Readiness to Regulate SMRs in Canada

Abstract of the technical paper presented at:
ASME 2011 Small Modular Reactors Symposium
Washington, DC
September 28-30, 2011

Prepared by:
S. Herstead, S. Cook and M. de Vos
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


The success of any new build project is reliant upon all stakeholders – applicants, vendors, contractors and regulatory agencies – being ready to do their part. Over the past several years, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been working to ensure that it has the appropriate regulatory framework and internal processes in place for the timely and efficient licensing of all types of reactor, regardless of size.  This effort has resulted in several new regulatory documents and internal processes including pre-project vendor design reviews.

The CNSC's general nuclear safety objective requires that nuclear facilities be designed and operated in a manner that will protect the health, safety and security of persons and the environment from unreasonable risk, and to implement Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. To achieve this objective, the regulatory approach strikes a balance between pure performance-based regulation and prescriptive-based regulation. By utilizing this approach, CNSC seeks to ensure a regulatory environment exists that encourages innovation within the nuclear industry without compromising the high standards necessary for safety.

The CNSC is applying a technology neutral approach as part of its continuing work to update its regulatory framework and achieve clarity of its requirements. A reactor power threshold of approximately 200 MW(th) has been chosen to distinguish between large and small reactors. It is recognized that some small modular reactors (SMRs) will be larger than 200 MW(th), so a graded approach to achieving safety is still possible even though nuclear power plant design and safety requirements will apply. Design requirements for large reactors are established through two main regulatory documents. These are RD-337 Design for New Nuclear Power Plants and RD-310 Safety Analysis for Nuclear Power Plants. For reactors below 200 MW(th), the CNSC allows additional flexibility in the use of a graded approach to achieving safety in two new regulatory documents: RD-367 Design of Small Reactors and RD-308 Deterministic Safety Analysis for Small Reactors.

The CNSC offers a pre-licensing vendor design review as an optional service for reactor facility designs. This review process is intended to provide early identification and resolution of potential regulatory or technical issues in the design process, particularly those that could result in significant changes to the design or analysis. The process aims to increase regulatory certainty and ultimately contribute to public safety.

This paper outlines the CNSC's expectations for applicant and vendor readiness and discusses the process for pre-licensing reviews which allows vendors and applicants to understand their readiness for licensing.

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