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Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas explore small modular reactor development

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to explore several areas of cooperation to advance the commercialisation and deployment of BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada and around the world.

A recent study completed by Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation, and Applied Research Corporation said very small modular reactors (vSMRs) could provide clean, economic and reliable power and heat to remote northern mines and surrounding communities in Canada.

“Nuclear power will play a massive role in the global shift to zero-carbon energy, generating a lot of momentum for emerging SMR and advanced reactor technologies,” Cameco President and CEO, Tim Gitzel, said. “Cameco intends to be a go-to fuel supplier for these innovative reactors. We’re looking forward to working with GEH and GNF to see what opportunities might exist around their novel SMR design.”

Cameco supplies uranium, uranium refining and conversion services to the nuclear industry worldwide and, it says, is a leading manufacturer of fuel assemblies and reactor components for CANDU reactors, a Canadian pressurised heavy-water reactor design used to generate electric power.

Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH, said: “We are excited to explore opportunities with Cameco to advance the commercialisation of the BWRX-300. As we work to bring the world’s first grid-scale SMR to Canada we will continue to identify strategic partners whose capabilities will support the deployment of this game-changing technology in Canada and worldwide.”

Lisa McBride, Canada SMR Country Leader for GEH, said: “BWR and CANDU fuel types are closely related as both use similar cladding materials as well as ceramic, uranium dioxide fuel pellets so this type of collaboration offers the potential to extract significant synergies between the two fuel designs and manufacturing processes, enabling the expansion of Canada’s local fuel supply chain capabilities.”

The BWRX-300 (pictured) is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s US NRC-certified ESBWR (Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor). Through dramatic and innovative design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared with other SMR designs.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilising the licensed and proven GNF2 fuel design, and incorporating proven components and supply chain expertise, GEH believes the BWRX-300 can become the lowest-risk, most cost-competitive and quickest to market SMR.

This MoU is not exclusive and does not preclude GEH or Cameco from pursuing similar arrangements with other companies in the nuclear energy sector, the companies said.