UNENE R&D Workshop opens a window to the future of nuclear in Canada

Mike Draymond on video call
Queen’s University’s Mark Daymond was one of several academics who contributed to the UNENE R&D Workshop panels on topics ranging from adapting to today’s realities to building innovation, responding to the SMR Action Plan and building industry capacity.

The show must go on and so it did. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop UNENE’s annual R&D Workshop, a cornerstone of the organization’s work in connecting academia with industry and government. In fact, the online format provided opportunities to bring new voices to to the discussion.

MARCH 12, 2021 – From CANDU plant modernization through digital technologies and artificial intelligence to the use of small modular reactors for new kinds of energy systems to the harvest of isotopes for nuclear medical diagnostics and treatments, there is a frontier of nuclear innovation right in front of us.

At its annual R&D Workshop, the UNENE network of academia, industry and government came together to explore these and many more innovations, as well as the need for enablers to future nuclear like advances in nuclear decommissioning and waste management, human performance and a response to pandemic conditions, cyber and nuclear supply chain security.

The workshop, held Dec. 14-17, was held online as a result of the pandemic but that didn’t prevent the exchange of information across the various aspects of the sector with expert guest speakers presenting the latest research and industry trends.

Gathering input for future R&D focus areas

The annual workshop serves a critical role in connecting academia with industry and government to understand emerging needs and interests for research programming. Conversely, it offers industry an opportunity to learn about the most current research underway at the UNENE network of universities.

In addition to Canadian participants from academia and industry, Kostadin Ivanov of North Carolina State University provided an international perspective of recent trends and collaboration opportunities.

Capacity building is one of the fundamental objectives of UNENE. A panel of academic and industry speakers discussed the vital and unique role of the the university community in capacity building in developing young scientists and engineers. Other topics of this discussion included university facilities and program continuity as well as the opportunities that exist within relationships between universities, the industry and civil society in strengthening understanding of the role of nuclear within clean energy systems. The panel included a student perspective, provided by Jacy Conrad, a 2020 R&D Workshop award winner.

Student participation

As has been the practice at the last several UNENE R&D Workshops, one session featured student presentations and provided an opportunity for students to highlight and present, orally, their research work to all session participants (about 80 people).

The session featured eight student speakers from four universities (three from Queen’s University, two from Ontario Tech University, two from McMaster University, and one from University of Toronto.

There were seven impartial judges, all active in the Canadian nuclear industry, unrelated to any of the student presenters or their research projects.

Evaluation criteria included the quality of the abstract, presentation, and explanations provided by the students in their presentation and in response to participants’ questions. The judges were impressed by all presentations.  Collation of the judges’ numerical evaluations identified the winner of the Best Student Presentation (and recipient of a $500 prize) as Desmond Williams, who presented his research at Queen’s but who is now at the University of Toronto.