EBR-II experience aided ARC-100 SMR design review

Proven technology and data helped ARC Nuclear Canada pass initial stage of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review.

ARC Nuclear Canada, Inc has successfully completed the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) Vendor Design Review (VDR) for its ARC-100 advanced small modular reactor (SMR).

The phase 1 assessment provides detailed feedback about the vendor’s understanding of the CNSC’s requirements for a nuclear power plant in Canada but does not certify the design or licence the reactor.

The ARC-100 sodium-cooled fast reactor generates 100 MWe of electricity. It aims to be walk-away safe and able to reconstitute its own fuel. The reactor system employs uranium metal alloy as fuel with a 20-year refuelling cycle. Its nuclear core is submerged in a tank of liquid sodium at ambient pressure.

Current estimates, which will be confirmed in the next stage, are indicating in the area of $50-60 per MWh for electricity generated, with a total cost of $500 million for the build. With the current climate initiatives being progressed in Canada, including charges laid against fossil fuel generation, ARC says its technology is very competitive.

The SMR derives its technology from the 20 MWe Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) which was designed and operated by the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory for over 30 years. The EBR-II demonstrated the technology and successfully produced electricity into the local grid. The EBR-II proved and documented inherent safety, the reconstitution of spent fuel and economic production of electricity.

“The ARC-100 is a proven technology which makes it a significant competitive differentiator,” ARC Nuclear Canada Business Manager, Carol Lynn Landry, told Nuclear Energy Insider.

“In addition to its readiness for market, its inherent safety and the ability to reconstitute its own fuel repeatedly, the ARC-100 technology can support intermittent wind and solar energy sources which is proving to be very popular with our client base.”

In the case of the ARC-100, the CNSC determined that ARC Nuclear Canada understands, and has interpreted correctly, the intent of regulatory requirements. ARC Canada said any question or comment is foreseen to be resolvable and will be addressed in future engagement with the CNSC.

Source: CSNC

Ready for Phase 2

ARC’s is the third design to complete Phase 1 Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review (a process that typically takes 12-18 months but was carried out over a 24-month period at the request of the vendor) following Terrestrial Energy and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC).

Terrestrial Energy was the first to move to Phase 2 in December 2018 with its 200 MWe Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), while USNC is yet to commence Phase 2. USNC’s MMR-5 and MMR-10 high-temperature gas reactors have capacity of 5 and 10 MWe respectively.

Other companies with designs currently in Phase 1 include Moltex Energy, SMR LLC (Holtec), NuScale Power, and U-Battery Canada.

While Terrestrial and U-Battery both took up Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ (CNL) invitation to site a SMR demonstration unit at one of their managed sites, and have both completed Phase 1 of that process, ARC has other ideas.

“Currently ARC Nuclear Canada has no plans to participate in CNL’s invitation for siting of an SMR on their research site,” said Landry.

“The ARC-100 technology is at a mature technology level since its design is based on a previously proven technology that was operated safely by world-leading experts for over three decades. As such, prototype development, that may be a requirement for other advanced small modular reactor types, is not required in our case.”

SMR opportunity

ARC Canada established its HQ in Saint John, New Brunswick, in October 2018 and believes the province provides the ideal platform for SMR technology.

“I see a tremendous opportunity for our manufacturing sector, academia and workforce as we build a sustainable supply chain that will export the ARC-100 technology,” said ARC Canada’s President and CEO Norman JD Sawyer.

“With a timely and positive decision by the government of New Brunswick regarding a demonstration unit at the Point Lepreau site, the opportunity could become a reality. We believe that ARC Canada’s ability to provide Canada’s regulatory body with data that comes from decades of operating experience is a key attribute that sets the ARC-100 design apart from its competitors."

ARC is working with NB Power in developing plans for the eventual build of the First Of A Kind (FOAK). Completion of the SMR is slated for 2028 in time to replace the existing coal generation station in 2030.

"We believe, as does our current partner NB Power, the ability to rely on a significant amount of operational data does provide a significant advantage over other advanced SMR technologies," said Landry. "In fact the Canadian regulatory body also sees our ability to use such operating experience as part of our design improvement program as a very positive aspect of our safety case."

Scott Birch