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University of Toronto

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Overview

The University of Toronto (U of T) is Canada’s largest university and is recognized as a global leader in research and education. The university consistently ranks among the top 25 universities in the world. With nearly 90,000 students, including 18,000 graduate students, and over $1.4B in annual research funding, U of T offers the size, scope, and capabilities to tackle the world’s biggest, most ambitious challenges.

Recently, Natural Resources Canada, in partnership with provinces, territories and utilities, developed the Canadian Small Modular Reactor Roadmap, which details a series of recommendations for the development and deployment of SMR technology in this country. In response to the Roadmap, The University of Toronto is pleased to contribute to this Canadian Small Modular Reactor Action Plan, which may serve as a basis to identify opportunities for U of T to engage in research and development, partnerships with multiple stakeholders, knowledge creation and dissemination and the training of an independent and engaged SMR-competent workforce in Canada.

Through a multitude of research efforts in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and across the institution, the University of Toronto is committed to advancing fundamental knowledge and applied technologies that contribute to decreasing the carbon footprint of Canada’s energy sector and supporting the shift towards a more sustainable future of power generation. SMRs can play an important role in this future energy mix, and U of T is motivated to contribute to their development and successful deployment. The university has also built a close relationship with the Ontario nuclear industry, having engaged in multiple collaborative research projects with Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power over the last 15 years.

The University of Toronto’s role in the SMR ecosystem can be multifaceted:

  • Knowledge creation – through fundamental research that advances our understanding of SMR principles, development and deployment.
  • Knowledge dissemination – through publication in high-impact, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, conferences, university strategic communications and media channels.
  • HQP training – for Canada’s future SMR industry through highly specialized hands-on training of undergraduate and graduate students in the course of SMR projects.
  • New materials, technologies, approaches, analyses – that address questions, solve technical problems, create new capabilities and advance projects through the TRL scale.
  • Partnerships – with government, vendors, utilities and regulators to leverage complimentary assets and expertise, ensure that research activities undertaken by U of T are aligned with the future needs of the industry, and support the integration and implementation of research outcomes by end-users.

This SMR Action Plan chapter contains contributions from researchers at U of T Engineering that can support and enable the development and deployment of SMRs in Canada. These include:

  • Corrosion studies and new materials for molten salt reactors
  • Human, technology and organizational factors in SMR operation and safety
  • Dynamic modelling of planning and operation of utility grids with SMRs
  • Electrical protection systems for SMRs
  • Experimental validation of computational methods to predict radiation damage
  • Multidisciplinary design and analysis of SMR components and systems
  • Radiation-resistant high-entropy alloys for SMRs
  • Advanced manufacturing of metallic components for SMRs

Canada (through CNSC, COG, and CNL) has joined the 2021-23 Halden Project, a joint undertaking of national organizations in 19 countries to generate key safety and licensing assessments. There is an immediate opportunity to collaborate through this network, in which Prof. Greg Jamieson (Mechanical & Industrial Engineering) has interacted closely for over 15 years.

As part of this Canadian Small Modular Reactor Action Plan chapter submission, the University of Toronto affirms its commitment to the Statement of Principles

Actions

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Corrosion Mitigation and Materials Development for Molten Salt SMRs
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Roger Newman & Touraj Ghazvani (PhD cand.) 

Dept. of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry

For all SMR reactor concepts, improvements in material performance are critical to success. High nickel alloys perform well, but materials performance is still an ongoing challenge for both reactor vessel and primary heat exchanger, and it will be challenging to validate a 30+ year lifetime commercial nuclear reactor safety case. New alloys for the core and heat loop, and cladding candidates for Molten Salt Reactors will be developed, and their corrosion behaviour will be studied at the fundamental level.

Study of nickel-based alloys, and electrochemically based study of model alloys including fundamentals of alloying effects, coatings, changes in salt chemistry, and minimizing water and oxygen content in molten chloride salts, whilst studying the effect of such impurities.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Development of approaches to improve materials performance in molten salts.

