Speaker:  Al Wight 
formerly Safety Analysis Team Leader, 
CANDU design office, Saskatoon
Topic:  Licensing a Concept 
Location:  J.L. Gray Centre 
Deep River, Ont.
Date:  Thursday, Feb 20, 1997 
 

Summary published in North Renfrew Times, Feb 26, 1997:

Licensing a Concept - A Frustrating Exercise

by Al Rose
 

 
Last Thursday evening an interested audience heard a somewhat bemused account from Al Wight of the frustrations of trying to license a reactor concept that is not destined for construction in Canada.
 
Wight, formerly Safety Analysis Team Leader, CANDU design office, Saskatoon, described the four year history of the ill-fated AECL Saskatoon office which went from a brave "AECL is in Saskatoon to stay" in 1993 to closure of the office in 1997.  A story now familiar to Deep River saw a staff of 100 professionals and 15 others largely lost to Canadian nuclear science.  Many new professionals had been hired and a major training program in reactor design had been set up.  On closure 60 of the professionals refused the offer to move to Ontario.  Of the 40 who did move nearly half transferred to other projects.
 
Wight noted that the Saskatoon office began with the CANDU 3 design, a 450 MWe reactor intended for the small electricity grid market.  According to Wight, this effort died from lack of an export market, principally because no one would consider a design with no prototype in the country of origin.
 
In 1994 the Saskatoon office started the CANDU 9 study, based on the proven Darlington design modified to a single core in a pre-stressed concrete containment vessel.  This was aimed directly at the Korean market and resulted in the effort to obtain an AECB "licensable in Canada" statement to satisfy the Korean demand for assurance that the design met Canadian standards.
 
Wight then described the resulting contract between AECL and the AECB to carry out an exercise for which the AECB was not designed; namely to license a concept rather than a construction application.  He emphasised that, in spite of the twenty million dollars spent on the study, which in the end succeeded in obtaining the document from the AECB which the Koreans required, the document was not a substitute for a construction license.  If a sale is ever made the licensing process will begin again at square one.
 
Wight described in detail too technical to go into here the basic difficulty between AECL and the AECB in this exercise.  AECL based their position on the already licensed Darlington design, modified to a single unit concept.  The AECB apparently expected a "next generation" concept which would significantly enhance the safety features of the reactor concept.  Because of the unprecedented nature of this study the meetings were all "level 3" which meant that it was all unofficial without so much as a fixed membership or minutes being kept.  Wight said that it was never a collaboration toward a mutual goal.  Only one meeting was ever held in Saskatoon, the rest being in Sheridan Park or Ottawa.
 
Wight said that the AECB raised 51 licensing issues before any documents had been reviewed.  In the end they accepted 13 key issues to be addressed but each of these included many sub-issues.  Another problem was that the AECB was dealing with Ontario Hydro at the same time and insisted that AECL use the same methodology as Hydro, to make things easier for the AECB.  This also escalated AECL work load.
 
The difference between the AECL desire to stick with the proven Darlington concept and the AECB desire for significant improvements eventually went to "dispute resolution" a type of arbitration process, which AECL won and the desired "comfort letter" from the AECB was finally obtained.  The "letter" had appended some 200 pages of provisos.  On the other hand Wight said that the AECB did compliment AECL on improvements over the Darlington design so that the end result was deemed a success by the AECL side.
 
The closure of the Saskatoon office was announced in the middle of this process according to Wight and the office closed on January 2, 1997.  Only some thirty of the original 100 professionals are still involved with the CANDU 9.
 
One of the dropouts is now employed with a farm machinery company in Saskatchewan.  Wight was not aware of any nuclear connection.