Canadian Consulting Engineer

SNC-Lavalin helps design new nuclear reactor type in South Africa

April 7, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

While Canadian nuclear power proponents continue to promote the Candu nuclear reactor, <br>

While Canadian nuclear power proponents continue to promote the Candu nuclear reactor, <br>
SNC-Lavalin and Murray & Roberts are engineering the world’s first Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) demonstration power plant in South Africa. <br>
The plant has a design output of 165 MWe. It will use fuel spheres of coated uranium dioxide encased in graphite with helium as the coolant and energy transfer medium to a closed cycle gas turbine. The main advantage of the pebble bed technology is said to be that it has a passive shutdown safety design which prevents meltdown in case of overheating. <br>
According to Engineering News Record, the reactor will use approximately a half-million of the low-enriched uranium spheres which are about the size of tennis balls. the unit will operate at over 900 degrees Celsius, nearly three times hotter than a light-water rreactor. <br>
Engineering News Record says that the process worries some critics because it relies on the pebbles’ ceramic coating for containment instead of a single contaimnment structure.<br>
Patrick Lamarre, president of SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc. said in November: “This demo power plant could well set the standard for future nuclear plants anywhere in the world. We are excited to have the opportunity to work on this first of a kind technology with PBMR.”<br>
A team of Canadian and South African experts are working on the project at an office in Centurion, near Pretoria, South Africa. Construction is to begin next year, with fuel loading scheduled for 2010. The developer is PBMR (Pty.) Limited. Westinghouse Electric is doing the safety subsystem design.<br>


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