McMaster University may host the second USNC microreactor in Canada

May 24, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (Photo: McMaster University)

McMaster University, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), and Global First Power (GFP) have embarked on a new partnership to study the feasibility of deploying a USNC Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) at McMaster University or an affiliated site. The three partners last week announced a memorandum of understanding that will support research on advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies in support of Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 goal.

MMR in brief: The helium-cooled, TRISO-fueled MMR can be deployed as a single reactor or multiple modular reactors, integrated with a molten salt heat storage tank and delivering heat to an adjacent power conversion plant. Specifications for a single MMR indicate operation capability for 20 years without refueling, generating about 15 MWt (sufficient to generate 5 MWe). According to USNC, the factory-constructed MMR is suitable for powering remote communities and providing process heat to industry. Additional technical information is available here.

SMR Action Plan: GFP is a partnership between USNC and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) that is deploying USNC’s MMR technology in Canada. Both USNC and OPG are contributors to Canada’s SMR Action Plan.

Dave Tucker, McMaster’s assistant vice president for research (nuclear), said the partnership builds on existing nuclear expertise at McMaster and follows the university’s contributions to the SMR Action Plan. “Combining our capabilities with those of USNC and GFP will allow us to conduct life-cycle studies on the optimal utilization of SMRs and train the next generation of experts that will build, operate, maintain, monitor, and regulate these facilities,” he said.

Chalk River up first: GFP, USNC, and OPG formed a pact in June 2020 to construct, own, and operate an MMR at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario. That joint venture, known as the Global First Power Limited Partnership, is owned equally by OPG and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC.

“It’s the most advanced SMR project in the country and, arguably, the Western world,” said Dominique Minière, GFP’s president and chief executive officer. “Tapping into McMaster’s talent pool of experts, building research collaborations, and fostering student training initiatives will strengthen the position of Canada as a global leader in SMR deployment, which is critical for addressing the global climate emergency.”

The Chalk River MMR is expected to be operational in 2027.

In the United States, the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign submitted a letter of intent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in June 2021 to apply for a license to construct an MMR on its campus.

At McMaster: Tucker said his university’s new trilateral partnership is an important step in launching McMaster’s SMR feasibility study—an 18-month initiative in consultation with community, business, and government stakeholders, including Indigenous communities and municipal councils. Based on the findings of the study and a final decision on deployment from McMaster, the parties would then seek the necessary licenses from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

McMaster already hosts a 5-MW open-pool Materials Test Reactor fueled with low-enriched uranium. “We have over 60 years of experience operating a community-based nuclear reactor safely and efficiently, and the subsequent health, research, and economic benefits continue to advance the health and well-being of society,” Tucker said. “It’s incumbent upon us to use our knowledge and expertise to help Canada meet its net-zero target.”

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