Small Modular Reactors

Canada / SaskPower Chooses Two SMR Sites With Final Decision Due In 2024

By David Dalton
22 September 2022

If approved, a first reactor could be operational by 2035
SaskPower Chooses Two SMR Sites With Final Decision Due In 2024
The area around the city of Estevan has been chosen as one of two possible locations for an SMR. Courtesy City of Estevan.
Canadian electric utility SaskPower has chosen two sites in Saskatchewan for the potential construction of a small, modular nuclear reactor.

The company said one site is the Estevan area – specifically, two sites around Boundary Dam and Rafferty Dam, and another around the Grant Devine Dam. Estevan is a city about 16 km north of the Canada-US border.

The other area under consideration is near Elbow, a village about 140 km south of the provincial capital of Saskatoon, around Lake Diefenbaker, from Gardiner Dam to the Diefenbaker Dam.

SaskPower said the area will be selected by 2023, with a specific site chosen by 2024.

However, the decision on whether to use SMR technology as part of the province’s power generation mix will not be made until 2029. If it is approved, the SMR could be operational by 2035.

SaskPower said it could build one or two reactors on the chosen site. It has estimated an SMR would cost CAD5bn ($3.6bn €3.7bn).

The two areas needed to meet certain criteria, including proximity to a water source, existing power transmission infrastructure and the ability to support a workforce.

Canada Can Become ‘World Leader’ In Nuclear Sector

“SMRs are new to Saskatchewan and before SaskPower makes a decision on how to deploy this new energy force we must have an open and meaningful dialogue with the people of Saskatchewan,” SaskPower president Rupen Pandya said.

He said dialogue will include consultation with local leadership, non-governmental organisations and the public.

“Engagement and consultation with Indigenous rights holders and the public is critical to this project and I encourage the people of Saskatchewan to reach out and engage with us on this important project.”

In March, Four provincial governments – Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta – said they would push ahead with a plan to develop nuclear power in Canada with calls for the federal government to back ambitious proposals for SMRs and a new class of Generation IV micro-SMR for remote communities and mines.

They said Canada’s early adoption of SMRs would position the nation as a world leader in new nuclear innovation and a global SMR technology hub.

The provinces called for a grid-scale SMR project of 300 MW constructed at the Darlington nuclear site in Ontario by 2028 with subsequent units to follow in Saskatchewan.

In October 2021, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission renewed Ontario Power Generation’s existing site preparation licence for a new nuclear project at Darlington – allowing OPG to do work aimed at preparing the site for construction of a potential future SMR.

Last year OPG chose GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy as its technology partner on a new SMR planned for Darlington, with the first grid-scale BWRX-300 plant scheduled to be completed by 2028.

Provinces Have Ambitious Plans For Nuclear

The four provinces said they want to see four advanced SMRs developed in New Brunswick and a new class of micro-SMR designed primarily to replace the use of diesel in remote communities and mines. A 5-MW gas-cooled demonstration project is under way at Chalk River, Ontario, with plans to be in service by 2026.

The provinces put forward the proposals in a strategic plan to expand the nuclear industry through the development of SMRs, saying they provide a source of safe, clean power.

Since December 2019, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have been working together to advance SMRs in Canada through an inter-provincial memorandum of understanding. Alberta joined the MOU in April 2021.

Also in April 2021, the provinces released a feasibility report prepared by Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power, NB Power and SaskPower which gave a potential timeline for development and deployment of SMRs and assesses their competitiveness with other non-emitting energy sources.

SMRs are scalable and versatile nuclear reactors that typically produce 300 MW of electricity or less. They can support large established grids, small grids, remote off-grid communities and resource projects.

SMRs can provide stable baseload clean energy to complement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar while micro, or off-grid, SMRs can be used to displace diesel generation used in mining in remote areas, and heat and electricity generation in northern remote communities.

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