Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has announced that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Moltex Energy. Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the agreement includes work to support aspects of Moltex Energy’s nuclear fuel development program for its Stable Salt Reactor, a 300 MW small modular reactor (SMR) design.

Launched in 2019, the CNRI program was established by CNL to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling research and development, and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. Participants are able to optimize resources, share technical knowledge, and gain access to CNL’s expertise to help advance the commercialization of SMR technologies.

“CNL has built considerable expertise in nuclear fuel handling and processing over the past decades,” explains Jeff Griffin, CNL Vice-President of Science and Technology, “and advanced fuel research is recognized as one of our key strategic areas of strength. We have made significant investments into our fuel program and will continue to do so over the coming years. The CNRI program helps reactor developers – such as Moltex Energy – tap into these key capabilities in a cost-effective way.”

Many of the modular reactor designs under development or consideration in Canada utilize evolutionary – or even revolutionary – fuels and manufacturing processes. These advances in fuels promise greater levels of efficiency, safety and in the case of Moltex Energy, a reduction in fuel waste inventories. However, before these benefits are realized, research and development must be undertaken to prove out the concepts, and readiness of the technology for the nuclear licensing process.

Under the proposed CNRI project, Moltex Energy, the University of New Brunswick (UNB), and CNL will design, build, and optimize a fuel testing apparatus at UNB’s Centre for Nuclear Energy Research with parallel complementary activities at the University of Manchester. More specifically, the CNRI project will see CNL supporting Moltex Energy on specialized equipment preparation, installation and commissioning. While the initial testing is conducted using surrogate inactive materials, CNL’s expertise is also supporting the planning, design, costing, and safety analysis required to move the apparatus into a shielded facility, or hot cell, where the testing could be completed using actual fuels and active materials.

Ultimately, the data collected will support the design and licensing of a full-scale facility in New Brunswick being developed jointly by Moltex Energy, the Government of New Brunswick, and NB Power.

“The financial support and technical expertise from CNL is important for the success of our project and will help us advance research and development,” said Rory O’Sullivan, CEO for North America at Moltex Energy. “Nuclear power is essential to address global energy issues as intermittent renewables alone cannot meet the current and future demand.”

CNRI is an annual program that invites organizations to submit proposals for cost-sharing R&D projects in support of SMR development. CNL received a strong response to the initial intake, including four applications from key vendors in the SMR industry in Canada and abroad. The agreement with Moltex Energy is the second project to reach this stage in the program.

The next call for CNRI proposals is expected to be released in the spring of 2020. For more details on the program, please visit www.cnl.ca/CNRI.

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