Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has begun a discussion around small modular reactor (SMR) technology in Canada, and the role that it can play in bringing the technology to market, by launching a request for expressions of interest on SMRs.
Over the past decade, SMRs have increasingly been recognized as a potential alternative to large-scale nuclear reactors. The technology holds opportunities for Canada, particularly for remote communities or industrial sites, CNL said.
Among other uses, SMRs have been proposed for use in the oilsands to displace the use of natural gas to produce steam for in situ production. Combustion of natural gas is the leading cause of the oilsands high greenhouse gas emissions levels and has been criticized for the burning of the cleanest fossil fuel to produce a high emissions bitumen product with relatively little energy gain.
SMRs may offer several advantages over traditional technologies, CNL said, such as: the ability to purchase and construct in a modular way, decreasing up-front capital costs through simpler, less complex plants and a reduced staff complement.
Designs, including some proposed by Canadian companies, can also bring greater efficiency and systems which are inherently safe, CNL said. In addition to electricity generation, SMRs could be integrated in overall energy plans with applications as varied as district heating, co-generation, energy storage, desalination or hydrogen production.
CNL is seeking input from SMR technology developers, potential end users and any other interested parties and stakeholders, including potential host communities, unions, the nuclear supply chain, and research and academic institutions.
The request for expressions of interest aims to build an understanding of the existing capabilities, technology gaps, needs and requirements both from technology developers and other stakeholders, and overall market interest, so that CNL can position itself as a key partner to the development and deployment of SMRs. The request for expressions of interest is open from June 1 to July 31.
"We intend to begin the generic site selection and licensing process for the first demonstration or prototype reactor later this year. At this preliminary stage, these activities will be technology neutral and inclusive of all potential technologies. We need to hear from the broader SMR development community, to ensure that their needs are being captured," said Kathryn McCarthy, vice-president, Research & Development, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.
''Small modular reactors have great potential as an emerging technology that could supply low-carbon energy for a range of users, including remote communities, mining operations and the oil and gas industry,” minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr said in a statement.