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About small modular reactors

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a new class of nuclear reactors that are considerably smaller in size and power output than traditional nuclear power reactors, with enhanced safety features.

Novel reactor technologies, including SMRs, may potentially supply power to smaller electrical grids or to remote, off-grid areas.

Visit the SMR facilities page to see a list of SMR projects in Canada.

What is a small modular reactor?


What is a small modular reactor?

Small modular reactors, or SMRs, use fission to create heat that generates energy like traditional nuclear reactors.

They’re designed to be smaller than a traditional reactor.

They vary in size and the power they produce.

What about regulation?

The CNSC has been providing feedback to companies for several years through the pre-licensing vendor design review process.

Big or small and no matter the technology, the CNSC’s role is to regulate the nuclear industry and protect the health and safety of the public and the environment.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Government of Canada

How small are Small Modular Reactors?


How small are small modular reactors?

They can be as small as a three-storey building or as large as an entire city block.

That’s the equivalent of a mid-size shopping mall!

Regardless of their size, the major parts of SMRs will be housed within a larger facility.

This is where you will find systems that... support safe operation and maintenance, harness heat, which can do useful things like generate electricity.

We have been preparing to regulate SMR projects for many years.

Anyone who wants to build and operate an SMR facility needs to meet our requirements for... Safety, security, environmental protection, Canada’s commitments to nuclear non-proliferation.

Big or small and no matter the technology, it’s the CNSC’s role to regulate the nuclear industry and protect the health and safety of the public and the environment.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Government of Canada

Regulating and licensing SMRs

The CNSC regulates and licenses all nuclear facilities and activities in Canada.

The CNSC’s regulatory framework allows for a structured approach, which staff use to assess applications for SMRs. As the CNSC learns more from its experience with the pre-licensing vendor design review process (VDR) process, and from international agreements, it continues to update and refine its framework.

The CNSC is also responsible for regulatory oversight of the management of radioactive waste, including – as applicable – the handling, processing, transport, storage and disposal of that waste. Waste management is integral to the safety case of an SMR project.

Public engagement and Indigenous engagement are an essential element of the regulatory process and key considerations in the independent Commission’s decision-making process for a licence. Members of the public, SMR proponents, stakeholders, and Indigenous Nations and communities are encouraged to participate. Funding programs are available to support engagement and participation.

Meet some of the CNSC experts who support and contribute to Canada’s SMR readiness.

How much power can an SMR generate?

SMRs may be used on small grids where power generation needs are usually less than 300 megawatt electric (MWe) per facility. To better understand this scale, 300 MWe of electricity can power approximately 300,000 homes.

SMRs can also be at edge-of-grid or off-grid locations where power needs are small – in the range of 2 to 30 MWe. This may be for electrifying smaller communities or for industrial applications.

Types of SMR technologies

SMRs can vary significantly in size, design features and cooling types. Examples of different SMR technologies include:

  • integral pressurized water reactors
  • molten salt reactors
  • high-temperature gas reactors
  • liquid metal cooled reactors
  • solid state or heat pipe reactors

Electrical utilities, industry groups and government agencies throughout the world are investigating alternative uses for SMRs beyond electricity generation.

These include producing steam for industrial applications or district heating systems, and making products such as hydrogen fuel and desalinated drinking water.

The CNSC regulates activities associated with all of these applications. Learn more about new reactor facility projects in Canada.

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