The Canadian government has pledged more financing toward development of a grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR), as the country continues to support nuclear power as a way to cut emissions of greenhouse gases from its power generation sector.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Oct. 25 said C$970 million ($708 million) is targeted for a project being developed by Ontario Power Generation (OPG). A spokesperson for the ministry said it would be the first commercial grid-scale SMR developed by the Group of Seven (G7) nations, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the U.S.
The plan includes construction of a 300-MW SMR that will be adjacent to the existing 3,500-MW Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario. OPG expects the SMR project will be completed by 2030. The reactors are designed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, an alliance between General Electric and Japan’s Hitachi Ltd.
OPG in December 2021 announced the project will feature a GE Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR.
The financing announced Tuesday will come as low-interest debt from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), which has earmarked funds for investments in clean power generation. Officials said the investment would go toward project design and site preparation work prior to construction of the SMR. OPG on Tuesday said site prep will begin by year-end.
“We are doing this because nuclear energy, as a non-emitting source of energy, is critical to the achievement of Canada’s and the world’s climate goals,” Wilkinson said during a meeting at the Darlington Energy Complex in Clarington, Ontario. “Nuclear power is one source that can help in reaching our climate targets while addressing growing future demand.”
Canada and the other G7 nations have established goals for net-zero emissions by mid-century. Canada has an interim goal to reduce emissions by as much as 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. The country has targeted SMRs as a faster way to reach climate targets, as the technology is faster to build than larger-scale nuclear reactors. Government data shows Canada receives about 15% of its electricity from nuclear power.
“Today’s announcement represents a significant step towards the development of a non-emitting electricity grid and a prosperous net-zero future,” said Wilkinson. “The deployment of one of Canada’s first small modular reactors at Darlington Station will further enhance Canada’s leadership in nuclear technology, create sustainable jobs and reduce emissions.”
Net-Zero Emissions Goal
OPG is responsible for about half of Ontario’s electricity production. The utility said the SMR project is one component to help reach its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
The CIB said the Darlington SMR will be used as a proving ground to spearhead similar projects in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick. The Canadian government earlier this year said it would work with the country’s provinces and territories to establish a “a Pan-Canadian Grid Council” to promote clean electricity infrastructure investments. The strategy includes support for development of emerging technologies such as SMRs, along with geothermal and tidal energy projects.
“As our largest clean power investment, we are supporting technology which can accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gases while also paving the way for Canada becoming a global SMR technology hub,” said Ehren Cory, CEO of the CIB.
SaskPower earlier this year said it had chosen GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH’s) BWRX-300 SMR technology for Saskatchewan’s first two nuclear units. SaskPower has said it wants to deploy the reactor by the mid-2030s.
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).