Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) could potentially deploy its micro modular reactor (MMR) at Ontario’s McMaster University or an affiliated site.

Seattle-based USNC signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the university and Global First Power (GFP), marking the new development.

McMaster University officials said the partnership is an important step in the launch of the university’s small modular reactor (SMR) feasibility study., The university plans to spend 18 months consulting with community, business, and government stakeholders, indigenous communities and municipal councils.

Based on the findings and McMaster’s decision to pursue SMR deployment, the process of seeking the necessary licenses from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission would begin.

“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,” said Dave Tucker, McMaster’s assistant vice president for nuclear research.

GFP is a partnership between USNC and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) that is already working to advance micro-reactors in Canada. The partners are combining on a five MW gas-cooled demonstration micro-reactor at Chalk River, Ontario, with plans to be in service by 2026 or 2027.

The MMR is a new class of nuclear reactor, much smaller in size and power than traditional nuclear reactors, with enhanced safety features. It is designed primarily to replace the use of diesel in remote communities and mines. GFP estimated that one MMR could replace 200 million liters of diesel at a mining site over 20 years.

USNC’s MMR Energy System includes a nuclear plant, which would contain a high temperature gas-cooled reactor to provide process heat to an adjacent plant. The nuclear plant will have only essential systems and components, while services will be provided by an adjacent plant.

The adjacent plant’s design uses a molten salt buffer to isolate the reactor from fast load transients. It is designed to isolate high-pressure water or steam from entering the nuclear plant. The adjacent plant will use thermal energy storage technology used by Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). The molten salt storage tank will be sized for storage needs.

The MMR would produce approximately 15 MW of thermal process heat (sufficient to generate five MW of electricity) over an operating lifespan of 20 years. The reactor would be fueled once in its lifetime. The core can then be replaced to extend the operating life of the reactor for another 20-year cycle.

The reactor core consists of hexagonal graphite blocks that contain stacks of the fully micro encapsulated fuel pellets. The core has a low power density (1.24 W/cm3) and a high heat capacity, resulting in what are expected to be slow and predictable temperature changes. The core provides coolant flow paths for heat removal, and the graphite material of the blocks assists with further heat removal. The graphite core provides a neutron moderation and reflection function.

The power generation system, located in the adjacent plant, consists of the turbine generator and supporting infrastructure. The adjacent plant has a main electrical grid connection for supply of the electrical power generated from transmission infrastructure. This is confirmed once a project’s site location is finalized. Additionally, there is an auxiliary grid connection to provide station power when the main connection is not available.

We’ve reported on Canada’s SMR Action Plan, which includes engaging with international partners to create export opportunities, investment, SMR integration with renewables and energy storage, minimizing nuclear waste and foster greater inclusion in the industry workforce for women, minorities and indigenous communities.

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