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CNSC Perspective on Reviewing Small Modular Reactors and Safety Demonstration of Innovative Technologies Applications

Abstract of the presentation presented at:
IAEA Technical Meeting on Safety Demonstration of Innovative Technology in Power Reactor Designs
26 to 28 June, 2023

Prepared by:
Matthew Naraine, Mohamed Shawkat, and Paul Wong
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has a robust regulatory framework that builds on experience with the innovative CANDU design and remains suitable for licensing activities associated with Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and other innovative technologies. The regulatory framework is flexible, and its requirements are technology neutral; therefore, it can assess the broad diversity of operating and safety technologies introduced by the SMRs as well as the current CANDU nuclear fleet in Canada. For example, CNSC used its existing regulatory framework to review and amend Darlington Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) licence to produced Molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using the new Isotope Irradiated System (IIS) designed by the plant operator to seed and harvest Molybdenum pellets while the reactor is in operation. Also, CNSC is applying its existing regulatory framework to review the first SMR construction application in Canada, the BWRX-300 designed by GE Hitachi and planned to be built at Darlington site. In support of future licensing of BWRX-300, CNSC initiated a research project to develop Phenomena Identification Ranking Table (PIRT) to identify the important phenomena to be encountered during Design Extension Conditions (DECs) and judge the level of knowledge associated with each phenomenon. The PIRT will serve as the basis to identify gaps that need more future research and innovative solutions to address them.

Understanding the challenges associated with licensing SMRs that may face the vendors, CNSC offers an optional pre-licensing engagement process known as Vendor Design Review (VDR) where the conceptual design is reviewed by the regulator to highlight the main areas the vendor needs to strengthen to comply with CNSC requirements. The VDR process divides the review into 19 Focus Areas (FAs) such as Beyond Design Basis Accidents and severe accident prevention and mitigation (FA9), vendor research and development program (FA16), and Management system of design process and quality assurance in design and safety analysis (FA17).

CNSC realizes the importance of continuously improving its regulatory framework, and with the anticipation of more future activities in licensing other SMR designs there are opportunities to enhance the CNSC framework to meet the expected challenges. CNSC initiated the SMR readiness project to optimize the CNSC readiness to licence and regulate SMRs, position the CNSC as an international leader in SMR regulation and engage Indigenous Nations, communities, and stakeholder early and often where SMRs are planned. The project activities were categorized under 4 pillars: Capacity and Capability, Regulatory Predictability, Policy and Shared Responsibilities and International Collaboration.

In conclusion, CNSC continues regulating innovative technologies and SMRs using its regulatory framework while continuing work on identifying opportunities for improvement to meet future licensing challenges.

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