McMaster University and Kinectrics Inc. – a life-cycle management company for the electricity industry – have completed the first phase of their on-going partnership focused on surveillance monitoring of components from Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. McMaster University and Kinectrics – both partners of the Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) – demonstrate the positive impact of applying innovation in nuclear through this joint project.

The work at McMaster supports the use of Kinectrics’ CWEST* (Circumferential Wet Scrape Tool) system which allows for remote pressure tube sampling of CANDU reactors from robotic delivery systems. This saves significant outage time and dose for the utilities compared to open channel damp scrape methods. The outcome of their work ensures that equipment used during maintenance will perform to the industry’s exacting standards and provides the requisite data for decision-making on infrastructure renewal.

Chris Heysel, Director of McMaster’s Nuclear Operations & Facilities, calls the initiative a “real milestone” for the university.

“This is the first project of its kind and to realize just how this partnership will positively impact the clean energy sector here in Ontario really demonstrates the power and value of collaboration,” he says, noting that McMaster is the only university in the world capable of undertaking this kind of project.

The work is being conducted at McMaster’s Centre for Advanced Nuclear Systems (CANS) – a unique regional research facility dedicated to the study of nuclear systems; created under the leadership of John Luxat, professor of engineering physics and NSERC/UNENE Senior Industrial Research Chair.

“From the outset, the team of researchers behind CANS envisioned a facility that would support the nuclear sector, particularly Ontario’s three nuclear power plants,” says Luxat.

“To see this in action – providing the infrastructure that allows industry to better understand the lifespan of nuclear components and how material properties change when subjected to the conditions in an operating nuclear power plant – is a great source of pride and a testament to our relevance to the industry.”

The first stage of the project began a month ago when a large lead drum – about the size of a washing machine – arrived at CANS and McMaster’s highly trained experts remotely opened the drum to access its contents: a piece of pressure tube that is used to hold nuclear fuel.

Pressure tubes are unique features of the Canadian designed CANDU reactor. There are 480 of these six-metre long tubes in a typical reactor which are used to hold fuel bundles in place while at the same time provide cooling to the fuel.

Using state-of-the-art engineering equipment, a section of the radioactive metal tube was precisely machined to the required exacting dimensions – to within the width of a human hair – and transferred into a larger workspace, where experts from Kinectrics took over.

Using their innovative CWEST tool, which allows nuclear technicians to remotely take multiple samples from a pressure tube inside a reactor core, Kinectrics staff simulated the conditions found in the field and tested the improved tool to ensure it would perform as required when deployed during a maintenance outage. The CWEST tool is a proven innovative tool from Kinectrics that has now been used in over 25 outages. 

The data that we get from these analyses is critical to life cycle management at Ontario’s power reactors,” says David Harris, CEO of Kinectrics.

“As a leader in the field, Kinectrics plays a key role in surveillance testing of pressure tubes at Canada’s nuclear power reactors. Being able to simulate real-life conditions at McMaster, in proximity to our analytical facilities, enables us to confidently prove tool improvements in response to the customer’s needs.”

“This partnership demonstrates the type of activity the CCNS will foster,” said Sabrina Nestor, Manager of Innovation and Decommissioning Strategy at the Centre. “Bringing industry experts together to identify innovative opportunities in the nuclear lifecycle will support nuclear sustainability.”

Karen Mossman, McMaster’s vice-president, research says these kinds of collaborative research projects are an integral part of the university’s research enterprise.

“We’re recognized as a world leader in nuclear research, training and safety, and it’s so important that we work with our industry partners – pooling our knowledge and expertise – to capitalize on our collective strengths to advance the sector.”

(*Not available for sale outside of Canada until after November 30, 2027.)

About McMaster University

Located in Hamilton, Ontario, McMaster University is Canada’s most research-intensive university, and the nation’s preeminent nuclear research institution.  The McMaster campus houses a unique suite of world class nuclear research facilities that enable discoveries in medicine, clean energy, nuclear safety, materials and environmental science, while providing cancer treatments for more than 70,000 patients every year. CANS is a $25-millon network of five facilities dedicated to the study of nuclear systems and supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Province of Ontario.

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About Kinectrics

Kinectrics is the category leader in providing life cycle management services for the electricity industry. Trusted by clients worldwide, our expertise in engineering, testing, inspection, and certification is backed by our independent laboratory and testing facilities, a diverse fleet of field inspection equipment and an award-winning team of over 1,000 engineers and technical experts. From initial design and type testing to operational deployment and maintenance services, Kinectrics collaborates closely with customers to ensure that utility assets perform safely, reliably and efficiently throughout their entire life cycle.

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About the Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has launched the Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) located in Durham Region, Ontario’s nuclear capital. Through partnerships, the CCNS will advance nuclear innovation, collaboration and research. As owner of the largest CANDU reactor fleet in Canada, OPG has a unique ability to harness and consolidate activities across the nuclear industry to provide sustainable solutions for the nuclear lifecycle.