Provinces agree on nuclear energy plan for small reactors to reduce emissions

Click to play video: '4 provinces join forces to explore possibility of small nuclear reactors as clean energy source'
4 provinces join forces to explore possibility of small nuclear reactors as clean energy source
Premiers Doug Ford, Blaine Higgs, Scott Moe and Jason Kenney held a virtual press conference on Wednesday regarding Alberta joining Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in exploring the feasibility of small modular nuclear reactors as a clean energy option. The premiers shared remarks on the opportunities for jobs and clean energy this could potentially provide. – Apr 14, 2021

The governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta have put forward a nuclear plan they say will move them toward cleaner energy.

On Monday, the provinces’ energy ministers agreed to a proposal for small modular reactors. The first 300-megawatt plant is to be built in Darlington, Ont., east of Toronto, by 2028.

Two advanced reactors are to be developed in New Brunswick by 2030, and Saskatchewan could break ground on its own site by the mid-2030s.

Read more: Saskatchewan releases plan to advance small modular nuclear reactors

The provinces hope the reactors will eventually help phase out coal-produced electricity in Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick and provide a steady power supply to complement renewable energy sources like wind, solar and battery storage.

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The transition is part of the provinces’ goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read more: Could nuclear power help B.C. reach its climate change goals? SFU research makes the case

Mike Holland, New Brunswick’s minister of energy development, said there’s a need to reduce carbon emissions.

“Nuclear is going to play a key role, and we’ll need the generation of electricity through SMRs to achieve those goals.”

The plan aims to meet domestic energy needs, curb greenhouse gas emissions and make Canada a global leader in clean technologies. That includes positioning Canada as an exporter of SMR technology.

Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith said Canadian technology is already attracting private investment from Poland. Synthos Green Energy is teaming up with nuclear parts supplier BWXT Canada to build up to 10 reactors in Poland by the early 2030s.

“The war in Ukraine right now has certainly heightened countries’ need for energy autonomy,” said Smith who added it will open up export opportunities for the provinces and create jobs.

“We are leading the world in Canada with the SMR program. They’re watching us, and they want to see how this turns out, and potentially make investments in their own countries.”

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Read more: Ontario’s Darlington nuclear plant to receive first new reactor in decades

There is also private-sector interest within Alberta, where businesses make decisions on what energy to invest in, unlike other provinces that have Crown-owned generation.

“We know there’s a tremendous interest in the oilsands, because there’s no path to net-zero (by 2050) in Canada or Alberta or anywhere globally without nuclear. It is an important part of the energy mix,” said Sonya Savage, Alberta’s energy minister.

Click to play video: 'From lithium to hydrogen: How Alberta hopes to power the new energy future'
From lithium to hydrogen: How Alberta hopes to power the new energy future

Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have worked together to advance small modular reactors in Canada since 2019. Alberta joined last April.

Saskatchewan and Alberta do not currently use nuclear energy, but Ontario and New Brunswick do.

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Permanent storage for waste will be needed as provinces transition to nuclear energy.

Read more: BWXT Peterborough lands $50M contract for Darlington nuclear station refurbishment project

John Gorman, president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said nuclear waste, or spent fuel, will be stored in gigantic cement casks underground in Ontario.

“It’s important to note spent fuel has never hurt anyone, let alone killed anyone, in Canada or around the world,” Gorman said.

Click to play video: 'Why nuclear energy is integral for ensuring a sustainable future'
Why nuclear energy is integral for ensuring a sustainable future

Waste from the Prairies is likely to be transported to Ontario through trucks.

“Uranium is about one million times more energy dense than coal for example. For any of us, the amount of uranium it would take to power our entire lives: transportation, homes, everything _ it would fit in a coke bottle,” Gorman said.

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“It’s a very, very small amount of waste which makes storing it and managing it responsibly much easier.”

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