Partners join forces to develop micro nuclear reactor

Article by Adam Duckett

THREE partners have joined forces in Canada to demonstrate a 15 MW small modular reactor that would provide power and heat to industry and remote communities.

The Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) project was initiated in 2019 and now a joint venture has been formed by the project partners Global First Power, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, and Ontario Power.

The venture, known as the Global First Power Limited Partnership, aims to build a demonstration reactor at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario owned by Atomic Energy of Canada. If successful, the plan is to license the technology for use across Canada to help reduce the use of fossil fuels for heat and power.

The reactor is designed to provide 15 MW of thermal energy. The designers say the reactor has a low power density and high heat capacity so results in very slow and predictable temperature changes. It uses helium as the coolant that provides process heat to an adjacent plant via a molten salt heat exchange system. This adjacent plant would then convert the heat to electricity or process heat as required.

They point to helium offering a safer alternative as a coolant as it cannot flash or boil and does not react with the fuel or core components. Cooling is passive, requiring no external power or water, and the reactor is sealed for life so reduces the risk of nuclear proliferation.

The design is currently at phase three – environmental assessment – of a four-stage process for approved use in Canada.

The MMR is one of a series of small, modular reactors under development around the world, from firms including NuScale and Rolls Royce.

“While there are many small reactor companies boasting about the progress they’re making, no other organisation is closer to constructing a micro reactor in Canada than we are,” said Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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