StarCore high temperature nuclear reactor has applied for a design review with Canadian regulators

Canadian reactor designer StarCore Nuclear has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to begin the vendor design review process for its Generation IV high temperature gas reactor (HTGR).

Montréal-based StarCore, founded in 2008, is focused on developing small modular reactors (SMRs) to provide power and potable water to remote communities in Canada. Its standard HTGR unit would produce 20 MWe (36 MWth), expandable to 100 MWe, from a unit small enough to be delivered by truck. The helium-cooled reactor uses Triso fuel – spherical particles of uranium fuel coated by carbon which effectively gives each tiny particle its own primary containment system – manufactured by BWXT Technologies. Each reactor would require refuelling at five-yearly intervals.

Starcore has identified two dozen mines where they can offer electricity and heat at prices well below the mine’s alternative cost and still be highly profitable. Villages are currently heavily subsidized by governments and utilities. For the larger villages, or those near mines, we can offer retail customers electricity at attractive prices, enable community development, substantially reduce the subsidies, and earn strong profits.

StarCore describes its reactor as “inherently safe”, with a steep negative thermal coefficient which eliminates the possibility of a core meltdown. The use of helium – which does not become radioactive – as a coolant means that any loss of coolant would be “inconsequential”, the company says.

HTGR reactor units are embedded 15 meters underground in Ultra High Strength Concrete (UHSC) silos. 2 reactor units per standard plant.

Units are helium-cooled. Helium does not become radioactive.

StarCore CEO David Dabney said the company’s application to the CNSC, lodged on 24 October, marked the culmination of eight years’ work. “We are confident that our plant size and technology will enable us to bring safe, clean energy to the many remote sites in Northern Canada that currently have no choice other than to use costly, unreliable and polluting carbon-based fuels,” he said.

The company envisages building, owning, operating and decommissioning each plant, supplying its services through a power purchase agreement which it says would be “normally below” CAD 0.18 per kWh.