Design Considerations for Micro Nuclear Reactors to Supply Power to Off Grid Mines

Author(s): B. Gihm
AECL/CNS 3rd International Technical Meeting on Small Reactors Conference, November 5–7, 2014.

Abstract

Several international technology vendors are proposing to develop micro-sized nuclear reactors to supply power and heat to remote locations. Many have identified that the mining operators in northern Canada could be potential customers for such products.

Mining power systems have unique characteristics and challenges that set them apart from the residential and commercial power systems. To give a few examples of such unique characteristics:

  • A small number of large machines such as hoists, shovels, draglines, etc., represent the significant portion of the total demand, and they create very large load swings in the system that puts the grid under high stress.
  • There is no organic growth of electricity demand (i.e., the growth follows staged mine expansion plans)
  • The extreme environmental conditions introduce a set of operational challenges and require specialized planning (e.g., arctic desert condition demands special water management facilities).

Hatch has been successfully integrating renewable power sources such as small hydro, wind and solar to mining power supply systems and have developed proprietary smart grid controller technology. In this paper, the authors discuss the characteristics of off-grid mining power systems and various technical considerations and design constraints for micro-nuclear reactors if they are to be developed to supply power to remote mining operations.