Ottawa, provinces back SMR development
Major announcements in recent weeks relating to small modular reactors illustrate growing interest in the clean energy potential of the technology.
A significant federal investment, a four-province action plan for SMR development, including key participation by New Brunswick, and important new studies all have contributed to enthusiasm about the outlook for the new technology.
Last month, Ottawa announced that Moltex Energy in Saint John, N.B., will receive $50.5 million from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to advance its project to design and commercialize a molten salt reactor and spent fuel recycling facility.
Moltex plans to build the world’s first 300-megawatt stable salt reactor-wasteburner and waste to stable salt facility at the Point Lepreau Generating Station site in Saint John. The goal is to provide carbon-free electricity to the grid by the early 2030s.
SMRs are nuclear reactors that produce 300 megawatts of electricity or less. They can support large established grids, small grids, remote off-grid communities and resource projects.
“This investment to develop innovative SMR technology in New Brunswick will support the deployment of the Atlantic Loop, help us build a more resilient economy and bring us one step closer to our climate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050,” New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, said in a statement.
The announcement came just weeks after New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs announced that the province will give Saint John's ARC Clean Energy $20 million to support its SMR technology.
Also, the premiers of New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have released a study (executive summary here) by power utilities in three partner provinces and welcomed Alberta as a signatory to the SMR memorandum of understanding.
The study – conducted by NB Power, Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power and SaskPower – identifies three streams of SMR project proposals for consideration by the provincial governments.
The first stream proposes a first grid-scale SMR project of about 300 megawatts constructed at the Darlington nuclear site in Ontario by 2028.
The second stream involves two, advanced small modular reactor designs that would be developed in New Brunswick through construction of demonstration units at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. An initial ARC Clean Energy demonstration is planned to be ready by 2030, and Moltex Energy waste recycling facility and reactor is planned to be ready by the early 2030s.
“Our government believes that the best way to ensure that Canada becomes a leader in advanced small modular reactor development and deployment is through continued engagement and partnerships,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said in a statement.
The third stream proposes a new class of micro-SMRs designed primarily to replace the use of diesel in remote communities and mines.
In addition to these developments, Ontario Power Generation’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability has joined forces with Moltex Energy on a project aimed at recycling used fuel from CANDU reactors.
Ontario Power will provide $1 million to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of a new process to recycle used CANDU fuel.
Also of note, the Canadian Nuclear Association has released data on SMR technology showing that the reactors could offer low-cost emission reductions in Canada's heavy industry, driving down the cost of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To learn more, view the full study here and the executive summary here.