Saskatchewan to evaluate Westinghouse reactor technology

18 June 2024

Saskatchewan Power Corporation, Westinghouse Electric Company and Cameco Corporation will evaluate the potential deployment of Westinghouse nuclear reactor technology - and a Saskatchewan-based nuclear supply chain - for Saskatchewan’s future clean power needs.

How an AP300 plant could look (Image: Westinghouse)

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the three companies will see them explore technical and commercial pathways to deploy Westinghouse’s reactor technology, including the advanced AP1000 reactor and AP300 small modular reactor (SMR) for long-term electricity supply planning. It also includes the evaluation of a nuclear supply chain to support nuclear energy projects, including fuel, and identifies opportunities to collaborate on nuclear research, development and workforce training in partnership with Saskatchewan's post-secondary institutions.

Saskatchewan's government identified development of SMR technology as a goal for growth in its 2019 development roadmap, and in August 2023 the Canadian government approved up to CAD74 million (USD55 million) in federal funding for SMR development in the province, to be led by electric utility Saskatchewan Power Corporation (SaskPower). SaskPower expects to make a final investment decision in 2029, and intends to use Saskatchewan-produced uranium in any reactor constructed in the province.

In 2022, SaskPower announced it had selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300 SMR for potential deployment in the province in the mid-2030s after an evaluation of three SMR technologies: the BWRX-300, X-energy’s Xe-100 and Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR. At the time, SaskPower said its selection of the same technology already selected by Ontario Power Generation for deployment at its Darlington New Nuclear Project in Ontario would help enable a pan-Canadian, fleet-based approach to SMR deployment, as well as lowering risk for regulatory, construction and operating costs.

"Leveraging knowledge from organisations that have significant expertise in the nuclear industry is critical to ensure we make responsible, informed decisions around our power future," SaskPower President and CEO Rupen Pandya said on the announcement of the new MoU. Collaboration on nuclear fuel supply and evaluating various technologies "will only serve to enhance" the company's SMR development work and future planning, Pandya added.

Westinghouse reactor technology was not included in SaskPower's earlier evaluation exercise, which took place before the May 2023 launch of the AP300 SMR. The design is based on the licensed and operating AP1000 pressurised light water technology. Westinghouse is one of six SMR suppliers shortlisted in October 2023 to bid for support from the UK government, and the company has also signed an agreement with Community Nuclear Power Limited for the construction of four AP300 units in what would be the UK's first privately-financed SMR fleet.

"Our globally deployed advanced AP1000 reactor provides demonstrated superior economic performance and availability, and our AP300 small modular reactor is based on this proven and licensed technology," said Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse president and CEO. "We look forward to helping SaskPower bring carbon-free electricity to Saskatchewan for generations to come."

Tim Gitzel, president and CEO of Saskatoon-based Cameco, said decarbonising Saskatchewan's power grid is an "ambitious and important" future goal for the province. "Cameco has a proud history and a significant presence in Saskatchewan, from our world-class uranium operations to our large and growing provincial workforce to our long-standing partnerships with northern Indigenous communities," he said.

Cameco, one of world's largest providers of nuclear fuel, acquired Westinghouse in 2023 in a strategic partnership with Brookfield Asset Management and its affiliate Brookfield Renewable Partners and institutional partners.

SaskPower has identified two potential sites for an SMR plant to begin detailed site analysis ahead of a final site selection in 2025. Both sites are in the Estevan area in the south-east of the province.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News