Saskatchewan giving early consideration for small nuclear reactors

Click to play video: 'Sask. premier sees small nuclear reactors as possible energy source'
Sask. premier sees small nuclear reactors as possible energy source
WATCH: With most of Saskatchewan's coal power fleet set to close, a new option is being considered - small modular reactors. – May 16, 2019

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has found anti-carbon tax allies in Ontario Premier Doug Ford and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs. Moe said they have been discussing another power option too, small modular reactors.

Moe said talks around the technology are in the very early stages, but the door appears to at least be open a crack for the prospect of nuclear power in Saskatchewan.

“That’s not saying we’re moving ahead with that but we most certainly want to have the conversation around the clean supply of nuclear power in the province,” Moe said.

“We have the uranium. It’s incumbent on us to have the discussion as we ultimately add to our power generation capabilities in Estevan, either carbon capture and storage (CCS) or maybe something of this nature.”

Story continues below advertisement

SaskPower plans on getting renewable power generation up to 50 per cent by 2030, through expanding wind, solar and purchasing hydro from Manitoba.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Through an equivalency agreement with the federal government, Saskatchewan will be shutting down three coal power stations by 2030. The Shand Power Station near Estevan may be retrofitted with CCS in order to continue operating past 2030, but a decision is described as years away.

Boundary Dams 4 and 5, also near Estevan, will shut down in 2021 and 2024 respectively. Without the equivalency agreement, they would have ceased operations at the end of this year.

As for location, Moe said it would make sense to set up near Estevan due to a large amount of transmission infrastructure that already exists.

This technology is still in the developmental phases. Last year, the New Brunswick government committed $10 million to research efforts.

This developmental component has Opposition Leader Ryan Meili urging caution.

“It’s the readiness. Is that technology actually ready? We haven’t seen that technology rolled out in a commercial way that’s actually producing power in any other jurisdictions, so we need to make sure that’s actually possible,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

A SaskPower spokesperson said a small modular reactor would likely provide around 350 megawatts of power, enough for approximately 350,000 homes. This is the same generating capacity as the Chinook Power Station, a natural gas plant being built near Swift Current.

Moe added this could be another technology, like CCS, that could be exported as an emission reduction measure. The premier framed it as a criticism of the federal carbon price, which he said won’t do anything to decrease emissions.

Whether Saskatchewan moves forward with small modular reactors, expanded CCS or more natural gas, it will come as a cost.

The original CCS retrofit at Boundary Dam 3 carried a $1.4 billion price tag. Reports indicate second generation technology potentially used at Shand would be cheaper, but that would be a larger retrofit.

For costing emission reduction strategies, aside from a carbon tax, Moe said he would be comfortable paying the lowest possible cost.

“The lowest possible number, with respect to actually having an impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Moe said.

Sponsored content