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Saskatchewan Indigenous companies to explore SMR investments

FILE - This Nov. 29, 2018 file photo shows the Transient Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, in eastern Idaho. Three Saskatchewan Indigenous-owned companies say they are in a position to support SMR development from construction to operation and maintenance. AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File

Three Saskatchewan Indigenous-owned companies have signed an agreement to pursue small modular reactor (SMR) investments.

Kitsaki Management, Athabasca Basin Development and Des Nedhe Group say they are in a position to support this emerging technology from construction to operation and maintenance.

Sean Willy, CEO of Des Nedhe Group, said their companies have supported uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan since the 1980s and they want to make sure their voices are heard in this “new and exciting technology.”

Read more: Are small nuclear reactors really better? Here are the pros and cons

“We think if you’re serious about climate change and you want to make a difference on the decarbonizing the power-producing aspects, small nuclear reactors is the way to go,” he told Global News.

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“We look at this as a made-in-Canada approach because all the uranium that’s coming out of Canada is coming from northern Saskatchewan.”

Willy feels they will be able to bring an Indigenous business focus to the development and construction of SMRs, one he believes no one else can bring to the table.

“We support this industry. We want to make sure that these things get to the finish line and are effectively and safely put in place across the country and make sure that Indigenous participation is maximized.”

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The Saskatchewan government is exploring the viability of SMRs. It has signed MOUs with the governments of Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick to collaborate on advancing SMRs as an option to provide clean energy to address climate change.

Read more: Saskatchewan eyes small nuclear reactor advancements with 3 other provinces

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Under the proposal signed by the provinces, Saskatchewan could have the first of four grid-scale SMRs in service by 2032.

The Saskatchewan government is welcoming the news of the MOU between the three Indigenous-owned companies.

The Ministry of Environment said it continues to foster positive relationships with Indigenous communities to better understand the roles they can play in SMR development.

Willy said their organizations have already been consulted by the Saskatchewan government, which he commended.

“I just think it would make good business sense to work with three business entities who have the strong experience and the strong, positive history in the nuclear industry that our three groups have,” he said.

“So I think we would bring value to the province.”

Read more: Saskatchewan’s nuclear secretariat tasked to develop, deploy small modular reactors

The Ministry of Environment said it is opening to exploring partnerships as SMRs develop and that having Indigenous participation in the economy remains a key goal for the government.

Willy said SMRs have the potential to supply power to isolated regions of the country, not just Saskatchewan.

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“There is strong momentum in Canada towards novel nuclear reactor technologies that have the potential to supply power throughout the country, including remote or off-grid areas,” Willy said.

“As three Indigenous organizations who are highly experienced in servicing the nuclear industry, it made perfect sense for us to get together and jointly pursue exploring opportunities in this exciting and emerging industry.”

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