State utility SaskPower has chosen potential sites with ‘decision to build’ expected in 2029
Canada has approved up to CAD74m (€50m, $54m) in federal funding for small modular reactor development in Saskatchewan with potential deployment of a first plant in the mid-2030s and more units to follow.
The funding will support pre-engineering work and technical studies, environmental assessments, regulatory studies and community engagement to help advance the project, led by state utility SaskPower
SaskPower has already chosen the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR for potential deployment in Saskatchewan, subject to a decision to build that is expected in 2029.
In September 2022 the company announced it had chosen two sites in Saskatchewan for the potential construction of an SMR. One site is the Estevan area, just north of the US-Candada border. The other is near Elbow, a village about 140 km south of the provincial capital Saskatoon.
SaskPower said an area will be selected by 2023, with a specific site chosen by 2024.
SaskPower anticipates construction of its first SMR could begin as early as 2030, with a targeted in-service date of 2034. Additional facilities could begin construction as early as 2034.
The government said up to CAD50m for the project has been committed to SaskPower from a CAD250m program to support pre-development activities of clean electricity projects of national significance.
Additionally, over CAD24m has been committed to the government of Saskatchewan from the environment department’s future electricity fund. This program returns pollution pricing proceeds to support clean energy projects, energy-efficient technologies and other initiatives that will help Canada meet its climate goals and achieve a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.
The fund is intended to help spur innovation and encourage the adoption of cleaner technologies and fuels in Canada – including Saskatchewan’s SMR project.
Cementing Canada’s Competitive Advantage
The government said in a statement that to cement Canada’s competitive advantage in the global shift to a net-zero emissions economy and to meet climate goals, “we need to significantly increase the amount of non-emitting energy that we use to power our homes, businesses and industries”.
“New, non-emitting electricity infrastructure projects, including projects powered by next-generation nuclear technologies, such as small modular reactors, can play a crucial role in this shift and in delivering economic prosperity to every region of Canada.”
John Gorman, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Nuclear Association, welcomed the funding announcement, saying the CAD74m “serves as a strong indication” from the government that Canada is at the forefront of global innovation and implementation of SMRs.
Canada has a fleet of 19 commercial nuclear power plants that provide about 14% of its electricity generation. Major projects have begun to extend the lifetime of reactors at the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering stations.
Last year four provinces – Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta – put forward proposals in a strategic plan to expand the nuclear industry through the development of SMRs, saying they provide a source of safe, clean power.
Off-Grid ‘Micro-SMRs’ Also Planned
The plan says a 300-MW SMR could generate enough clean electricity each year to power 300,000 homes. It also calls for off-grid “micro SMRs” that can be used to displace diesel generation used in mining in remote areas, and heat and electricity generation in northern remote communities.
Saskatchewan is also a participant in Canada’s SMR Action Plan, launched in 2020. The plan proposes the development, demonstration and deployment of SMRs for multiple applications at home and abroad.
Also last year the government announced funding of up to CAD5m for research and development projects that support provinces and territories as they work to develop and deploy SMRs as part of their decarbonisation and economic development plans.
In December 2021, GE-Hitachi was named Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) technology development partner to deploy Canada's first grid-scale SMR at the Darlington nuclear site.
Global First Power, a joint venture between OPG and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, is proposing to build a 5-MW micro-SMR project at the federally owned Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario. The project is intended to demonstrate feasibility for off-grid applications, such as remote mines.