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D.F. Togerson Award: Innovations in Facilities Decommissioning

David Gaunt, George Al Haddad, Jeffrey Fortin, Kuwar Dalal, and Tom Vaughan

For the digital transformation of Decommissioning & Environmental Remediation by the Innovations team.

In June / July 2022, CNL’s digital twin server was brought online which initiated CNL’s point cloud database. This enabled virtual walkdowns which saves planning time and improves the accuracy of field data.

This digital transformation has provided valuable insights for decommissioning planning and radiation cleanup efforts. It has also demonstrated originality and ingenuity by integrating different data sources for analysis.

D.F. Togerson Award: Electrical resistivity variation assessment

Mark Luloff and Jeffrey Olfert 

For the impact of electrical resistivity variation on the assessment of fuel channel to calandria gap. 

Previously, high-accuracy measurement of electrical resistivity in the hot cell environment was not achievable and the electrical resistivity variations in irradiated material (+/- <5%) had not been observable. This work developed and implemented this capability at CNL. Through the work, electrical resistivity evolution has been correlated with pressure tube microstructure evolution in the reactor, and the electrical resistivity measurements capability are being used to further characterize pressure tube (PT) microstructure, at a fraction of the cost of destructive examinations. Future work is expected to benefit delayed-hydride cracking-rate and hydrogen ingress studies. The in-cell electrical resistivity results have enabled the use of analytical modeling for simulating the PT and calandria tube (CT)

eddy-current gap-probe response, which allows the effect of many influential parameters to be studied. This is at a fraction of the cost of an empirical study with physical samples. Due to this work, improvements to PT/CT gap measurement accuracy are also being undertaken, and this has allowed the utilities to demonstrate high confidence in their PT/CT gap measurements to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

From the start, this research was 100 per cent funded through the CANDU Owners Group (COG), and its success has enabled further commercial work from COG and follow on work directly with the utilities. In the past two years, the nominees have been routinely asked to present on the topic at industry seminars, and are now recognized as experts by the industry. The nominees’ expertise in this area was specifically recognized by the highest levels of the Bruce Power executive during a recent commercial project. Papers on this topic have also been published in the open literature, and more articles are planned in the coming months / years.

D.F. Togerson Award: 3D printing using uranium dioxide

Anil Prasad, Catherine Thiriet, Daniel Cluff, James Crigger, Jeffrey Battersby, Nikolas Kotsios, and Reeghan Osmond 

For 3D printing using uranium dioxide. 

The “3D Printing using Uranium Dioxide” project is being nominated to acknowledge the exceptional achievement by the fuel development research team of the successful and safe 3D printing using radioactive natural uranium dioxide (UO2). The work is the culmination of several years of dedicated research, which commenced in 2017, and several iterations of development, building upon the 3D printing of other, related, materials including inert zirconia and radioactive thoria.

Conventional nuclear power reactors are fueled using UO2 in the form of cylinders stacked in fuel elements to form fuel bundles. While the cylindrical fuel form has the advantage of ease of production (i.e., the pressing and sintering a right cylinder fuel pellet is an established methodology), a compromise must be met with the temperature gradient experienced across the fuel pellets during operation due to the extremely poor heat conductivity of UO2. With the nuclear industry seeking to increase the reactor coolant temperature to increase efficiency, a new fuel design is required in order to tolerate the increase in operating temperatures. The application of the 3D printing process to create a three-dimensional object layer-by-layer using plastic and a computer-generated design can be applied to the fabrication of nuclear fuel, thereby uncovering a technique that can print new geometries in order to improve the safety and performance of future reactors.

D.F. Togerson Award: Clean hydrogen production demonstration

Adrian Vega, Amir Motamed Dashliborun, Blessing Ibeh, David Ouellette, Hongqiang Li, Lorne Stolberg, Mitchell Morrison, Randy Bent, Sam Suppiah, Stacey Reinwald, and Wenyu Zhang

For the first successful lab scale demonstration of the complete hybrid copper chlorine thermochemical process for clean hydrogen production.

The need for large-scale hydrogen production in Canada without producing greenhouse gases is becoming more important every day. The Hybrid Copper Chloride thermochemical hydrogen production process (known as HCuTEC™) utilizes both heat and electricity to produce hydrogen and oxygen. The process is quite complex, as it consists of four steps that contain multiple streams and pieces of equipment. In April of 2018, the process had been studied in several laboratories for many years, but only one of the four process steps had been demonstrated on a small scale.

The key accomplishment is that from rudimentary lab steps, by the end of March 2022, the CNL project team had developed the complete process to a level where all four steps have been demonstrated and integrated into a laboratory scale process that can produce 100 grams per day of hydrogen. The project also included a proprietary and unique process model simulation, and an optimized integration of process heat management with various heat and electricity sources.

