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NSERC-NRCan partnership to fund research on small modular reactors

Overview
Value and duration NRCan has set aside approximately $1M per year, over 4 years, to co-fund research projects through NSERC’s Alliance grants program. Eligible university researchers can apply for Alliance grants of a duration of 1 to 4 years. The minimum amount that can be requested from NRCan is $20,000 per year and the maximum is $100,000 per year. NSERC’s contribution will be calculated using the Alliance cost-sharing formula.
NRCan deadline Before April 11, 2023 – Expression of interest (EOI)

University researchers must first contact NRCan to discuss their proposed research project and obtain approval to submit an application to NSERC. See below for more details.
NSERC application deadline August 15, 2023 – Full application to NSERC
How to apply See below
For more information See below

Background

In December of 2020, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) released This link will take you to another Web site Canada’s Small Modular Reactor Action Plan. Prior to launching this action plan, NRCan convened a This link will take you to another Web site Roadmap for small modular reactors (SMRs), which involved extensive engagement with industry, utility services, provincial and territorial governments, and other interested stakeholders. The Action Plan outlines the progress and ongoing efforts across Canada to turn the SMR Roadmap into reality.

Description

In support of Canada’s Small Modular Reactor Action Plan, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is partnering with NRCan to fund research on SMRs. As stated in Budget 2022: “Support to develop this technology can position Canada as a clean energy leader; support the decarbonization of provincial electricity grids in places like New Brunswick and Saskatchewan; facilitate the transition away from diesel power in remote communities; and help decarbonize heavy emitting industries.”

NRCan has set aside approximately $1M per year, over 4 years, to co-fund research projects through NSERC’s Alliance grants program. Once the proposed research project has been approved by NRCan, eligible university researchers can apply for an Alliance grant with a duration of 1 to 4 years. Partners from industry, government and not-for-profit organizations are encouraged to participate as per NSERC’s Alliance grants program. NSERC’s funding contribution will be calculated using the Alliance cost-sharing formula.

Objectives

The objectives of this partnership are to:

  • generate new knowledge to support policy- and decision-making related to SMRs in Canada’s nuclear industry, as well as to support the objectives of This link will take you to another Web site Canada’s SMR Action Plan
  • enhance the capabilities of Canadian universities to undertake research related to SMRs
  • increase training and help produce a new generation of nuclear scientists, engineers and policy makers

Proposed research projects must address at least one of the following research objectives specific to the SMR technologies being pursued in Canada (consult This link will take you to another Web site Canada's SMR Action Plan for further guidance).

  • Robust supply chains for SMRs:
    • Determine the types of equipment and components required to facilitate supply chain development
    • Identify and develop innovative techniques for SMR construction, such as innovative manufacturing techniques to reduce costs
    • Determine how advanced manufacturing technologies can be used in the SMR supply chain; assess what information is needed to qualify these techniques in terms of regulatory approval; undertake research on and/or develop advanced manufacturing technologies/techniques that could be used in the SMR supply chain; undertake research to support the qualification of advanced manufacturing technologies/techniques to meet regulatory requirements

  • SMR fuel supply:
    • Develop characterization and examination capabilities for SMR fuel and fuel materials
    • Undertake research to support the development of models and/or codes related to SMR fuel
    • Research and understand the economic impact, including impacts on policies, related to fuel fabrication and/or enrichment in Canada
    • Explore fuel reprocessing options for SMR technologies and related implications relevant to Canada
    • Study the characteristics of enriched materials in terms of their impact on packaging/transportation

  • Radioactive waste management and minimization for SMRs:
    • Identify and characterize fuel supply waste streams for SMRs
    • Research and develop SMR waste management solutions, including technologies that have the potential to reduce waste
    • Advance understanding and technologies/techniques to support the safeguarding and proliferation resistance of SMR fuel cycles
    • Undertake research related to intermediate-level SMR waste reduction and disposal solutions
    • Advance understanding of the long-term safety requirements for SMR waste storage and disposal
    • Research transportation requirements for radioactive SMR material based on Canada’s non-proliferation, safety and security policies
    • Research and develop technologies for managing non-fuel SMR radioactive waste and contaminated materials

How to apply

University researchers must first contact NRCan to discuss their proposed research project and obtain approval before submitting an application to NSERC. To engage NRCan in supporting your research project, request an expression of interest (EOI) form via email to smr-prm@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca. Please include your area of interest/expertise in your initial email to NRCan to help facilitate the process.

The EOI must explain how your project will address one or more of the specific research objectives and how it will help enable responsible deployment of SMRs in Canada.

You are encouraged to contact NRCan early in the process to discuss your project concept; EOI forms are due to NRCan by 11:59 pm on April 11, 2023. Submissions sent after this deadline will not be eligible.

An EOI alone is not considered an application for funding. NRCan will use EOI forms to do a comparative initial review to determine which ensemble of project ideas will best meet the objectives detailed above. A limited number of applicants will be invited by NRCan to submit a full application to NSERC for funding. Funding decisions will then be made based on NSERC’s Alliance grants application and review process.

Invited eligible university researchers may apply for an Alliance grant with a duration of 1 to 4 years. The minimum amount that can be requested from NRCan is $20,000 per year, and the maximum is $100,000 per year. NRCan must be included in your application as a partner organization. Additional partners from industry, government and not-for-profit organizations are encouraged to participate as per NSERC’s Alliance grants program and to ensure uptake of the research results. The amount you can request from NSERC can be calculated using the standard Alliance cost-sharing formula.

Applications must be submitted via NSERC's online system. Following the instructions for completing an Alliance grant application, fill out the  proposal template and complete the other sections of your application.

Your application must be submitted to NSERC by August 15, 2023. Your proposal will be reviewed following NSERC’s Alliance grants review process.

Award and post-award

NSERC and NRCan will strive to announce funding decisions by February 2024. Some applications may require additional time for national security review. 

You must acknowledge NSERC and NRCan support in any communications or presentations about the research supported by your Alliance grant.

You must also report regularly on how you use the funds from your grant, on the activities carried out during your funded project and on the outcomes of the project. Details on reporting will be provided with your award letter and the terms and conditions of the award.

For more information

For more information about this funding opportunity, please contact NSERC’s Alliance team at alliance@nserc-crsng.gc.ca, or NRCan at smr-prm@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.