CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative

CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) is a program to support collaborative small modular reactors (SMR) research projects with third-party proponents in Canada. The goal of the program is to accelerate the deployment of safe, secure, clean, and cost effective SMRs in Canada.

CNL provides a wide spectrum of technical expertise and our Chalk River site has R&D facilities that have been used in the development of prototype reactors for over 50 years. We offer capabilities in many areas ranging from fuels and reactor components through thermodynamics and materials science. Our team is ready to work with you jointly to address technical, regulatory, and economic barriers, allowing you to progress your SMR from concept to demonstration and beyond.

Annually, CNRI will issue a call for proposals, and CNL will enter into joint R&D projects based on the results of a review of these proposals. The objective of CNRI is to make CNL’s technical capabilities and expert knowledge available and accessible to the SMR community in order to equip them with the technical support required to progress towards SMR deployment in Canada.

For more information, or to submit your proposal, email

Focus Areas

A call for proposals (CFP) will be issued annually as part of the CNRI program. Included in each CFP will be a list of focus areas which will change from year to year. Laboratory experiments will be considered on a case by case basis. The list of focus areas is as follows:

Table 1-1
2019 CNRI Focus Areas



Focus Area Description


Reactor Physics

  • Modelling the behaviour of SMR cores with benchmark comparisons against state of the art reactor codes and prototype reactor data
  • Exploratory studies (modelling and experiments) of fuel and other materials using the ZED-2 reactor



  • Exploratory studies (modelling and experiments) of the thermalhydraulic behaviour of nuclear fuel and SMR


SMR Component Degradation

  • Modelling of degradation phenomena including corrosion, erosion, fouling, fretting, vibrations, and hydride formation
  • Analytical chemistry and metal analysis for SMR components


Safety, Security and Licensing

  • Modelling and simulation of accident scenarios
  • Factors affecting remote monitoring/operations
  • Safeguards by design
  • Security by design
  • Technical support for vendor design review and licensing


Human Factors

  • SMR operations considerations
  • The effectiveness of Human Machine Interfaces proposed for SMRs



  • Modelling to assess the viability of SMR technologies for various applications
  • Modelling of an SMR within a nuclear hybrid energy system with multiple products such as electricity, heat, hydrogen, storage, etc.



  • Challenges and potential solutions related to SMR transportation


Decommissioning and Waste Management

  • Considerations for environmental assessment and monitoring for SMRs
  • Current DGR requirements and possible techniques to ensure SMR fuel meets these requirements


Feasibility Analysis

  • Factors for a given scenario/application to determine its feasibility based on the SMR technology
  • This may include integration with renewables, applications such as hydrogen production or desalination, etc.
  • Manufacturing and construction techniques for SMRs
  • This may include robotics, advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, etc.


Market Analysis

  • Potential SMR markets to determine market requirements and opportunities


Fuel Development

  • Exploratory studies (modelling and experiments) to support future fuel development for SMRs

Collaboration with Multiple Applicants

CNL encourages joint proposals with multiple applicants that tackle common R&D issues. As part of the CNRI program CNL will help facilitate this by connecting applicants that have expressed interest in collaborating on similar topics or challenges.

Applicants are responsible for identifying focus areas where they are interested in a potential collaboration within two weeks of the CNRI Launch. CNL will inform applicants of any other parties who expressed interest in collaborating in a similar area. Applicants are encouraged to work together to submit a joint proposal for consideration.

Joint proposals should clearly define the roles, responsibilities and contributions of each applicant involved.

Potential Award Details

Annually, CNL will enter into a series of jointly funded R&D projects that will utilize S&T services from CNL to accelerate eligible SMR vendors’ deployment and support the development of their technologies. Projects must be within the CNRI program focus areas. Applicants are expected to, at a minimum, match the value contributed by CNL in monetary or in-kind contribution

Proposal Review Criteria

Proposal Requirements

Disclaimer: CNL may reject any or all submissions and all copies of material and information prepared by or for the applicant in connection with or in relation to the proposal and delivered to CNL and all other material and information delivered to CNL by the applicant in connection with or in relation to the Proposal including, without limitation, the Proposal shall be the sole and absolute property of CNL. 

  1. The CNRI program is intended to support joint research projects. The applicant must contribute financially to the project.
    1. Proposals with at least matching funds will be considered.
    2. Proposals that have 51%-70% of value provided by CNL will only be considered if the proposal clearly demonstrates significant value to CNL.
    3. Proposals that require CNL to contribute more than 70% of the value of the project will not be considered.
  2. For the 2019 CNRI call for proposals, projects must be complete by 2021 March 31. Projects that extend beyond 2021 March 31, will not be considered.
  3. Work is to be performed at the Chalk River site by, or in cooperation with, CNL staff. Applicants may receive access to CNL facilities and/or laboratories when deemed necessary for the project.
  4. Proposal must include at least one industry partner[1].

[1] An industry partner is defined a private sector entity directly involved with the commercialization of SMRs. This could include a reactor designer/vendor, a future SMR operator and/or a member of the SMR supply chain. 

