Canada Completes Design Review for Advanced CANDU Reactor

Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) last week completed the third and final phase of the pre-project design review for the Advanced CANDU Reactor (ACR-1000), making it the first third-generation reactor in the world to have passed that milestone in Canada. The CNSC’s findings mean there are no fundamental barriers to licensing the reactor design from the crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), a company whose future ownership is ambiguous.

The CNSC said in its executive summary that the 1,200-MW class heavy water reactor design met all the nuclear regulator’s expectations for new nuclear plants in Canada. The objective of a Vendor Pre-Project Design Review is to verify, at a high level, the acceptability of a nuclear reactor design with respect to Canadian safety requirements and expectations.

The news was welcomed by AECL, which Ottawa last year announced it would sell to the private sector to leverage the country’s long-term investment in nuclear energy. But the federal government has come under fire of late for delaying its bid to sell the company. The Globe and Mail reported earlier this year that uncertainty over who will own AECL has hampered its efforts to sell new reactors in Canada and around the world and left major construction and engineering firms—and some 30,000 nuclear industry workers—in limbo.

Only Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.—a company that the newspaper says may not commit to completing the design of the ACR-1000—remains in the running to buy AECL. In January, Bruce Power pulled out of the bidding because its shareholders were reluctant to take on the financial risks that would come with ownership of AECL.

Canada’s 22 nuclear reactors—all of which use AECL’s CANDU technology—produce 15% of the nation’s total power and more than 50% of Ontario’s supply. Like the U.S., Canada is looking closely at new nuclear generation for energy security and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For more on Canada’s nuclear power industry, see the forthcoming special report in POWER’s March issue, online at March 2.

Sources:  POWERnews, CNSC, AECL, The Globe and Mail

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