Canadian government invests in SMR project

18 March 2021

The Canadian government has announced investments totalling just over CAD56 million (USD45 million) to support the development of small modular reactor (SMR) research and technology in New Brunswick. The package includes an investment of CAD50.5 million in Moltex Energy Ltd to develop its 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor-Wasteburner (SSR-W). Meanwhile, a new report has underlined the potential economic benefits from SMRs for Canadian provinces.

Left to right: Mayor of Saint John, New Brunswick Don Darling, Blaine Higgs, Rory O'Sullivan, Member of Parliament Wayne Long, and University of New Brunswick. president and vice-chancellor Paul Mazerolle at today's announcement (Image: Moltex)

Moltex Energy intends to build a 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor-Wasteburner (SSR-W) and WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) facility at the Point Lepreau site in Saint John, New Brunswick, aiming for grid connection by the early 2030s.

Dominic LeBlanc, president of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, announced the investment on behalf of Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne and Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Mélanie Joly. SMRs could represent the "next great opportunity" towards Canada's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, he said, and at the same time providing economic opportunities and jobs.

"This investment will help develop and validate SMR technology, secure the establishment of the industry here in New Brunswick, and also establish a first-of-a-kind, world-class clean energy system that can be used in Canada but also around the world," he said. Moltex's reactor - which will recycle existing used nuclear fuel to produce clean energy - will also have the potential to reduce waste storage needs, he added.

Moltex CEO for North America Rory O'Sullivan said the company was "extremely grateful" to the federal government for its support. "We are significantly closer to our goal of new clean energy generation, and the many economic and environmental benefits that come with it," he said.

The major portion of the funding to Moltex - CAD47.5 million - is through the Canadian government's Strategic Innovation Fund. The company is to match these funds dollar-for-dollar and, as part of the investment, has committed to creating and maintaining 48 full-time jobs. CAD3 million is provided through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation programme. The full amount will be used to progress the SSR-W and WATSS designs and validate key assumptions to support the second phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review, the company said.

LeBlanc also announced two investments through the ACOA: CAD4.999 million to help NB Power prepare the Point Lepreau site for SMR deployment and demonstration; and CAD0.6 million to expand the capacity of the University of New Brunswick's Centre for Nuclear Energy Research to support SMR technology development in the province.

Advanced Reactor Concepts' ARC-100 sodium-cooled fast reactor has also been selected for implementation at Point Lepreau and the companies last year agreed to set up an SMR vendor cluster in New Brunswick.

"The best way to ensure that Canada, specifically New Brunswick, becomes a leader in advanced small modular reactor development is through continued engagement and partnerships," New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said. "Two years ago, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ontario and Saskatchewan, committing to collaborate on the development of SMRs, right here in Canada. By investing in SMRs, not only are we supporting the development of local expertise but we are also helping to create a critical mass to attract the best talent, which will enable other companies in our province to grow. I am confident this technology could help us create a more prosperous and sustainable tomorrow for future generations."

Economic benefits

The Canadian government's announcement came the day after the publication of a study that found that building SMRs in Ontario and Saskatchewan would create jobs, increase provincial revenues and help ensure the necessary supply of zero-emissions, non-intermittent and cost-competitive energy. The Conference Board of Canada study, A New Power: Economic Impacts of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in Electricity Grids, looked at the impacts of deployment of SMRs from 2021 onwards.

According to the study, a 300 MWe grid-scale SMR built in Ontario and operated for 60 years would create direct and related employment including nearly 700 jobs during project development, over 1600 jobs during manufacturing and construction, over 200 jobs during operations, and about 160 jobs during decommissioning. It would add over CAD2.5 billion to gross domestic product and result in an increase of provincial revenues of over CAD870 million.

Ontario Power Generation CEO Ken Hartwick said the study "reinforces what we at OPG already knew: that nuclear power is integral to our low-carbon future and SMRs are the flexible, scalable answer to some of the most complex energy questions." The company in November 2020 announced the resumption of planning activities for building new generation capacity at its Darlington site where it could site an SMR as early as 2028.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News