Country bullish on nuclear with support increasing

Site preparation work has begun for a BWRX-300 SMR at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington nuclear site. Courtesy GEH.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will provide CAD9.4m ($7.13m, €6.5m) over the next three years to support 29 research projects in the initial phase of a small modular reactors research grant initiative.

The goal of the financial support is to facilitate the deployment of SMRs while bolstering the scientific foundations necessary for regulatory decision-making.

The funded projects will examine a range of research challenges and other issues like environmental protection, risk management, cybersecurity solutions for SMR deployment in remote locations, achieving a better understanding of nuclear material produced by SMRs, and the role and significance of human factors when working with SMRs.

As part of the 2022 federal budget, CNSC received CAD15m to work with NSERC in funding research that facilitates effective regulation and oversight of SMRs.

During the initial phase, grants of up to CAD120,000 per year will be awarded to projects, spanning a duration of up to three years.

The second phase, planned for fiscal year 2024-2025, will involve a further funding call to either extend existing projects or finance new projects for two years.

NSERC and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) have collaborated to fund SMR research since April 2022 under the framework of Canada's SMR Action Plan, launched in April 2022.

NSERC president Alejandro Adem said the research projects “will guide Canada’s regulatory decisions and contribute to advancements in the development of this promising clean energy technology for years to come”.

‘International Community Is Watching’

CNSC president Rumina Velshi emphasised the importance of the funding initiative, saying “the international community is closely observing Canada’s approach to SMR regulation”.

She said: “This initiative will enable researchers to delve into crucial areas such as environmental protection, risk management, and cybersecurity in the context of SMRs. Through collaborative efforts like this, we are establishing the essential groundwork for a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable energy future.”

Canada, which has 19 nuclear power plants in commercial operation providing about 13% of its electricity generation, is bullish on nuclear.

In December, site preparation began for a BWRX-300 SMR at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington nuclear site. It will be Ontario’s first nuclear reactor build in a generation and will deliver 300 MW of electricity, enough to power 300,000 homes.

The Canadian Nuclear Association has said the government’s support for nuclear has increased steadily and has included funding announcements for SMRs, budgetary commitments for Natural Resources Canada to promote the development of SMRs, and most recently the CAD970m loan from Canada Infrastructure Bank for the development of new nuclear at the Darlington site in Ontario.

Provincial governments have also signalled strong commitment to nuclear, including the release of a roadmap for SMRs by Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Alberta; the announcement by SaskPower that it is exploring the potential to build an SMR in the 2030s; and a lifetime extension of Pickering nuclear power station, to be followed by a study into possible refurbishment.

Date: Friday, 30 June 2023
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