Proposal Benefits

  1. Proposals must align with at least one of the focus areas listed in the call for proposals.
    1. Applications that include several focus areas in support of multiple objectives are welcome.
  2. Proposals must create lasting value for CNL. This could be in the form of knowledge and/or technology development that CNL can leverage for future work.
  3. Proposals must advance SMR development/deployment.
  4. Proposals must provide a benefit to Canada. This benefit does not need to be fully realized at the end of the project (i.e. SMR deployed in Canada). However, the project must clearly explain how it supports a longer term goal to develop/deploy SMRs in Canada.

Project Scope

  1. Research goals of the applicant should be clearly defined with specific deliverables and a target timeline.
  2. The proposal must outline the roles and responsibilities for CNL and each entity that is included in the application.
  3. The project scope must be achievable within the project budget and available resources[1].
  4. In-kind contributions will not be considered as part of the cost share calculation, however they will be considered during final project selection

[1] The initial project plan, including cost and resource requirements, will be set by CNL for proposals that have passed the technical review. The applicant will be given the opportunity to review the initial project plan prior to final selection.

CNRI Application Guidelines

The proposal should be no more than eight pages in length. It should include the following five sections.

1. Abstract (200 words)

  • The abstract should be written in plain language, and suitable for inclusion in a media release. It should include a description of the research project, target outcomes, and the benefits for CNL and Canada.

2. Alignment (up to 1 page)

  • Describe how the project aligns with one or more of the identified focus areas.
  • Describe how the project aligns with CNL’s SMR strategic initiative.

3. Impact (up to 1 page)

  • Define the key problem that is to be addressed through this project and its significance.
  • Describe how this project will advance SMR development/deployment and Canada.

4. Project Scope (up to 5 pages)

  • Define the research goals of the applicant, include specific deliverables and target timeline.
  • Identify the applicant project team, including name and expertise. Explain how the applicant project team will work with the CNL project team.
  • Optional- Identify the CNL facilities, capabilities and expertise required to complete the scope of work.

5. Budget (up to 1 page)

  • Identify monetary and in-kind contributions from the applicant separately.
  • Optional-Identify CNL facilities, capabilities and expertise requested for the project.
  • Note that in-kind contributions by the applicants not be considered as part of the matching calculation.

For proposals that pass the technical review, CNL will draft an initial project plan that aligns with the funds available (assuming CNL matches the cash contributions of the applicant unless otherwise stated). CNL will share this initial proposal with the applicant prior to final selections.

If CNL determines that the scope defined by the applicant cannot be met within the available funds, CNL may work with the applicant to revise the scope of work and/or budget. However, if a new scope/budget cannot be agreed upon in a timely manner, the proposal may be rejected. If this occurs, the applicant is encouraged to submit a revised proposal in the next CNRI call for proposals (anticipated in early 2020).

For more information, or to submit your proposal, email

CNRI Agreement

A CNRI agreement is a collaborative agreement that allows the CNL and SMR applicants to optimize their resources, share technical expertise in a protected environment, access intellectual property emerging from the effort, and advance the commercialization of developed technologies.


Applicants must provide research funds, but may also make in-kind contributions such as personnel, services, facilities, equipment, intellectual property or other resources. CNL will manage the project and may provide personnel, services, facilities, equipment, intellectual property or other resources. While, CNL will contribute financially to CNRI activities, CNL will not provide cash directly to applicants.

Intellectual Property

CNL's approach to the ownership of intellectual property (IP) generated within CNRI projects at CNL is focused on partner-enablement. Project IP may be owned by successful CNRI applicants, provided that CNL can retain a license consistent with enabling CNL’s SMR demonstration mission.

Personal Property

All tangible personal property produced or acquired under this agreement shall become the property of the applicant or Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL); ownership will be based on whose funds were used to obtain it. All jointly funded property shall be owned by AECL.

Publications and Reports

The applicants agree to produce the following deliverables, in conjunction with CNL, as part of the joint research project:

  • An initial abstract suitable for public release at the time the agreement is signed;
  • A final report, upon completion or termination of this agreement; to include all technical information and results produced as a result of this agreement.

The parties agree to secure pre-publication review from each other wherein the non-publishing party shall provide within 15 days written objections to be considered by the publishing party.

CNL has a vision to support the development and deployment of SMRs in Canada

CNL is a global hub for SMR research and development and demonstration. As a low-carbon source of energy, SMRs are well-aligned with  Canada’s clean energy priorities. Both smaller in size and in energy output, SMRs are considered ideal for deployment both on-grid, and off-grid in remote locations such as mine sites or the oil sands, as well as willing off-grid communities reliant on diesel generators for electricity.

SMRs can be part of an overall energy scheme that includes district heating, co-generation, energy storage, desalination, and hydrogen production among others. These traits are particularly attractive to remote off-grid applications in northern communities or industrial sites, such as mines, where consistent, reliable and low carbon, clean energy is needed.
Canada has a proud track record in the design, construction, licencing and operation of small reactors. In Whiteshell, there was  WR-1, an organically cooled research reactor, as well as a SLOWPOKE reactor - an AECL design successfully deployed in universities and research institutions across the globe. In Chalk River, we can point to the ZEEP, NRX, NRU, PTR, and ZED-2 reactors as examples of success in first-of-a-kind deployment.
Canada, enabled by the hard work and ingenuity of many people still resident in our surrounding communities, led the world. We will do it again.