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AtkinsRéalis ATRL-T and the federal government have reached a deal both say will accelerate development of a large new nuclear power reactor called the Monark, part of a flurry of new reactor models announced around the world as governments shop for low-emission methods of generating electricity.

The Montreal-based company announced Thursday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), a federal Crown corporation, concerning intellectual property rights. If built, the Monark would be the largest-ever variant of Canada’s homegrown Candu reactor, though it is in early development and would require regulatory approval and a willing buyer before construction.

AECL developed Candu designs between the 1950s and 2011, when the federal government sold its reactor business to AtkinsRéalis, then known as SNC-Lavalin. Under an intellectual property licensing agreement signed at that time, the federal government retained all intellectual property rights to the Candu. AtkinsRéalis licensed the technology.

Gary Rose, executive vice-president of nuclear at AtkinsRéalis, said the new agreement means his company can earn a return on its investment in the Monark. The two parties will also work together to identify potential international markets for Candus. Any new intellectual property associated with the Monark will belong to the government.

“We will have the rights to continue to deploy the Monark indefinitely,” Mr. Rose said.

The Monark was first announced in November. It is being developed at a moment when reactor vendors are scrambling to introduce new products after a decades-long lull in reactor development and construction in Western countries. Governments are increasingly drawn to the technology’s low greenhouse emissions. Last summer, for instance, Ontario’s government ordered a start to predevelopment work on new large reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, on Lake Huron’s eastern shore.

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No new Candu design has been licensed, sold or built since the early 1990s, although development work on half a dozen proposed designs occurred during that period.

The Monark will incorporate aspects of those designs. AtkinsRéalis said it will include a reactor core based on Candus already in service at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont., as well as elements from the Enhanced Candu-6 and the Advanced Candu Reactor 1000, or ACR-1000, two reactors developed earlier in this century but never built.

Fred Dermarkar, AECL’s president and chief executive, said the Monark reflects recent changes in the nuclear industry, as utilities seek reactors with larger outputs than previous Candus were capable of producing, as well as enhanced safety features introduced after the serious accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March, 2011. The Monark will put out 1,000 megawatts, compared with 880 megawatts from each of Darlington’s four units.

“We want to make sure that this IP is used to its maximum value,” Mr. Dermarkar said.

“It’s a technology that we know will benefit Canada and Canadians, support the energy transition, bring economic prosperity and energy security. But we also know that it can be a great help worldwide.”

Mr. Rose said his development team has grown to 150 members. The group is analyzing earlier Candu designs to determine what aspects will need to be changed, work Mr. Rose said will be completed in the middle of this year. Detailed design work is expected to be completed by 2027.

“Most of the systems are not changing,” Mr. Rose said.

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He added that the new reactor may not need a full review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the industry regulator, because all three precursor designs have already been licensed. “Every component, all these three systems, three nuclear plants have already been licensed,” he said.

“It’s a matter of assessing which parts of this are new and what licensing review is required.”

The CNSC disputed those claims. The ACR-1000 and the Enhanced Candu-6 both completed an optional process known as a vendor design review. Commission spokesperson Upasana Sampat noted in an e-mail that this type of review does not certify a reactor design and is not binding on CNSC commissioners, who are responsible for all licensing decisions.

“Neither of these technologies have been licenced in Canada,” Ms. Sampat wrote. “The CNSC has not received a licence application for either design.”

A reactor’s licensing status carries high significance in the nuclear industry. New designs can take many years, even decades, to evolve to a point where they can be built. Regulatory approval is a crucial milestone in reactor development, and is regarded as a hallmark of a relatively mature design.

“There is definitely the risk of people being misinformed or having the mistaken idea that these designs are very safe,” said M.V. Ramana, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of public policy who specializes in nuclear energy matters.

“It has to come from a rigorous review carried out by the regulator. If that’s not happening, then I don’t think they should be making a claim.”

The CNSC said it has received a request for a vendor design review of the Monark, and is now assessing what the scope of that review will be.

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