Small Modular Reactors

Canada / Government Moves Forward With Reactor Commercialisation Plan

By David Dalton
16 October 2020

$15m investment will help with pre-licensing of SMR
Government Moves Forward With Reactor Commercialisation Plan
Terrestrial Energy is proposing to build a 195-MW IMSR at Chalk River in Canada. Courtesy Terrestrial Energy.
The Canadian government took a step forward on its national small modular reactor plan on Thursday, with an investment to help an Ontario company move closer to commercialising its Generation IV reactor technology.

The CAD20m ($15.1m) investment will help Terrestrial Energy complete a pre-licensing milestone for its technology, part of an effort to bring net-generation nuclear energy to industry, Canada’s innovation ministry said.

This is the first investment from the government’s strategic innovation fund for an SMR. Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant is said to be 50% more efficient than traditional reactors and suited for deployment in remote communities and industrial operations, including on-grid and off-grid power provision.

Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy, established in 2013, is proposing to build a 195-MW IMSR at Chalk River in Canada. It wants to commission the first IMSR power plants in the late 2020s.

The company said IMSR plants can be built in four years and produce electricity or industrial heat at prices competitive with fossil fuels while emitting no greenhouse gases. They can provide energy for generating on-grid electric power and heat for industrial processes, such as hydrogen production, synthetic fuel production, natural resource extraction, and desalination.

Innovation minister Navdeep Bains said that by helping to bring these small reactors to market, the government is supporting significant environmental and economic benefits, including generating energy with reduced emissions, highly skilled-job creation and Canadian intellectual property development.

Canada has a fleet of 19 commercial power reactors that provided about 15% of its electricity production in 2019. Major projects to refurbish and extend the operation of reactors are underway at the Bruce and Darlington nuclear stations.

Background: Canada’s Increasing Commitment To SMR Development

This latest SMR announcement from Canada comes in the wake of a number of recent announcements and statements from senior politicians on nuclear energy and the development of SMR technology.

Natural resources minister Seamus O’Regan said SMRs are a game-changing technology with the potential to play a critical role in fighting climate change, and rebuilding Canada’s post Covid-19 economy. He said that nuclear energy is likely to play a central role in Canada’s clean energy transition with SMRs at the forefront of Ottawa’s plans as the country aims for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Ontario Power Generation said it will work with Terrestrial Energy and two other SMR developers as part of the utility’s goal to deploy SMR technology.

In another related development, Terrestrial Energy and Centrus Energy this week signed a memorandum of understanding to secure fuel supply for a future fleet of IMSR plants.

In November 2019, the province of Saskatchewan announced it had included the development of SMR technology in its 2030 growth strategy. It said SMRs could provide utility SaskPower with the ability to generate up to 80% of the province’s electricity through zero-emission sources when combined with renewable power sources.

More recently, Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe sent a letter to prime minister Justin Trudeau asking him to support nuclear development in the province. Mr Moe said he wanted the development of SMRs in Saskatchewan to be part of Mr Trudeau’s green agenda.

In August, the Canadian province of Alberta said it was joining three other provinces – Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick – to support the advancement and deployment of nuclear energy through SMRs.

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