Major Nuclear Players Team on Innovative Construction Delivery Approach for BWRX-300 SMR at Darlington

Major Nuclear Players Team on Innovative Construction Delivery Approach for BWRX-300 SMR at Darlington

Ontario Power Generation (OPG), GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), SNC-Lavalin and Aecon have signed a landmark six-year alliance agreement to deploy a BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) at the Darlington New Nuclear Project (DNNP) in Clarington, Ontario.

The contract, announced on January 27 — a year after OPG selected GEH’s BWRX-300 for the DNNP amid stiff competition for the landmark SMR project — is the first of its kind for a network-scale SMR in North America. In particular, the contract represents a deliberate effort to manage construction complexities, potential delays and cost overruns associated with the DNNP newbuild, which could become one of the first commercial SMR projects to be built in Canada and the United States

A strong team for a high-stakes project

While OPG is currently still leading the technical design process for DNNP – and expects to create a construction Decision by the end of 2024—it has made significant progress in project development. It started in October 2022 Website preparation and submitted a License to Construct application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). A CNSC decision is expected in 2024 and site preparation is expected to continue through 2025. The preliminary timeline of the project is to complete the construction of the reactor by 2028 and to start commercial operation from 2029 OPG said on December 22, 2022.

The alliance agreement, meanwhile, will bring together four of the project’s key participants under an innovative Integrated Project Execution (IPD) Model. In contrast to A Traditional “design-bid-build” construction project delivery model, an IPD approach obliges various parties involved in project design, fabrication and construction under a single agreement. The approach is designed to avoid potential delays and cost overruns by a System of efficient cooperation and communication.

Under the terms of the agreement, OPG will act as license holder and retain overall responsibility for the project. OPG’s remit will also include Operator training, commissioning, aboriginal engagement, outreach and oversight.

Technology conglomerate GEH, meanwhile, will provide the BWRX-300 reactor design along with a range of project activities including design, technical licensing support, construction, testing, training and commissioning. GEH will also procure key components for the DNNP. GEH on Friday underscored the importance of the commercial contract for the OPG project, noting that the DNNP will effectively showcase GEH’s first global deployment of its 300 MWe SMR.

Successful development could solidify potential stakes Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta. GEH’s other near-term potential engagements include projects in Tennessee and Poland. Specifically, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) signed an agreement with GEH in August 2022 to begin planning and preliminary licensing for the potential deployment of a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “TVA has entered into a collaboration with OPG to coordinate efforts to advance SMR technology. additionally [Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)] and CNSC are collaborating on the licensing of the two projects,” GEH stated on Friday.

An artist’s rendering of a GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 nuclear unit. The BWRX-300 is a 300 MW Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) derived from the Gen III+ 1,520 MW ESBWR certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2014. Courtesy: GO

Significant prospects for Canadian nuclear giants

Under the terms of the alliance agreement, SNC-Lavalin, an original equipment manufacturer of CANDU reactors, will serve as DNNP’s architect and engineer. “SNC-Lavalin will provide OPG with a wide range of expertise for the design and construction of the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant SMR,” the company said. “This is expected to include the use of project management, licensing, engineering, design, procurement, construction support and commissioning, as well as digital delivery capabilities both on the nuclear island and in the balance of facility scopes for the project.”

SNC lavalin also said it will “Lever” its Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission “Licensing competency and unmatched strengths as a reactor designer” and “extensive expertise in new build nuclear facilities to drive a successful outcome for this unique project”. SNC-Lavalin is the only company whose technology has passed all three phases of the CNSC pre-project design review.

Construction and infrastructure development company Aecon Group—the outstanding nuclear designer in Canada—separately on January 27 said it would do all the construction work, including project management, construction planning and execution.

For OPG, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon, leading the landmark DNNP project represents a significant opportunity to position Canada as a SMR leader. SNC-Lavalin and Aecon are currently in the midst of OPG’s 10-year overhaul of Darlington’s existing CANDU reactors. This project stays on time and on budget,” the companies noted. DNNP would “support Canada’s efforts to become a global SMR technology hub in a market estimated at $150 billion per year by 2040,” they said.

Sonal Patel is Senior Associate Editor at POWER (@sonalpatel, @POWERmagazine).

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