The project team made exceptional efforts to transform a rudimentary simple lab scale demo into a fulsome proprietary, fully integrated, lab scale demonstration of all steps. As a result of their efforts, sufficient data to be ready for further scaling up of the process from the current laboratory scale to a pilot plant or commercial scale. External industrial partners have expressed interest in working with CNL to further develop this process and build a pilot scale plant that will produce 50 kg/d of hydrogen.

D.F. Togerson Award: Building 204 Bowser Filtration Room Team

Building 204 Bowser Filtration Room Team

For the teamwork on the Bowser Filtration Room Project. 

The Building 204 team developed a novel and ingenious strategy to remove approximately 6,500kgs of highly active tanks and components from the Bowser Filtration Room. A removal plan using workers was replaced with a strategy to create a separate access into the Bowser Room, use robots to do the removals and build the necessary customized infrastructure adjacent to the new access point outside the building. The work has recently been completed and is being lauded as an incredible success and shining example of Facility Decommissioning’s world-class capabilities.

D.F. Togerson Award: Biaxial Burst Testing

Alex Reavie, Chris Straubel, Dan McDonald, David Dean, David Poff, Eric Sansoucy, Jeffrey DeJong, Joey Zhou, Kurt Stoll, Michael Gharghouri, Noel Harrison, Paul Joynes, Robert Standring, Sherry Laroche, Toban Verdun, Tyler Campbell, Tyler Miles, and Zia Haque

For the work on the biaxial stress relaxation and burst testing of irradiated light water reactor (LWR) fuel cladding. 

This team displayed exceptional dedication, innovation, and problem-solving skills, in a tight schedule, during the development of a unique biaxial burst apparatus (BBA) for mechanical testing light water reactor (LWR) irradiated fuel cladding under a commercial contract. This unique apparatus used state-of-the-art technologies that, when combined, enabled measurement and control of the strain / strain rate of an irradiated fuel cladding sample at specified temperatures.

Exceptional problem-solving skills and teamwork were demonstrated as the newly developed pieces of equipment were used for the first time to produce unique results for the commercial client. Technical challenges had to be overcome with the demonstration of CNL’s ability to perform biaxial burst and stress relaxation tests on irradiated fuel cladding. This technology supports future growth of CNL’s business in the LWR area.

Distinguished Merit Award: Active Storage Tank Removal

Active Storage Tank Removal Team

For the teamwork on the Active Storage Tank Removal.

The Active Storage Tank in one of the aging laboratories on the CRL site was successfully removed by the team on November 26, 2022. This achievement was the culmination of two and a half years of planning that involved scoping, characterization and the execution of several work plans.

The field work to remove the tank began in the fall of 2020, when the team built a mock-up of the tank and trained to gather images and samples of the contents of the tank. The team safely obtained the required images and samples in December 2020; liquid contents were discovered in the heel of the tank. Using this data, the team developed three work plans – to drain the tank of its hazardous contents, to remove the lead brick shielding surrounding the tank and to remove the tank from the building.

This achievement demonstrates excellence in planning and executing high-hazard radiological work. In order to keep workers safe and reduce dose to workers, the team built a mock-up to test their methodology and equipment on prior to execution. The team also designed a remote engineered pumping system and designed and procured a specialty flask for the liquids. This approach not only increased the safety of the job, but significantly reduced the duration of the field execution which directly corresponded to much lower dose to workers.

This achievement is the first time in CNL’s modern decommissioning program to complete the scoping, characterization and removal of such highly active liquid contents in a legacy tank.

Distinguished Merit Award: Safety Excellence Team

Alexandra McClelland, Ali Golbabai, Andre Gervais, Angela Coulas, Barb Schrader, Brad Wasmund, Brendan Barber, Brent Keetch, Chad Charbonneau, Cliff Lutz, Dan Arnold, Derek Campbell, Don Pardy, Don Prymak, Eric Broughton, James Harrington, Jason Costello, Jason DeRuiter, Javin DeVreede, Jeff Collin, Joanna Sullivan, Leslie Fleury, Melanie McFadden, Patricia Verch, Patrick Harrison, Rob Quittenton, Robyn Mercer, Scott Cameron, Sean Gamley, Shane Kuehl, Stephanie Clement, Ted Wieclawek, Tom Reynard and Troy Wilson

For the work as part of the Safety Excellence Team at CNL.

The Safety Excellence (SE) Initiative was introduced in 2021/22 to address the need for improved safety culture at CNL. The vision is based on five tenets (Empowerment, Communication, Engagement, Collaboration, and Accountability), which are aligned with CNL’s core values. A Safety Excellence Strategy and Implementation Plan was developed which includes 15 objectives with 68 actions to be completed over a four-year period. Each objective and action is based on a business need or gap as identified by CNL staff.

Implementation of the strategy is led by the Safety Excellence Team (SET). Members of the SET were carefully chosen from various sites based on their leadership abilities, safety-focused thinking, and other select criteria to act as stewards of safety. Each of the SET members has exemplified true commitment to safety and to CNL by volunteering their time to implement the strategy.

