The NWMO signs an agreement to advance the production of containers for used nuclear fuel

Used fuel container being loaded into a machine that rotates the container for the cold spray copper process.

At the National Research Council’s Boucherville facility, the NWMO container for used nuclear fuel is being loaded into the ROTEQ 1.1, a machine that rotates the container for the cold spray copper process. 

Since 2012, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) have been working together to develop and adapt an advanced manufacturing solution for the application of copper coating to the external surface of steel containers for used nuclear fuel. The copper coating protects the containers from corrosion as part of the multiple-barrier system that will be used to contain and isolate used nuclear fuel over the long-term.

Now that the technology is ready to be scaled up, the NWMO has signed an agreement with the NRC and industry partner Polycontrols to initiate work to demonstrate the serial production of cold spray coatings on up to 20 containers as part of the NWMO’s proof-test program.

“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,” said Dave Doyle, Manager of Used Fuel Container Design at the NWMO. 

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 PolyCSAM facility is the ideal setup for the industrial scale-up of the NWMO’s copper coating process. It can accommodate parts up to eight meters long, and in addition to the cold spray process itself, it offers in-situ robotic machining and surface modification capabilities. We are delighted to join the NWMO and the NRC in this very important project for Canada,“ said Luc Pouliot, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer at Polycontrols.

The cold spray process is estimated to begin in the first quarter of 2021.   

Entering into this new stage of the project is a great achievement and 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,” underlines Éric Baril, Director General for the NRC’s Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre.

The serial production of used fuel containers will help to move forward Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Two potential siting areas – South Bruce in southern Ontario and the Ignace area in northern Ontario – remain in the siting process as potential hosts for a deep geological repository that will eventually store all of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. The project will only proceed with municipalities, First Nation and Métis communities, and surrounding communities, working in partnership to implement it.