Alliance signs Canadian SMR contract

30 January 2023

The first commercial contract for a grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR) in North America sees Ontario Power Generation (OPG), GE Hitachi (GEH), SNC-Lavalin and Aecon team up in an innovative integrated project delivery model to develop, engineer and construct a BWRX-300 at OPG's Darlington New Nuclear Project.

L-R: Hartwick, Wileman, SNC-Lavalin SNC President, Nuclear Joe St Julian and Clochard at the livestreamed signing (Image: OPG on Twitter)

The six-year alliance will see each company playing a specific role in the project, which aims to complete construction of the unit by late 2028 and to begin supplying power to the grid in 2029. Each partner will have a specific role: OPG will be the licence holder, with overall responsibility for the project; GEH will be the technology developer; SNC-Lavalin will be the architect engineer; and Aecon will be the constructor.

OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick said the agreement put together by the four companies is "truly innovative" and will also guide future nuclear projects both in Canada and globally. OPG is already working in partnership with SNC-Lavalin and Aecon on the refurbishment of its existing Darlington nuclear power plant, and "a lot of learnings" from that have been factored in to the new project, he said.

OPG's responsibilities under the contract will include operator training, commissioning, Indigenous engagement, stakeholder outreach and oversight. "Working with these three companies, OPG is leveraging decades of nuclear energy and large project experience to deliver much-needed new, reliable electricity generation to Ontarians," he said, adding that the project will create jobs as well as helping to meet the province's growing.

The Darlington site is the only Canadian location currently licensed for new nuclear, with an accepted environmental assessment and a site preparation licence already in place. In October 2021, OPG selected GEH's BWRX-300 - a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of the ESBWR boiling water reactor - for the site. In November 2022, it submitted a construction licence application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and held a ceremony to mark the start of site preparation work the following month.

There is growing global interest in the BWRX-300, and a "lot of synergy", GEH president and CEO Jay Wileman said, with US and Canadian regulators cooperating on licensing of the technology and the Tennessee Valley Authority - which has started planning and preliminary licensing for potential deployment of the reactor at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee - collaborating with OPG to coordinate design, licensing, construction and operation efforts. The BWRX-300 has also been selected for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s. Beyond North America, ORLEN Synthos Green Energy has begun the pre-licensing process with Poland's National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the BWRX-300 and plans to deploy a fleet of BWRX-300s; and GEH has begun the licensing process for the reactor in the UK and has memorandums of understanding or other agreements in place with companies in several countries.

GEH will be responsible for design, procurement of major components, and engineering and support for the Darlington plant. "We aim to deliver the first SMR in North America and, in doing so, lead the start of a new era of nuclear power that will provide zero-emission energy generation, energy security and energy reliability around the globe," Wileman said.

SNC-Lavalin will provide engineering and building expertise, including project management, licensing, engineering, design, procurement, construction support and commissioning, as well as digital delivery capabilities in both the nuclear island and balance of plant scopes for the project. The company - which is the original equipment manufacturer of CANDU reactors - said it will leverage its expertise as a reactor developer and its experience with CNSC reactor licensing.

Aecon is to provide all construction services, including project management, construction planning and execution. The company is lead constructor for the Retube and Feeder Replacement project at the Darlington plant and the Steam Generator Replacement and Fuel Channel and Feeder Replacement projects at the Bruce nuclear power station, part of the for the ongoing Canadian nuclear refurbishment projects.

"This project provides an opportunity to utilise our unique multidisciplinary expertise across Aecon’s diverse operating sectors to perform new nuclear construction work safely and with an unwavering commitment to quality, schedule and cost performance," Thomas Clochard, Aecon Group's executive vice president, Nuclear and Civil, said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News