Universities take action in support of Canada’s SMR plans

Canada's SMR Action Plan
Image: Government of Canada

As part of Canada’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Action Plan, UNENE, along with its members and partners, have made commitments to contribute to SMR research, development and training.

APRIL 19, 2021 – University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering (UNENE) and our member universities are actively involved in the advancement of small modular reactor (SMR) research, technology and education in Canada.

In December 2020, Natural Resources Canada released its SMR Action Plan, which represents an added value to the existing CANDU contribution to the country’s clean energy mix. UNENE, and several of the universities in its network, contributed chapters to the SMR Action Plan.

Through the fostering of collaboration with our members, UNENE’s participation in the Action Plan provides unique, significant benefits through these and other supporting actions:

  • An essential role in developing young engineers and scientists with SMR capabilities, through educational programs and research experience;
  • A trusted voice that can reach stakeholder communities with objective, expert views; and
  • Nimble, cost-effective early-stage research that paves the way for both national lab, developer and operator understanding.

UNENE represents the collective, collaborative activities of member universities in partnership with its industrial members, funding SMR education, research and outreach, complementing individual university initiatives.

UNENE university members work together on SMR technologies and impacts, partnering with utilities, design companies, national labs, regulators, governments, etc. UNENE is a convening organization that strengthens engagement with industry and cooperation with other parts of the nuclear sector in areas such as SMR development and waste management.

As well, UNENE is reaching out in international cooperation that will apply to SMR developments, on behalf of member universities, including educational exchange with UK universities and international cooperation in educational networks with IAEA and OECD-NEA.

Click here to read the UNENE Chapter of the SMR Action Plan.

The UNENE Network of Universities in the Action Plan

In addition to UNENE, several UNENE universities have chapters in the SMR Action Plan. Read below for the high-level summary of each of the university’s chapters and a link to the full chapter.  

McMaster University

McMaster University’s interest in small modular reactors (SMRs) stems from its fundamental mission: the discovery, communication, and preservation of knowledge. McMaster faculty have expertise in a broad range of SMR-related research, including actinoid chemistry, advanced fuel cycles, waste management, nuclear engineering, nuclear safety, reactor physics, thermal hydraulics, materials science, radio-analytical chemistry, detector physics, and radiation biology, and are making essential contributions to the advancement of SMR technology.

McMaster has a strong interest not only in solving the technical challenges associated with SMR deployment, but also in evaluating the economic viability and social acceptance issues that need to be resolved before Canada’s SMR vision can be realized.

Click here to read McMaster University’s SMR Action Plan chapter.

Ontario Tech University

As the release of the SMR Action Plan highlights, small modular reactors (SMRs) are a critical piece in Canada’s path to carbon-zero. Ontario Tech University fully endorses the action plan and will work with Team Canada to turn the plan into reality. As a key provider of the SMR workforce, ranked third in North America in terms of nuclear engineering graduates, and as a supplier of independent research and consultancy, Ontario Tech will actively support all pillars in the SMR roadmap. Leveraging grant funding opportunities and international collaborations not open to industry partners, and building on its core strengths and expertise, Ontario Tech pledges an eight-point plan of linked actions to support the SMR lifecycle from design to decommissioning.

Located in the backyard of Ontario Power Generation, 20 minutes from Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, Ontario Tech is ideally positioned to support OPG’s expected first-of-a-kind SMR deployment in the late 2020s along with the workforce needs that will accompany it. Complementing strengths at other Canadian universities, and born into a digital world, Ontario Tech is a leader in nuclear modeling and simulation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, virtual reality and cybersecurity. This is supported by extensive experimental facilities for nuclear fuels and materials analysis, thermal hydraulics and decommissioning research, as well as mixed-field radiation facilities for detector development and low-dose studies.

Click here to read Ontario Tech’s SMR Action Plan chapter.

Queen’s University

Queen’s University will have an important role to play in small modular reactor (SMR) development, including education of engineering and science professionals who will enable actual delivery of SMR systems. As well, Queen’s is focused on capacity building through graduate student research – it has a long history of graduate students advancing into the nuclear industry.

Queen’s is home to the leading Canadian academic research effort on core nuclear materials funded in part by UNENE, the federal government and others. Queen’s nuclear infrastructure includes a world-leading accelerator facility that can be used to introduce irradiation damage in materials, hence simulating the aging of materials inside SMRs. 

The research effort includes five full-time and one adjunct faculty, with expertise in irradiation damage, corrosion, materials characterization and modelling. Perhaps the key technological barrier to successful SMR deployment is materials aging issues, the precise topic of the Queen’s effort.

Click here to read Queen’s University’s SMR Action Plan chapter.

University of New Brunswick

The University of New Brunswick’s Centre for Nuclear Energy Research (UNB-CNER) is a partner in the New Brunswick Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Research and Development Cluster (NB SMR R&D Cluster), a collaborative partnership between the province of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Power, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and two SMR vendors (Moltex Energy and ARC Nuclear Canada Inc).

As part of its commitments within the SMR Action Plan, UNB, through the CNER, will participate in the development of advanced nuclear technology, conduct targeted research and to train the next generation of nuclear research and professionals within UNB’s faculty of engineering.

Click here to read University of New Brunswick’s SMR Action Plan chapter.

University of Regina

The University of Regina is committed to the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Action Plan’s over-arching vision for SMRs in Canada. Providing high-quality and accessible education, influential research and meaningful scholarly experiences in pursuit of local and global contributions to knowledge reflects the university’s envisioned role within Canada’s SMR ecosystem.

As part of enacting that vision, the university will build capacity and capability to make a meaningful contribution to establishing SMRs as a low-carbon energy source for Saskatchewan. This includes research and development activities related to nuclear reactor technologies as well as academic programming and experiential learning for our students to help prepare the next generation of nuclear science and technology talent.

As well, the university is working collaboratively with partners including SaskPower, the Saskatchewan Research Council, the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (the Fedoruk Centre) and the Government of Saskatchewan Nuclear Secretariat on actions to advance SMR training and development.

Click here to read the University of Regina’s SMR Action Plan chapter.

University of Toronto

The University of Toronto (U of T) is pleased to contribute to the Canadian Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Action Plan, which may serve as a basis to identify opportunities for U of T to engage in research and development, partnerships with multiple stakeholders, knowledge creation and dissemination and the training of an independent and engaged SMR-competent workforce in Canada.

U of T is motivated to contribute to SMR development and successful deployment. The university has also built a close relationship with the Ontario nuclear industry, having engaged in multiple collaborative research projects with Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power over the last 15 years.

The university believes its role in the SMR ecosystem can be multifaceted and its SMR Action Plan chapter contains contributions from researchers at U of T Engineering that can support and enable the development and deployment of SMRs in Canada.

Click here to read the University of Toronto’s SMR Action Plan chapter.