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article imageNuclear not dead yet — Interest in small nuclear reactors growing

By Karen Graham     Sep 2, 2017 in Technology
Chalk River - Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has a vision - And that is to serve as a global hub for the small modular reactor (SMR) development community. CNL has received over 70 responses to its Request for Expression of Interest (RFEOI) on SMRs last month.
In August, Digital Journal looked at one possible answer to the decline in nuclear power plants in the United States and around the globe - Small modular nuclear reactor (SMR). They not only cost less but are much smaller than full-sized nuclear plants and safer.
To our north is a Canadian nuclear research facility in Deep River, Renfrew County, Ontario, near Chalk River, about 180 kilometers (110 miles) north-west of Ottawa. This facility is home to Canadian National Laboratories. The site dedicated to major research and development to support and advance nuclear technology, in particular, CANDU reactor technology.
CANDU Nuclear Power Plant at Zhejiang  China
CANDU Nuclear Power Plant at Zhejiang, China
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
Opened in 1944, by 1945, the Chalk River facility saw the first nuclear reactor outside of the United States become operational. In 1962, the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor, built by Canadian General Electric (now GE Canada), in partnership with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Ontario Hydro (now Ontario Power Generation), was commissioned.
The NPD was a prototype for the CANDU reactor design. It had a single 22 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) unit located in Rolphton, Ontario. The CANDU reactor used natural uranium fuel with a heavy water moderator. Over the years, it was a test site for new fuels, materials, components and other technology.
The plant was shut down in 1987, but the CANDU design lives on in CANDU nuclear plants around the world. NPD was followed by the 200 MWe Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station on the shore of Lake Huron. Other CANDU plants can be found in Quebec and New Brunswick, as well as Pakistan, Argentina, South Korea, Romania, and China.
NuScale Power
Interest in Small Modular Reactors
However, Canadian National Laboratories has continued to go forward with research and development, including waste management and decommissioning, fuels, hydrogen, tritium and other projects. In August, CNL sent out a request for expressions of interest in small modular reactors (SMRs).
More than 70 organizations expressed interest, and there were over 15 expressions of interest for the construction of a prototype or demonstration SMR at a CNL site.
CNL is interested in a long-term strategy including the goal of siting a new SMR on its Chalk River site by 2026, and with the interest shown by so many organizations, CNL hopes to gain a better understanding of its existing capabilities, technology gaps, needs and requirements, and overall market interest.
Chalk River s NRU Reactor. After 60 years of serving the scientific community and the people of Cana...
Chalk River's NRU Reactor. After 60 years of serving the scientific community and the people of Canada, The reactor will soon be decommisioned.
Actually, it sounds like CNL will become an incubator for the right groups interested in SMR technology and development. The facility says they have a secure site, along with on-site capabilities in all areas of reactor design, from fuels and reactor internals through thermodynamics and materials science.
There is a lot of excitement being generated in the use of SMRs, especially in out-of-the-way places. On September 6-7, companies interested in being part of the supply chain and searching for manufacturing opportunities around small modular reactors, next generation nuclear technology, nuclear medicine, and national security programs are invited to attend the Nuclear Suppliers Workshop at Pollard Technology Conference Center in Oak Ridge. It will be hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council and the East Tennessee Economic Council.
It is refreshing to know that interest in research and development of small modular reactors is growing. Another development in nuclear power is the research being done on thorium salt as a fuel. Thorium has long held promise for “safer” nuclear power.
Thorium is a slightly radioactive element and converts to fissionable U-233 when hit by high-energy neutrons. But after use, U-233 has fewer long-lived waste products than conventional U-235 now used in nuclear power plants, although it will still need special disposal procedures.
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