Fiscal year 22-23 marked the first year of implementation. Seventeen year one actions were planned and the SET demonstrated exceptional performance and surpassed expectations by completing 21 actions in FY 2022-23. Seventeen actions were completed on schedule, four future year actions were pulled forward and completed early, and some actions achieved results above and beyond their deliverables. Through the completion of these actions, the SET and CNL are realizing improvements in organizational safety culture.

Distinguished Merit Award: Tile hole drying system

Anders Barvestal, Giles Danis, Jon Sanders, Jonathan Bartley, Jonathan Fitzpatrick, Josh McLellan, Kapil Vaidya, Ken Landreau, Kris Penner, Roman Lungu, and Tibor Molnar

For the design and operation of the tile hole drying system.

Used nuclear fuel has been stored within storage containers placed in below grade tile holes at the CRL Waste Management Areas (WMA) since the 1960s. As part of the Fuel Packaging and Storage (FPS) project pre-retrieval field activities, one tile hole was confirmed to contain a storage container that was stuck within its storage position, and had become degraded.

A Best Available Technique approach was employed to determine the method of addressing the degraded fuel and the selected method was in situ stabilisation and liquid removal. A multi-disciplinary team from the Fluids Engineering branch was assembled to develop an appropriate drying capability, taking into consideration a number of constraints, including limited access to the tile hole due to space constraints, high levels of radiological contamination, significant uranium fuel degradation and the potential for hydrogen generation.

Through extensive collaboration between design teams and operations, the Tile Hole Drying System (THDS) concept was developed. The drying system consists of a closed loop argon recirculation system employing a positive displacement blower for process flow, a dehumidifier to condense and remove moisture, HEPA filters to remove any contaminants that become entrained with the carrier gas, compressed argon supply, and an oxygen tile hole through a custom interface and the system is leak checked to ensure minimal argon leakage. Electrical resistance heaters heat the argon gas prior to entering the in-ground storage structure.

Maintaining this degraded tile hole in a dry state significantly reduces AECL’s legacy liability by reducing any potential environmental impacts until such a time that capabilities are available to remove entire tile hole contents. WMA Operations conducted an additional follow up fiber optic camera inspection in 2023 July and confirmed tile hole conditions have not changed and the tile hole remains dry. The THDS remains available for future deployment should any water in the tile hole be observed in the future.

Distinguished Merit Award: Launch of the Canadian Hydrogen Safety Centre

Alison Jones, Helmut Fritzsche, Ian Castillo, Kanchan Dutta, Kim Beres, Lee Gardner, Marco Bazelatto, Nirmal Gnanapragasam, Sam Suppiah, Steve McGee, and Zhe Liang

For the work on the nation-wide organization of the Hydrogen Safety Workshop and launching of the Canadian Hydrogen Safety Centre. 

Hydrogen is a key enabler for decarbonisation as countries pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050. As more industries and market sectors start using hydrogen and, as a result, expanding hydrogen infrastructure, there is imperative need to have a more coherent approach on hydrogen safety (i.e., robust and standard safety practices, technical solutions to the existing challenges of working with hydrogen, codes and standards for rapid hydrogen deployment).

In response to that need, CNL, in collaboration with AECL, successfully hosted a Nation-wide Hydrogen Safety Workshop in Ottawa, Ontario on November 24. On November 25, 2022, a tour of the hydrogen and materials science facilities at Chalk River Laboratories was also organized.

The aim of the workshop was to identify the emerging needs of the Canadian hydrogen safety landscape, as well as the key issues affecting the progress of hydrogen deployment in Canada. Furthermore, this event served to showcase CNL’s capabilities and leadership on hydrogen research and development to the hydrogen and nuclear communities. A total of 68 Canadian and international attendees, including technology developers, industry associations, government officials, regulatory agencies, national laboratories, universities, and service providers, participated in the workshop. The event was described by the attendees as impactful as a venue to consolidate all relevant Canadian stakeholders to initiate a much needed discussion for the country. The key insights from the workshop across issues, capabilities, gaps, and actions were documented in a consolidated report that was then distributed to the participants after the workshop.

From the findings of the workshop, the concept of the Canadian Hydrogen Safety Centre was created. The Centre concept was launched at the Hydrogen Convention held in Edmonton in April 2023. The purpose of the Canadian Hydrogen Safety Centre (CH2SC) is to help industries that are new to hydrogen with a safe adoption of hydrogen as a fuel, as an energy carrier, and as a feedstock, through development of tangible safety solutions. The solution development is aimed at a new hydrogen industry that is growing up beyond the traditional and proprietary boundaries of the current hydrogen industry – the gas producers and handlers. This will help with wider adoption of hydrogen in as many industries as possible, and in time, the expectation is that the established hydrogen industry will also participate.