Moltex completes CNSC design review; UNSC microreactor enters formal licensing phase

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Artist rendition of Moltex site (Source: Moltex)

Moltex Energy has completed Phase 1 of the Canadian regulator’s Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review (VDR) for its 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor-Wasteburner (SSR-W), the Anglo-Canadian company said in a statement.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Phase 1 VDR, an optional service offered by the regulator, provides early feedback to the vendor about its reactor design and processes on matters related to CNSC regulatory requirements and expectations.

“This demonstrates that our technology is progressing in the right direction and gives current and future customers confidence in our design of advanced nuclear reactors,” said Rory O’Sullivan, CEO for North America, Moltex Energy in the statement.

Moltex Energy believes its reactor, which uses nuclear waste from CANDU power plants as fuel, is highly competitive against other molten salt reactors due to the simplified design which places molten salt fuel in fuel rods like conventional assemblies rather than pumping fuel salts around valves and heat exchanges.

“It offers a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and socially acceptable solution to waste minimization,” the company says.

Separately, a group of former government officials and non-proliferation experts have penned a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, expressing concern over Canada’s financial backing for the Moltex program which, they claim, will reprocess fuel to extract plutonium, undermining the global nuclear weapons nonproliferation regime.

“Before Canada makes any further commitments in support of reprocessing, we urge you to convene high-level reviews of both the nonproliferation and environmental implications of Moltex’s reprocessing proposal including independent international experts,” the letter, sent at the end of May, concluded.

USNC hits licensing milestone

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s (USNC) Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) has entered the formal licensing review phase with the Canadian regulator CNSC, the first small modular reactor to hit that milestone in Canada, as part of the Global First Power (GFP) MMR Project, the Seattle-based company said in a statement.

GFP is a joint venture formed by USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC, and Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The company will build, own, and operate the proposed MMR Project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario.

The move to formal licensing phase comes after four years of work between USNC and the CNSC in its Vendor Design Review Process (VDR). The VDR is ongoing and includes the reactor as well as the USNC’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencasulated fuel, fabricated by the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

“Being the first 4th Generation nuclear technology to formally enter licensing in Canada is testament to our innovative reactor design and its safety advantages," said Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC.

The MMR Energy System is a nuclear power plant that integrates one or more standardized microreactors with a heat storage unit and the adjacent plant for power conversion and utilization.

US launches SMR program

The U.S. Department of State has launched a program to support partner countries’ plans to develop their nuclear energy program, ‘Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology’ (FIRST), the government announced at the end of April.

The State Department has granted $5.3 million to support FIRST projects, which the Biden administration highlighted as one of the U.S.’s key efforts to “promote innovation in bringing clean technologies to scale and build unprecedented global cooperation to confront the climate crisis.”

“FIRST is a capacity-building program designed to deepen strategic ties, support energy innovation, and advance technical collaboration with partner nations on secure and safe nuclear energy infrastructure,” the State Department said in a statement.

“Such cooperation includes supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs), in a manner consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Milestones Approach for implementing a responsible nuclear power program,” it said.

UK company installs two-stage gas gun

British fusion company, First Light Fusion, have completed the construction of a 22-metre-long two-stage gas gun as part of work to develop a path to commercial fusion energy, the company said in a statement.

The company began in the University of Oxford in 2011 and has morphed from a research-focused university project to a company that is developing a strategy to make fusion energy work with a sustainable business model.

The 38 mm gun weighs 25,000 kilos and fires a 100 g projectile which can reach a maximum velocity of 6.5 km/s, or 20 times the speed of sound, using 3 kg of gun powder. When fired, the projectile is launched into a vacuum chamber where it hits a fusion target. The impact aims to create the conditions required for fusion, the company says.

The two-stage gas gun project took 10 months to complete from concept design to fully functioning test facility.

“This new gun is an important piece of kit for First Light Fusion and will help us accelerate our development timeline. It will complement the work we are doing with our unique electromagnetic launch pulsed power machine, Machine 3,” CEO of First Light Fusion Nick Hawker said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear