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Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation (Fedoruk Centre)

Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for  Nuclear Innovation

Overview

The Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation Inc. (Fedoruk Centre) was established in 2011 under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (SC 2009, c 3), with the purpose “to place Saskatchewan among global leaders of nuclear research, development and training, through investment in partnerships with academia and industry for maximum societal and economic benefit” (Articles of incorporation, Amended 2012, Oct. 5). The Fedoruk Centre has an independent Board of Directors and is largely supported through a funding agreement with Innovation Saskatchewan, an agency of the province, to deliver four key activities:

  • partnering with Saskatchewan institutions to build capacity for Saskatchewan to participate in nuclear science, technology or policy;
  • funding research projects led by Saskatchewan-based scientists with target outcomes that advance physical or social science and create conditions for economic activities in the nuclear domain;
  • operating the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS), for users to advance their programs of innovation in nuclear imaging and for the manufacture of radiopharmaceuticals for regional hospitals; and
  • providing consultative services for the public and policymakers of Saskatchewan to engage in respectful, objective considerations of nuclear technology, or enable Saskatchewan people to participate in national nuclear initiatives

The Fedoruk Centre operates in a province where the government’s “Saskatchewan Growth Plan” (2020) is envisioning that small modular reactors (SMRs) could help to displace coal-fired electricity generation, providing a stable base, along with hydro electricity and natural gas, to mix with intermittent sources (wind, solar) for a future clean energy supply. Ideally, SMRs would be ready to phase in by the late 2020s as coal-fired generation of electricity is phased out in the early 2030s. The government of Saskatchewan’s commitment to transition to cleaner energy technology is further captured through its climate change strategy “Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy” (2017). “Prairie Resilience” aims to make Saskatchewan more resilient to the climatic, economic and policy impacts of climate change, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and prepare for changing conditions – such as extreme weather, drought or wildfire. Saskatchewan’s plans are aligned with emerging federal government priorities of addressing climate change, the NRCan “SMR Roadmap” and anticipated “SMR Action Plan”, as well as longstanding intentions to diversify the western economy.

The Fedoruk Centre’s purpose, key activities and Strategic Plan are aligned with the Saskatchewan Growth Plan and Innovation Saskatchewan’s interest in creating conditions for the province to strengthen our presence in the nuclear sector beyond uranium mining into value-added areas of innovation in medicine, materials research, power generation, and environmental stewardship. The Fedoruk Centre is already committed to actions that align with NRCan’s SMR Action Plan, with the Fedoruk Centre aiming to:

  • broaden and deepen Saskatchewan’s capacity in nuclear research, development and training to advance nuclear imaging, materials science and public policy;
  • enable innovation by maintaining the SCCS in a state of readiness for user access; and
  • build a practice of respectful, evidence-based dialogue with the public and policymakers on nuclear technologies

Within the Fedoruk Centre’s operating environment, there are several organizations that could participate in initiatives related to SMRs, bringing contributions from various sectors: universities (University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina); a polytechnic (Saskatchewan Polytechnic), provincial departments (Advanced Education, Energy and Resources, and Environment, which includes a newly established nuclear secretariat) and agencies (e.g. Innovation Saskatchewan, SaskPower, Saskatchewan Research Council), federal departments (e.g. NRCan, Western Economic Diversification) and agencies (e.g. Canada Foundation for Innovation, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, National Research Council), companies, and other entities.

Saskatchewan could be a reasonable location for new infrastructure to support research and development of technologies related to SMRs. For example, of the dozen SMR designs currently under review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), several envision new ways to transfer heat from the reactor core to external steam generators. An engineering R&D facility could be established at a Saskatchewan institution to prove the safety and reliability of novel heat-transport systems. As another example, most SMRs require fuel with uranium enriched beyond the natural abundance of U-235. Enrichment technology is not currently available in Canada. Deploying SMRs in Saskatchewan would therefore require that Saskatchewan’s natural uranium be exported to another country for enrichment and fabrication into suitable fuel, then re-imported for power production. Since most SMRs require enriched Uranium, investing in infrastructure for R&D, fabrication and processing, and attracting talent to Saskatchewan could lead to new economic activities adding value to our natural resource and creating a new fuel product for SMRs as they are deployed around the world. One could also imagine an actual demonstration SMR being established at a location in Saskatchewan. While direct promotion, leadership or management of such projects are beyond the scope of the Fedoruk Centre, our key activities might help Saskatchewan organizations and people at least to see themselves participating in a pan-Canadian endeavour to reduce carbon-emissions while providing reliable, sustainable energy for the wellbeing of all.

