Canada has been generating electricity from nuclear power for more than half a century. With the goal of managing the by-product resulting from this process in a responsible and sustainable manner, the country has developed a plan to safely store used nuclear fuel within a deep geological repository. A series of engineered and natural barriers work together to protect people and the environment.
Since 2012, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) have been working together to develop and adapt an advanced manufacturing solution for the application of copper coatings to the external surface of steel for used fuel containers (UFCs) by the cold spray process. The copper coating protects the UFC from corrosion thereby ensuring the long-term containment and isolation of used nuclear fuel.
This successful collaboration, which has now entered a new stage, led the 2 organizations to team up with industry partner Polycontrols to initiate work to demonstrate the serial production of cold spray coatings on up to 20 UFCs as part of the NWMO's proof-test program.
Activities in this stage will be carried out by the NRC and Polycontrols in the new PolyCSAM collaborative hub specifically created for cold spray additive manufacturing (CSAM). Located at the NRC's Boucherville site in Quebec, PolyCSAM is a partnership between the NRC and Polycontrols. The hub started operations in March 2020. This new and unique facility will provide key expertise and infrastructure to jointly perform the cold spray process to apply the integral external highly resistant and durable copper coating to the closure weld region of the UFC. The first UFC to be coated at the PolyCSAM facility is expected to be performed in the first quarter of 2021.
For Éric Baril, Director General of the NRC's Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre, reaching this new step is a proud moment since it represents the tangible result of the hard work done over the past few years. "Polycontrols is part of this success because without the creation of the PolyCSAM facility, this would not have been possible. It is also a great achievement for the NRC as we begin the technology transfer which is our main mandate."
Luc Pouliot, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer at Polycontrols, says they are delighted to join the NRC and the NWMO in this important project. "The PolyCSAM facility is the ideal setup for the industrial scale up of the NWMO's copper coating process. It can accommodate parts up to 8-metres long, and in addition to the cold spray process itself, it offers in-situ robotic machining and surface modification capabilities."
Having the important responsibility of managing Canada's used nuclear fuel, the NWMO's approach consists of a technical method and a management system that are based on best practices adopted by other countries with nuclear power programs.
"We are excited to undertake this next step in serial production and complete the copper coating process with the NRC and Polycontrols. Serial production work is part of the NWMO's proof-test program that will validate the safety and effectiveness of the engineered barrier system components,"
The NRC is proud to bring expert knowledge and innovative technology to help Canada reach a new milestone in the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. This new phase will result in the production of secure storage containers to ensure the safety of Canadians and the environment.