SaskPower chooses areas around Estevan and Elbow as possible nuclear reactor sites

Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta governments have agreed to a joint strategic plan outlining a path towards the use of small modular reactors (SMRs). AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File

As SaskPower continues the process to possibly bring nuclear energy to the Prairies, they have now chosen two potential sites that could house such a facility.

Even though the final decision wont come until 2029, SaskPower announced Tuesday they have selected two study areas, one in Estevan and one in Elbow to possibly house up to two small modular nuclear reactors known as SMRs.

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Both sites meet SMR facility criteria because of their proximity to a suitable water supply, availability of infrastructure like roads and emergency services and their existing power infrastructure and workforce.

“Nuclear power from SMRs could be a good fit in our generation mix as it provides emissions free reliable power available 24 hours a day seven days a week regardless of weather conditions,” said Doug Opseth, SaskPower resource planning director.

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Opseth highlighted the Crown corporation’s need to make swift and comprehensive changes in how it does business to account for the clean energy transition being felt around the world.

Earlier this year SaskPower settled on what is known as small modular reactors as the nuclear technology of choice for the province.

Their next step was to determine study areas that are well suited to support the construction and operation of SMRs.

“Following a comprehensive analysis of the entire province the Estevan and elbow areas have been identified as areas for further study to potentially site Saskatchewan’s first small modular reactor,” said Don Morgan, the minister responsible for SaskPower.

Map shows potential SMR sites around Estevan. SaskPower

In the Estevan region, it includes a 40-kilometre area around the Boundry Dam and Rafferty Resevoir and a 40-kilometre radius around Grant Devine Lake.

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Map shows potential SMR sites around Elbow. SaskPower

In Elbow the study area includes land around Lake Diefenbaker ranging from the Gardiner Dam to the southeast point of the lake.

“SaskPower has evaluated nuclear power for a long time. Through all of these studies Lake Diefenbaker has always has been at the top of the list as one of the most technically suitable locations to host a nuclear facility,” added SaskPower CEO Rupen Pandya.

Questions around nuclear waste came up during Tuesday’s press conference.

SaskPower says their plant would store its waste on site, citing a similar example from the Darlington nuclear plant on Lake Ontario.

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“At that site they have all of the spent fuel for the last 30 years. Every piece of fuel that has gone into that facility is being stored safely and securely on site,” said minister Morgan.

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However, the possible construction of a deep earth repository in Ontario could eventually house some of the spent fuel from a Saskatchewan nuclear plant.

A final site recommendation is to come at the end of 2024. In the meantime SaskPower says it will engage extensively with Indigenous rightsholders, municipalities, businesses and residents across the province.

With a price tag in the three- to five-billion dollar range, SaskPower says bringing nuclear energy to the province is far from a done deal and that ultimate decision won’t come until 2029.

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