McMaster researchers receive $2.6 million for small modular reactor research

Engineering professors Joey Kish, left, and Dave Novog have received funding from NSERC and NRCan to advance research on small modular reactors.

Two researchers from the Faculty of Engineering have received a total of nearly $2.6 million to lead research on small modular reactors (SMRs).

The investment is provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), as part of their partnership to fund research on small modular reactors.

The funding supports the generation of new knowledge that addresses objectives within Canada’s SMR Action Plan and helps inform policy— and decision-making related to SMRs in Canada’s nuclear industry.

As outlined in the Action Plan, small modular reactors offer a promising pathway to support Canada’s low carbon energy transition and are expected to be less complex, easier to operate and more cost effective than current nuclear technology.

Joey Kish, a professor in the department of materials science and engineering, and Clara Wren, adjunct assistant professor in the department of engineering physics, were awarded $1.4 million over four years to develop an environmentally friendly laser-based waste management solution.

“The goal of our project is to develop a safe, eco-friendly and cost-effective laser decontamination technology that can significantly minimize metallic waste and enhance the waste management process for SMRs overall,” Kish says.

The project will also facilitate training for the next generation of SMR experts.

“Our research team will include graduate students who will gain critical hands-on experience in nuclear waste management from an environmental stewardship lens.”

Engineering physics professor Dave Novog received $1.2 million over four years to lead a study focused on evaluating SMR fuel performance and safety.

Novog’s research will focus on TRISO fuels, which can withstand extreme high temperatures and provide multiple layers of added protection compared to traditional nuclear reactor fuels.

“SMRs represent a paradigm shift in nuclear energy, not just in terms of their size and modularity, but also in terms of the robustness of their fuels,” Novog says.

“We aim to use existing analytical and experimental facilities at McMaster to develop and demonstrate a 3-dimensional inspection system that can be used to ensure TRISO fuels perform as intended, both as-built and under irradiated conditions in a reactor core.”

The investment from NSERC and NRCan will enable McMaster’s nuclear experts to conduct research that strengthens Canada’s position as a clean energy leader, says Dave Tucker, McMaster’s chief nuclear officer and associate vice-president, Nuclear.

“SMRs are expected to play a key role in Canada’s clean energy transition,” Tucker says.

“Across the disciplines, McMaster researchers are leading studies to advance SMR design, safety and deployment. Their work is paving the way for the safe and secure adoption of SMRs in remote and urban communities across the country.”

“Congratulations to our researchers and thank you to NSERC and NRCan for this investment in SMR research and Canada’s Net Zero future.”

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