Specific alloy development for the specific components of each SMR concept.

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Human, Technology and Organizational Factors in SMR Operation and Safety
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Prof. Greg Jamieson

Dept. of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Contribute to development of a research simulator for an SMR demonstration project.

Contribute to development of a concept of operations for an SMR demonstration project.

Define the roles of humans and automated agents in monitoring, disturbance management, and emergency response.

Investigate operator monitoring and control strategies across multiple units.

Design for teamwork (x operators; >x units)

EXPECTED RESULTS

Understand how people and SMR systems can be aligned to realize safe and effective operation.

Increase efficiency and effectiveness of human role in SMR operation.

POLICY, LEGISLATION, AND REGULATION
Human, Technology and Organizational Factors in SMR Operation and Safety
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 44

ACTIONS

Prof. Greg Jamieson

Dept. of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Engage with CNSC to arrive at a graded approach to risk-informed Nuclear Security Relations criteria (for human factors and human performance) for SMRs.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Early engagement with regulator to develop key SMR human factors metrics in partnership.

INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS AND MARKETS
Human, Technology and Organizational Factors in SMR Operation and Safety
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 15

ACTIONS

Prof. Greg Jamieson

Dept. of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Establish a strong and effective international engagement on SMRs with the Halden Project1.

Prof. Jamieson has initiated a study of Human, Technology and Organization factors in safe and effective operation of SMRs.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Development of enabling frameworks for SMR commissioning, operation, maintenance.

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
SMR Dynamic Modelling for Planning and Operations
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Zeb Tate

Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Many jurisdictions have adopted renewable portfolio standards, with the goal to eventually transition away from traditional, carbon-emitting generation technologies (e.g., coal, diesel, and natural gas generation). Because of their controllability, SMRs have the potential to balance the variability of wind and solar power plants. Case studies will be developed to illustrate the ability of SMRs to increase wind and/or solar hosting capacity in both remote and grid-connected scenarios.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Establish capability of SMRs to accelerate deployment of wind and solar power plants.

Develop siting and operating strategies for co-deployed of SMR+wind/solar.

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
SMR Dynamic Modelling for Planning and Operations
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Zeb Tate

Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Develop dynamic models needed for planning and operation of utility grids with SMRs (e.g., EMTP & transient stability models for protection and stability analyses); validate models at demonstration SMR sites; develop best practices for grid-connected SMR controller (exciter, governor) settings.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Provide utility engineers with the tools needed to perform SMR interconnection studies (e.g., protection, transient stability).

Provide grid operators with ability to include SMRs in traditional EMS applications (e.g., static and dynamic contingency analyses).

Quantify the grid stability benefits of SMRs over competing generation technologies (e.g., wind and solar generation).

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Development of Electrical Protection Systems for SMRs
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Ali Hooshyar

Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering

The University of Toronto will develop the necessary monitoring schemes to evaluate the electrical safety of SMRs and their auxiliary equipment. This study will primarily focus on detection of open-phase conditions in the station and unit auxiliary transformers of SMRs, which could render protection mechanisms in a nuclear facility ineffective. While recent studies, including a 2016 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have indicated that currently installed protective schemes are not adequate to address this safety problem for large nuclear plants. More importantly, however, this issue has not been investigated for SMRs.

EXPECTED RESULTS

An electrical simulation platform that can be used to assess the safety of SMRs.

The prototype of a protective device that receives electrical measurements and determines if there is a safety hazard within the electrical system of an SMR facility.

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Validation of advanced computational methods to predict radiation damage
STATUS: IN PROGRESS

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Chandra Veer Singha, Prof. James W. Davisb, Eric Nicholsona (PhD cand.) 

aDept. of Materials Science & Engineering 

bUniversity of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies

Unique capabilities available in collaboration between the Computational Materials Engineering Laboratory (MSE) and Fusion Materials Laboratory (UTIAS) are utilized for ion irradiation damage specimen preparation, mechanical characterization by nanoindentation, and direct atomistic simulation of the experimental processes.

