A Westinghouse operation in Burlington is going to be part of a big push to create small remote nuclear units

By Pepper Parr

March 24th, 2020



Last week we reported on an event where two cabinet Ministers and two members of parliament got all excited about an energy development that was set up in Burlington.

Westinghouse Electric has its testing site for their eVinci product in Burlington.

The idea of using small nuclear devices to generate safe, inexpensive energy in locations that are stuck with diesel creates an opportunity for nuclear.
The Climate Change challenge makes nuclear necessary.

Remote sites across Canada that are off the grid and rely on diesel to provide electricity.

When the Westinghouse people talk about small they mean a device that can fit into three shipping contains and operates remotely with no maintenance or need for repairs.  After eight to ten years of service the units are removed and refurbished.

The design, computational analysis, and state-of-the-art testing will be done at the Burlington location. Manufacturing will be done in Peterborough.

A proven technology to which Westinghouse has added their patented technology and some licensed technology.

Westinghouse has developed and continues to advance the heat pipe into a reliable nuclear reactor heat removal technology.

Westinghouse has also developed proprietary manufacturing processes based on strict quality-controlled techniques, procedures, and tooling. These heat pipes are tested in-house and analyzed for performance and longevity.

A demonstration unit of a Small Modular Remote Reactor

Westinghouse’s high-quality manufacturing processes, including fabrication in inert environments, clean-room grade processing, inspection checkpoints throughout assembly, and leading material sourcing promote success for a scalable technology based on proven science and demonstrated components.

Heat pipes manufactured using this process have set performance records for long-term operation, and progress made through separate and integrated testing programs such as the Electrical Demonstration Unit (EDU) are paving the way for the first commercial eVinci micro reactor which has been sold to a Saskatchewan corporation..

It is now clear that nuclear is going to have to be part of energy mix – sustainable will play a large role but they cannot provide all the energy that is needed as the world moves away from fossil fuels and coal use ends.

Small Modular Remote reactors that can be put together in less than a month and operate for 8 years, ten years in some cases –without any need for service. A single unit can provide power for 4,000 homes.

Westinghouse is not the only company going after this market. Rolls Royce is in the game,

Has been used for over 50 years
Millions of recorded operating hours in extreme, high temperature environments, including aerospace Simple design and operation principles make heat pipes ideal candidates for safe, passive cooling Operates at sub-atmospheric pressures and requires no active pumping, eliminating
typical failure modes

The eVinci™ Micro Reactor uses sodium-filled heat pipes configured within a core block to transfer heat from the reactor core to a heat exchanger. Heat pipes operate on a simple evaporation/condensation cycle, making them a reliable choice for passive high temperature cooling. Nuclear-generated heat conducts through the heat pipe wall, evaporating sodium at the liquid-film interface on the inner wick surface (the left side of the diagram above). Vapor then flows to the condenser region where its energy is absorbed by the primary heat exchanger, and the vapor condenses back into a liquid pool. To complete the cycle, the wick acts as a passive “pump”, transporting the liquid back to the evaporator via capillary forces. The simplicity of heat pipe operation principles makes them predictable and robust, allowing for multiple years of uninterrupted service.

Related news story:

The funding announcement.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 comments to A Westinghouse operation in Burlington is going to be part of a big push to create small remote nuclear units

  • Ted Gamble

    I believe that even with the now privately owned “aging” Bruce Power facility that the Canadian public essentially owns and has custody of past and future radioactive waste still without a permanent home. So rest assured Mike, you Perry and I will own the future liabilities.

    I have worked on Baffin Island and other remote locations. Maybe they should be largely vacated over time and not just for power supply reasons.

    Personally before I would populate the globe with thousands of containerized nuclear plants maybe we should look at eliminating the enormous carbon footprints associated with ocean shipping and discretionary air travel.

  • Ted Gamble

    Some fun facts:

    Canada has not established a site for disposing of past or future radioactive waste.
    Canada can not operate or maintain many city water systems in many remote communities.
    There is no such thing as NIMBY in Canada.
    There are no eco protests.
    There are no terrorists.
    Never mind that many of these ultimately be exported to who knows where international .

    I mean what could go wrong.

    These are just cabinet minister selfie moments. I wonder if they sought the approval of their spouse the NDP.

    Instead of holding public meetings so that citizens can raise issues of concern to lets just hand out more cash and charge your credit card.

  • Mike Hribljan

    Perryb. I am not fear mongering, you are reading more into my questions, I think these are important conversations that the public should understand. At this point in time, I agree, nuclear is a key option that we need to explore further. The “silly public” fear you mention needs to be taken seriously for this technology to evolve. I would say its far from silly. Large corporations look to exclude nuclear liability in their contracts as the damages (consequential and direct) associated with a radiation leak can be significant. Its not something to sweep under the rug. I would also comment, that when nuclear reactors are used to power subs and ships, they contain crews of highly trained engineers, with very comprehensive risk management plans, run by some of the most advanced militaries – a very different scenario than a remote community. I do have some experience in this area and these are big questions to be addressed.

    • perryb

      Mike, I did not mean to attribute fear-mongering to you, The general public reaction to nuclear is one of fear, and this has gone on for decades. Regularly stoked to their own advantage by a host of special interests including coal, oil, and anti-nuclear weapon actors. Then others pile in with too expensive, too long to build, nimby spent fuel storage issues. (this is, of course, a problem, but compared to the megatons of plastic waste and cigarette butts happily dumped into the environment every day, rather minor. To say nothing of the technical possibility of recycling nuclear waste and atomic weapons to fuel new designs of power generation.) Now, it appears that the SNRs being built are essentially self-contained, safe, and straightforward to operate. That’s worth investigating. Expensive, maybe, but so are lots of things, and, like other green energy systems, less so as the industry develops. But if the immediate reaction is rejection, then it will continue to be ignored until it is too late.

  • perryb

    Small Nuclear Reactors are a very positive step towards limiting climate change, but more importantly they can lead to energy independence for the hundreds of small and remote villages that today depend on diesel generators. The silly public fear of a nuclear explosion, and the overwrought complaints about nuclear waste do no credit to green supporters. These things have been powering nuclear submarines and large ships for decades without much trouble. All the fear-mongering around nuclear must stop, and focus instead on a great opportunity.

  • Mike Hribljan

    Given this is a testing and development site, it would be interesting to learn more about the risk management plans that are in place. Should there have been some public consultation with this? Also, nuclear liability is a significant issue that many publicly traded companies do not want to take on. Who holds the liability in the event of radiation leak?