within their respective countries. With these and other nations pursuing SMRs, the time to act is now if Canada is to seize a portion of the economic, scientific and social benefits that are to be gained.
Today, CNL officially announced its intention to launch a formal Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) later this fall. This RFEOI is not an announcement of a new build, nor a commitment to any particular technology or vendor. Rather, this effort declares, formally, that CNL is “open for business” so to speak, and stands ready to assist. This RFEOI will solicit input from the nuclear community, input which will help inform CNL as to how we can best position ourselves to help bring an SMR or vSMR to life.
This is an exciting technology and an opportunity for CNL to once again bring Canadian expertise and capabilities to the fore as a leader in nuclear science and technology.