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University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering (UNENE)

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Overview

The university community plays an important part in Canada’s diverse nuclear sector. Universities carry out necessary education and training for developing nuclear professionals, and broader capacity-building through post-graduate education, and experience gained in research. University research itself is an important contribution, through a world-class array of facilities, led by highly regarded research leads and professors. Research addresses lower-TRL innovative studies and fundamental topics, complementing larger-scale research at national labs. Universities also support nuclear operations via problem-solving studies and long-term knowledge development. These activities are key ingredients in the development of advanced and SMR technologies for our clean energy future. UNENE and our member universities view this Action Plan as a crucial benefit to Canada, and are taking numerous actions in support. This chapter notes contributions from UNENE and the university sector generally, and complements chapters by leading individual universities.

Working in collaboration – improving effectiveness:

UNENE represents the collective, collaborative activities of member universities in partnership with UNENE’s industrial members, funding SMR education, research and outreach, complementing individual university initiatives. UNENE university members will work together on SMR technologies and impacts, partnering with utilities, design companies, national labs, regulators, governments; etc. UNENE is a convening organization that fosters collaboration and engagement with industry, and strengthens cooperation with other parts of the nuclear sector. UNENE has strong university links with like-minded institutions in Canada and internationally, through agencies such as the IAEA and OECD-NEA.

VISION OF SUCCESS: COMMITMENT TO SMR ACTION PLAN PRINCIPLES:

UNENE and its member universities confirm our commitment to the SMR Action Plan Statement of Principles. We recognize the value to Canada of advancing SMR technology, supplying clean energy to Canadians, building exports and international collaboration. We will use the principles as a vision of success. UNENE acts and supports member universities responding to each commitment in the Statement of Principles, to:

  • build capacity in people, knowledge and facilities for SMRs,
  • work together in identifying and addressing key research questions
  • reach out in dialogue with communities and stakeholders beyond the nuclear sector.

The Appendix below describes how we seek to address each of these commitments in turn.

OVERVIEW: UNIVERSITY SECTOR ACTIONS TODAY

Overall, UNENE and members are actively responding to each of the four SMR Roadmap themes, summarized below. Specific UNENE actions are listed in the detailed action table.

Demonstration and Deployment

UNENE is adding SMR-related activities to its research programs, to supplement the continuing emphasis on operational safety and reliability for Canada’s operating facilities. Specific actions are noted in the attached list. Additionally, university activities are under way in many fields that contribute directly to our knowledge of SMR topics:

  • Adaptation of accident modelling and experiments
  • Research facilities and specific research into molten-salt properties and handling
  • Natural circulation water loop for studies of light Water SMRs
  • Micro-grid with nuclear SMR simulator coupled to renewable supply
  • Studies of remote monitoring systems and cyber-security research for SMRs
  • Studies of advanced material candidates for SMRs including corrosion studies
  • Security technologies and applications and emergency preparedness for SMRs

As well, universities are investigating additional infrastructure needs for SMR research.

Policy, Legislation, regulation

University experts contribute to collective standards-setting and development of regulations for SMRs, e.g. through the CSA. University nuclear leaders provide independent voices for policy development, and a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear academic communities.

Capacity Engagement, Public Confidence

Universities are developing SMR-specific capacity-building in a number of ways: formal education; experiential learning through research; developing credible experts who can engage with public and stakeholders. UNENE and member universities are active, through the UNENE Education Advisory Committee and other forums, to identify, coordinate and deliver E&T programs to build a community of SMR-knowledgeable professionals.

International Partnerships, Markets’

UNENE is reaching out in international cooperation that will apply to SMR developments, on behalf of member universities, including educational exchange with UK universities, and international cooperation in educational networks with IAEA and OECD-NEA. UNENE and the IAEA have agreed to expand their Practical Arrangement (MOU) to cover broader cooperation including SMR capacity-building and research topics.

BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE CONTRIBUTION

Beyond these initiatives, the university sector can do more to deliver critical benefits for SMR technologies and their application. A wider scope of research is needed to build fundamental knowledge and capability in Canada in emerging areas for SMRs, and to ensure SMR technology meets pan-Canadian needs. Successful development and delivery of technology advances will need coordinated capacity-building action across multiple fields of engineering and science. This requires cross-university initiatives coordinating professional development and research, and cooperation between academia, industry, government and communities. University research is also needed as problem-solving capability for SMR stakeholders. A broad university SMR program will establish a base of knowledge, capability and independent expertise to complement vendor-supported development and operator assessments.

UNENE has launched an initiative to enhance its mandate as a collaboration hub, working with individual university initiatives and with other collaborative organizations. This will directly bolster Canadian SMR technology development, by: improving the effectiveness of research projects; ensuring key priority topics are addressed; enabling broader outreach by the university nuclear community to non-nuclear research and to the wider community; and providing a credible and knowledgeable voice to the clean energy discussion. This initiative will act in synergy with a broader research mandate for universities across Canada.

UNENE proposes broadening the funding support for university research and education initiatives focussed on SMR’s, along with support for the collaboration hub to link it together.

BENEFITS FROM UNIVERSITY SECTOR PARTICIPATION

Summarizing: universities provide unique, significant benefits through these and other supporting actions:

  • An essential role in developing young engineers and scientists with SMR capabilities, through educational programs and research experience;
  • a trusted voice that can reach stakeholder communities with objective, expert views;
  • nimble, cost-effective early-stage research that paves the way for both national lab, developer and operator understanding.

ACTIONS

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
UNENE: Initiate SMR-Based Research Projects
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

UNENE01

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 48, 35, 27

ACTION

  • UNENE: Initiate SMR-based research projects
  • A new call for proposals in June 2020 for SMR-related research projects
  • Adding SMR focus to workshops and seminars
  • Adding SMR activities as appropriate to existing Research Chair programs
  • Coordinate research planning through UNENE collaboration hub and SMR Technology Forum

EXPECTED RESULTS

  • Launching a pilot research project responding to specified SMR user needs
  • Building a greater SMR knowledge base for nuclear professionals
  • Leveraging existing specialist teams for SMR research
  • Building engagement between university leads and industry representatives
POLICY, LEGISLATION, AND REGULATION
Develop links between university nuclear leaders and social science, policy community
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

UNENE02

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 50, 18

ACTION

UNENE develop links between university nuclear science and engineering leaders, and social science and policy leaders, through a series of webinars and workshops.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Improved credibility, access and exposure for university leaders in policy discussion and application. Stronger engagement of university nuclear community with the public and non-nuclear stakeholders.

CAPACITY, ENGAGEMENT, AND PUBLIC CONFIDENCE
Unene: Launch Collaboration Hub to link universities and industry
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

UNENE03

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

ACTION

  • UNENE launch collaboration hub to enable well-aligned SMR education and research in the university sector
  • UNENE facilitate SMR education coordination to meet industry needs
  • UNENE adding SMR introductory course to M.Eng program;
  • Support multi-university SMART (SMR and Advanced Reactor Training) training and educational program including experiential learning (McMaster/UNENE universities);
  • Comprehensive course preparation for advanced SMR studies at UNB
  • Universities study how consensus-building around SMR siting in northern communities (Johnson-Shoyama school of public policy)
  • UNENE/partners arrange first Canadian IAEA Nuclear Energy Management School in 2021
  • UNENE and partner universities build on university commitments on diversity and inclusion in identifying students, researchers and leaders from under-represented groups

EXPECTED RESULTS

  • Facilitates multi-disciplinary, cross-university cooperation. Improves responsiveness to priority SMR concerns.
  • Aligns educational and training programs for industry professionals with demands arising from SMR development and deployment.
  • Delivers SMR-knowlegeable professionals able to take up positions and supply sufficient depth of resources for SMR projects.
  • Provide broad-based technology management training including application to SMRs.
  • Develops diverse and vibrant workforce and future leaders for SMR initiatives.
INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS AND MARKETS
UNENE: Renew agreement with IAEA including SMR initiatives
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

UNENE04

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 34, 29

ACTION

UNENE conclude expanded MOU with IAEA that includes SMR initiatives.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Enables effective international university cooperation on SMR education and research, leveraging Canadian programs. Enhances profile of Canadian SMR program in support of export initiatives.