Following announcements of Saskatchewan’s intention to explore SMRs as part of the future clean energy mix, the Fedoruk Centre contributed to public media in Saskatchewan and nationally (TV, radio, print media), translating technical matters into accessible language for general audiences and policy-makers. Meanwhile, the Fedoruk Centre’s support of research by Saskatchewan scientists is building a community of people that can apply nuclear methods to deliver social and economic benefits in health, agriculture, materials, and energy. These practitioners can then share the ideas and outcomes of their contributions, helping to introduce a range of nuclear sciences or technologies as discussable topics from their diverse perspectives. The Fedoruk Centre has established a Nuclear Energy Discussion web page gathering recent articles related to SMRs that might be of interest to people in Saskatchewan.

Aligning with our Strategic Plan, the Fedoruk Centre has already invited Saskatchewan institutions to consider partnerships for programmatic investments to strengthen capacity beyond our established innovation capacity for nuclear imaging for diagnoses and therapies. Subject to strategic priorities of Saskatchewan institutions, partnerships could be undertaken to build new capacity for growth in areas such as:

  • nuclear energy, with subjects including environment (radiotoxicology, geology, water, etc.), nuclear materials and fuel, nuclear engineering and safety, or community engagement and policy research on nuclear technologies;
  • materials research with neutron beams in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, or engineering; or
  • crop and soil sciences with new knowledge from nuclear imaging.

The Fedoruk Centre’s capacity to invest in new programmatic partnerships depends on the accumulation of excess revenue beyond the cost to sustain the Fedoruk Centre, the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS) and annual calls for proposals from Saskatchewan-based researchers. The rate of investment in partnerships to expand Saskatchewan’s capacity for nuclear research, development and training can be accelerated if revenue can be secured from third parties. To fully realize all the potential programmatic investments listed above, in the timeframe of the current Strategic Plan, would require a revenue stream or a new government funding agreement on the same scale as the funding agreement through which the Province of Saskatchewan initiated the Fedoruk Centre from 2012-2019.

Actions

CAPACITY, ENGAGEMENT, AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
Chairs in Nuclear Science and Engineering - Building Human Resources for Leadership in Nuclear Research, Development and Education
STATUS: UPCOMING
FKC01

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49

ACTION

The Fedoruk Centre is interested in fostering a productive community of users and researchers advancing nuclear research that align with provincial interests and feasible growth, such as materials research with neutron beams or reducing carbon emissions in electricity production by advancing the development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology using Saskatchewan uranium and addressing related issues.

Establishing a cohort of academic leaders covering a spectrum of nuclear topics is the foundation for confident societal engagement with nuclear science and technology generally, so that Saskatchewan scientists, students and people could participate in a national SMR action plan, for example:

  1. learn how to operate nuclear energy systems safely;
  2. participate in national and international projects of technology development;
  3. develop associated economic activities that add value to Saskatchewan’s uranium resources, which could include deployment of SMRs in the province; and
  4. participate in public dialogue with trustworthy scientific leaders in a range of nuclear topics: energy, environment, materials, social impacts, safety, etc.

The Fedoruk Centre is already planning to build a cohort of academic leaders, as revenue allows. This endeavor could be accelerated through a federal-provincial partnership for a funding agreement supporting a “Program for Nuclear Science and Engineering Chairs”. The Fedoruk Centre is willing to engage with academic and industry partners to determine interest and, identify specific Chair sponsors, assemble an Advisory Committee, manage consultations, and develop proposals for potential Program funders. This work would follow the successful pattern that established a Nuclear Imaging Program in Saskatchewan from 2015 – 2020, now comprising six faculty members distributed between two universities; state-of-the-art radiochemistry equipment and nuclear imaging tools; and a clinical research coordinator. The attraction of talent was enhanced by investment in new, world-class laboratories at the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS), through a partnership with Innovation Saskatchewan and Western Economic Diversification Canada. The new Chairs Program, whether accelerated or not, will similarly distribute new faculty members at U Sask, U Regina and Sask Poly, as aligned with institutional strategic plans.

EXPECTED RESULTS

A Program for Nuclear Science and Engineering Chairs, can provide support promptly to initiate faculty positions in nuclear topics that:

  • build the expertise in Saskatchewan and Canada to support a world-leading SMR industry by training and building capacity among the next generation of leaders and workforce – in a diverse culture that includes youth, women and Indigenous people
  • enable Saskatchewan and Canada to capture additional R&D benefits by leveraging expertise in areas such as materials science, engineering and safety of nuclear systems, nuclear materials and fuels, environmental science considerations with nuclear energy technologies, social science approaches to community engagement with nuclear science and technology, materials sciences advancements supported by neutron-scattering methods, agricultural and other life science applications supported by nuclear imaging, shared broadly among enabling research and development partners
  • build a cluster of appropriately skilled HQP, and provide students with hands-on, practical experience through early-stage R&D programs and training opportunities
  • increase and enhance the diversity of the next generation of nuclear talent by helping the aging nuclear sector in Canada to create a pool of highly skilled leaders and professionals that are fully representative of women, youth, minorities, and Indigenous persons. Enrollment by women, minorities, and Indigenous persons in university, polytechnic, and college programs in nuclear energy will be increased as a result
CAPACITY, ENGAGEMENT, AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
Saskatchewan Human Resources Plan for Nuclear Energy Deployment - Building Human Resources to Design, Build, Commission and Operate SMRs
STATUS: UPCOMING
FKC02

