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Sask. Research Council takes step in developing micro nuclear reactor

Once developed, SRC will use the reactor to research its capabilities as an energy producer for remote communities and industrial sites.

The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has taken the first step in seeing the development of a micro nuclear reactor in the province.

Earlier this month, the SRC signed a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse Electric Canada to develop what’s called an eVinci micro-reactor.


“We saw this type of small, transportable, efficient nuclear battery as being something that could really be a differentiator in this space,” Mike Crabtree, president and CEO of SRC, said in an interview.


Once developed, SRC will use the reactor for research and test its capabilities as an energy producer for remote communities and industrial sites.


Should the results prove beneficial, Crabtree said these reactors could be used across the province.


“Part of SRCs mandate to be able to explore, evaluate, and if it makes sense, to be able to then deploy these in a commercial research test mode to then prove these out for larger commercial deployment within the province and beyond,” he said.


The eVinci micro-reactor is about half the size of a hockey rink, but can produce five megawatts of electricity or more than 13 megawatts of high temperature heat (or an equivalent of the two) on a daily basis. Five megawatts is estimated to power 1,500-2,500 homes.


Crabtree said they produce zero air emissions, which is in line with the province’s net-zero goals.


He said the reactors can also work in conjunction with other forms of renewable energy, including wind, solar and geothermal.


“Both of these processes will be going in parallel, up to the point of commissioning the reactor in Saskatchewan before the end of 2030,” Crabtree said.

Westinghouse, which is partnering with the SRC, has been developing nuclear technology for the past 60 years. It built the first commercial pressurized water reactor in Pennsylvania and has since seen 430 nuclear reactors around the world use its technology.


Before the project goes ahead, Crabtree said it must go through the federal regulatory process to ensure it’s safe and efficient.


Following that, it will then decide where it wants to build the reactor in Saskatchewan. Costs of the project will also be determined as the project moves forward.


Crabtree said stakeholders would include Westinghouse, the federal and provincial governments, as well as Indigenous communities.


“Indigenous groups and Indigenous companies, we believe, could, will and should play a core part of this, not only in terms of the engagement process, which is a given, but in terms of the ability to invest in the process and invest in the commercial success of these reactors going forward,” he said.


“I think one of the things we’re very conscious of is safety,” Crabtree continued, adding that these reactors don’t use water. “I think this makes this very, very robust and safe.”


Prior to this project, the SRC had operated the SLOWPOKE-2 nuclear reactor for 38 years before it was decommissioned. It was used for neutron activation analysis to determine uranium and other elemental concentrations.


Meanwhile, the province’s small modular nuclear reactor plan (SMR) is underway to see whether they could be used to power Saskatchewan’s electrical grid.

The eVinci micro-reactors are much smaller than typical SMRs, Crabtree noted, adding he anticipates the micro-reactors will likely be developed first.


The province plans to make a decision by 2030 on whether it will approve the use of SMRs. If that goes ahead, one could be operational by 2034.


Source: Saskatoon Star Phoenix