The Role of Standards in Facilitating Deployment of SMRs in Canada


  • Ward, T., Toomsalu, K., Krishnan, S., Medina, H., Tedford, N. (2021). The Role of Standards in Facilitating Deployment of SMRs in Canada. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

As Canada’s energy demand continues to increase, experts are looking for solutions to reduce carbon emissions and provide Canadians with clean and reliable electricity. A technology that is poised to meet these needs is the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), an emerging class of nuclear reactors with a smaller capacity and more flexibility than conventional large nuclear power plants (NPPs). The SMRs’ promise of economical, greenhouse-gas free power allows for their potential deployment in a wide range of industries and for a variety of process applications, beyond merely power production. Over 50 SMR vendors are currently working to commercialize their designs worldwide, with a wide range of technologies from small integral pressurized water reactors (an evolution of existing nuclear power plant technology) to novel Generation IV and advanced reactors.

The objective of this report is to provide high-level recommendations on standardization approaches that would benefit the Canadian nuclear sector in the deployment of SMRs. To accomplish this, a review was conducted on potential standardization approaches, the current SMR landscape in Canada, and the use of standardization to support the deployment of new technologies through two case studies. The results of these reviews were then assessed to provide recommendations based on the best practices and lessons learned from the case studies and analysis of standardization and harmonization activities within the nuclear sector. Where applicable, specific opportunities for collaboration on current SMR standardization and harmonization activities are noted.

SMR technologies can be divided into two groups based on their technological heritage and the availability of operating experience from other jurisdictions: light water reactors, and Generation IV and advanced reactors.

Light water reactors use light water as a coolant, and generally include pressurized water reactors (including integral pressurized water reactors) as well as boiling water reactors. The SMR designs that are classified as light water reactors are based on existing reactor technologies that are well established globally. Due to the presence of multiple existing international regulatory frameworks associated with these types of reactors, it is recommended that Canada engage with other jurisdictions to assess, update, and reference existing standards to fill identified gaps in addressing light water reactor requirements. Adopting international standards or developing new regional or international standards to address gaps would also increase harmonization of standards between jurisdictions.

Generation IV and advanced reactor designs have fewer experimental, demonstration, and commercial reactors that can be leveraged for operating experience. Consequently, existing standards are less equipped to accommodate the more novel aspects of these reactor technologies. For Generation IV and advanced reactors, it is recommended that Canada develop new national standards that reference existing standards, or collaborate with other jurisdictions to develop harmonized regional and international standards where needed, based on progress of ongoing technology demonstration and commercialization efforts.

As the development and initial regulatory review of SMRs are in progress, the development of standards in parallel with these processes can be beneficial to support and facilitate SMR deployment. In cases where SMR designs are being considered in multiple markets (for example the US and Canada), standard development organizations (SDOs) should consider collaborations where regional or international standards could be developed. These standards could help to improve commonalities in the regulatory review processes based on the demonstration of common design goals, thereby enabling multiple jurisdictions to leverage best practices and lessons learned from early operations.