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 1, 48

ACTION

To plan, design, build, commission and operate a nuclear power facility or a nuclear R&D facility, Saskatchewan will need to build up a pool of people with qualifications to work in a range of jobs across the SMR supply chain: labourers, equipment operators, technicians, engineers, administrators, regulators and scientists. Saskatchewan is not the first jurisdiction needing to establish a pipeline of human resources to support a nuclear energy technology that has never existed there previously. A well structured Human Resource Plan would identify the number of people and types of skill sets needed to establish a nuclear power component for Saskatchewan’s economy, and then settle into a balanced situation of planning, building, operating and decommissioning units in decades to come. The plan would also address how best to acquire or develop the qualified people that will be needed in short or longer terms.

A Project can be envisioned to deliver a Human Resources Plan to support the growth of Saskatchewan’s economy associated with SMRs, to ensure sufficient HR capacity and skills and safe operation of nuclear power technology for decades, and to serve as a reference for funding initiatives and strategic planning by Saskatchewan universities and training institutions.

The Saskatchewan organization leading the development of a Human Resources Plan would need to consult post secondary institutions and affiliated centres, school boards and others, as well as sources elsewhere in Canada. On request, the Fedoruk Centre could offer advice and some practical support to the lead organization, as a consultative service.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Saskatchewan and Canada are better positioned to capture R&D benefits and value for the domestic supply chain to plan, design, build, commission and safely operate a nuclear power facility or a nuclear R&D facility.

The future nuclear workforce of Saskatchewan has the skills, abilities, and resources needed for industry to meet the demands of a new emerging SMR subsector in the province.

The nuclear sector is strengthened by multidisciplinary perspectives and experience to develop new, innovative business models and solutions across technical, economic, and social issues.

Development of a Saskatchewan human resources plan that orients technical training programs and educational curriculum to include SMR technology development requirements.

Students are provided with hands-on, practical experience through early-stage research and development programs, apprenticeships, fellowships, and work experiences.

Engagement with universities, polytechnics, colleges and research organizations around the globe to further international cooperation on nuclear science and technology and attract international talent to Saskatchewan and Canada.

Encouragement of multidisciplinary learning opportunities by bringing nuclear examples to non-nuclear training programs and curriculum in areas, such as economics, accounting, marketing, policy and public administration, communications, etc.

CAPACITY, ENGAGEMENT, AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
Fostering shared engagement on nuclear science and technology
STATUS: IN PROGRESS
FKC03

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 53

ACTION

The Fedoruk Centre is committed to encouraging respectful dialogue with the public and policymakers to build an evidence-based understanding of the risks and benefits of nuclear science and technologies.

There is a growing need for access to evidence-based
information and opportunities to participate in respectful conversations that explore nuclear topics. For example, Saskatchewan is considering whether and how to introduce nuclear power (e.g. small modular reactors) into the mix of technologies to generate electricity without burning fossil fuels. As a second example, university leaders are currently exploring an opportunity to establish a pan-Canadian, university-led program to oversee the management of Canada’s neutron scattering capability.

The Fedoruk Centre is well-positioned to convene stakeholders, share objective information and help translate technical knowledge into an understanding of the risks and socioeconomic impacts of greatest interest to broad audiences on behalf of NRCan and others. The Fedoruk Centre and affiliated researchers can provide information or insights on nuclear technologies to support evidence-informed conversations and decision-making among the public and policymakers.

With additional resources from the federal government and other interested sponsors, the Fedoruk Centre could work with other organizations in our environment (e.g., JSGS, FNPA, CIFAR, post-secondary institutions, etc.) to enhance the public policy discussions and undertake local consultations to understand the role SMRs play in Saskatchewan’s and Canada’s energy mix. For example, the Fedoruk Centre working with colleagues in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School (JSGS) and its Centre for the Study of Science and Innovation Policy (CSIP) and the First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) can engage local people in the conversation and seek participation in northern, remote and Indigenous communities to gather input regarding SMRs and energy transition pathways including determining the interest and willingness to participate in a SMR feasibility study or to gather understanding of the perceptions, risks and socioeconomic impacts of nuclear energy options.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Generation of evidence-based knowledge resources and shared information with interested parties on the safety, potential risks, applications, and benefits of nuclear science and technologies.

Serves as a neutral resource for policymakers
seeking to understand technical information to support decision-making and assessment of new initiatives related to nuclear science and technology.

Encouraged participation in public dialogue as a trusted channel for expertise on nuclear topics and technologies (e.g. nuclear power generation, small modular reactors, neutron scattering).

Transparency, accountability, and evidence-based decision-making resulting in improved outcomes for Canadians and Canada.