Feds offer funding for research on small modular reactors

Authors: Jodi Wildeman, K.C., Bennet Misskey

Nuclear power will play a key role in achieving the Federal Government’s ambitious net zero targets – and organizations looking to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs) may qualify for funding.

On February 23, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) launched the Enabling Small Modular Reactors Program, which will provide $29.6 million in funding over four years to eligible SMR research and development (R&D) projects. Currently, NRCan is accepting applications for projects aimed at:

  • researching waste management solutions for SMRs
  • developing supply chains for SMR manufacturing and fuel supply

SMRs are smaller in size and power output than conventional nuclear reactors and involve lower up-front capital investment. Their modular design allows many parts to be built in factories and assembled on site and is scalable to suit local needs.

Funding of up to $5 million available

Eligible R&D projects can request up to $5 million in funding. NRCan will fund up to 75% of the total project costs for successful applicants. Projects led by Indigenous applicants (defined as having at least 51% Indigenous ownership) may receive up to 100% of total project costs. Eligible activities include:

  • research, development and related scientific activities
  • engineering, technical and reliability assessments, feasibility studies
  • environmental and regulatory studies

Waste management R&D projects

Projects that seek to manage and minimize the waste generated by SMRs may include:

  • identifying and characterizing SMR waste streams
  • researching waste management solutions
  • developing strategies for waste reduction and disposal
  • studying the long-term safety requirements for the storage of SMR waste
  • studying packaging and transportation requirements for radioactive material
  • researching techniques for managing non-fuel radioactive waste and contaminated materials

Supply chain R&D projects

Projects aimed at developing supply chains for SMR manufacturing and fuel supply may include:

  • identifying the equipment and components needed for supply chain development
  • developing manufacturing techniques to reduce SMR costs
  • economic impact and gap analyses on the supply chains needed for deploying SMRs
  • developing ways of characterizing and examining SMR fuels and fuel materials
  • studying the economic impact of fuel fabrication and/or enrichment in Canada
  • studying fuel processing options
  • examining the regulatory process for licensing/certifying the packaging and transportation of enriched materials
  • becoming a nuclear-qualified supplier

How to apply

Applications must be emailed to smr-prm@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca by April 7. Preference will be given to R&D projects that offer broad benefits to Canada. Applicants will be asked to describe the participation, engagement, and/or leadership of women and other identity groups in their project application.

Canada poised to become a leader in SMRs

As we discussed in a previous blog, Canada is poised to become a global leader in SMRs. Last year, the Federal Government announced a new tax credit for investments in SMR technology, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank provided $970 million in financing to build Canada’s first SMR.

The lawyers in the MLT Aikins Energy practice group have wide-ranging experience advising clients on clean energy projects, including nuclear power generation. If you’re interested in applying for NRCan funding or have questions about deploying SMRs, contact us to learn how we can help.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.