Small Modular Reactor Technology

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We have a vision for the development of small modular reactors (SMR). 

First, we will serve the world as a global hub for SMR research and technology. The second part of our vision for the program is to have a demonstration unit built on a CNL site by 2026. As a low-carbon source of energy, these reactors are well-aligned with global desire to reduce our carbon footprint. 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 communities in northern Canada reliant on diesel-fuelled generators for electricity.  In addition, these technologies can also be utilized in other industrial applications such as production of hydrogen, local area heating, or other industrial heat applications. 

Much more than simply electricity generation, 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, licence and operation of small reactors. In Whiteshell, we have had the WR-1, an organically cooled research reactor, as well as a SLOWPOKE reactor, another 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.

Why Canada?

Canada has one of the world’s most promising domestic markets for SMRs. Conservative estimates place the potential value for SMRs in Canada at $5.3B between 2025 and 2040. Globally, the SMR market is much bigger, with a conservative estimated value of $150B between 2025 and 2040. This represents a large potential export market for Canada, which has already exported nuclear reactor technology to six other countries.

Canada has a window of opportunity to lead as it has all the necessary elements – a strong international brand, flexible and performance based regulator, world class nuclear laboratories and demonstration sites, a mature supply chain and domestic uranium mining industry, extensive nuclear operating experience, and strong science and technology in related areas (materials science, medicine, irradiation/sterilization, food safety).

Related Links:

World Nuclear Association
UN International Atomic Energy Agency
Canadian Nuclear Association: SMR
Ontario Ministry of Energy Study: SMR Feasibility Study

What is meant by Small Modular Reactor? 

Small: For our planning purposes, CNL considers SMRs to produce as little as several hundred kilowatts of electrical output to a maximum of 300 MW. For context, a conventional power reactor is roughly 800 MW electrical.

Modular: This refers to both the construction style (meaning produced in modules in a factory) and in how an operator may choose to sequence the reactors. In some cases, an operator may wish to install several sequentially, adding or removing as the need for power changes. Modular construction provides potential benefits in the transport, installation and decommissioning.

Reactor: Again, designs vary but these are all based on nuclear technology. That said, SMRs introduce new fuels, new materials and new designs with the goal of creating safer, more cost effective and more efficient reactors than in the past.

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