Classical and first principles molecular dynamics modelling of events near the threshold displacement energy events are compared to low energy hydrogen beam on silicon carbide sputtering and codeposition characterization experiments. 

The defect state of material subjected to near-threshold displacement energy irradiation is interpreted by molecular dynamics simulation of nanoindentation experiments.

Large datasets of molecular dynamics and finite element simulations of damage are integrated by machine learning methods to predict in-core materials deformation.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Cross-cutting predictive threshold displacement energy-based models (displacements per atom) of radiation damage in next-generation structural materials for nuclear reactors (e.g. silicon carbide) are validated by experiment and extended to capture anisotropic and stochastic nature of damage. 

Classical and ab initio molecular dynamics models are exploited to design new or optimized materials and alloy compositions for improved radiation tolerance. 

Machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques are applied to first principles simulation data to reduce their computational cost and provide tractable engineering scale damage modelling with atomistic fidelity.

Results are disseminated both through the academic literature, and to a broader audience through departmental publicity efforts. 

A diverse and intersectional class of students are trained in nuclear materials science. 

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Multidisciplinary Design and Analysis of SMR Components and Systems
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Kamran Behdinan

Dept of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Research on SMR advanced materials characterization and integration in the design.

Analysis of the SMR structure/system.

Training of HQPs on the SMR systems (in partnership with stakeholders).

Research on advanced manufacturing of SMR structural components.

Assist with the development of TRL/assessment frameworks.  

EXPECTED RESULTS

Innovation in materials and manufacturing of SMRs.

Exposure for SMR development and nuclear projects to a diverse international array of young engineering students from various technical backgrounds (through the Institute for Multidisciplinary Design & Innovation)

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Designing Radiation Resistance in High-entrophy alloys for SMRs
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Yu Zou

Dept of Materials Science & Engineering

In recent years, high entropy alloys (HEAs) have attracted significant attention due to their excellent mechanical properties and good corrosion resistance, making them potential candidates for high temperature fission and fusion structural applications.

New HEA alloys will be designed and be irradiated from room temperature to high temperatures.

Microstructure of HEAs will be characterized and compared with current nuclear materials.

EXPECTED RESULTS

The present study will provide insight on the fundamental irradiation behavior of a single phase HEA material over a broad range of irradiation temperatures.

HEAs show excellent phase stability when compared to all other materials. 

Expected approaches and outcomes may include:

  1. Utilize matrix phases with inherent radiation tolerance
  2. select materials in which vacancies are immobile at the design operating temperatures

or engineer materials with high sink densities for point defect recombination

DEMONSTRATION AND DEPLOYMENT
Advancing Manufacturing of metallic components for SMRs
STATUS: UPCOMING

Responds to SMR Roadmap recommendation(s): 13, 38, 48, 49, 50

ACTIONS

Professor Yu Zou

Dept of Materials Science & Engineering

In parallel with the advances in designing new materials, of particular interest are additive manufacturing techniques which can, facilitate the precise insertion of embedded sensors in SMR components.  

Advantages of additive manufacturing over conventional processing include the potential for atomic-scale materials engineering/fabrication, much less waste material (particularly important for rare or expensive materials), rapid component prototyping and optimization (due in part to direct utilization of CAD drawings), and the possibility of fabricating components that would be impossible to produce by conventional manufacturing techniques.

EXPECTED RESULTS

These additive manufacturing techniques could potentially be used to create unique engineering architectures (e.g., enhanced heat transfer swirl tubes) that would be beneficial for fusion energy applications. 

Further research is needed to determine the base materials properties of components fabricated by using additive manufacturing techniques and subsequently to investigate modifications of additive manufacturing processing conditions that might lead to enhanced properties (including those specifically tailored for radiation resistance).