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Federal funds announced for Saskatchewan SMR project

The Canadian government has approved CAD74 million (USD55 million) of federal funding for small modular reactor (SMR) development in Saskatchewan. The funding – including over CAD24 million from the proceeds of Canada’s pollution pricing system – will support work to advance the project led by utility SaskPower.

In 2022, SaskPower selected GE-Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s, subject to a decision to build that is expected in 2029. The new funding will support pre-engineering work and technical studies, environmental assessments, regulatory studies and community and Indigenous engagement to help advance the project, according to Canadian government department Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

Up to CAD50 million of the funding has been committed from NRCan’s CAD250 million Electricity Predevelopment Program, which supports pre-development activities of clean electricity projects of national significance. Over CAD24 million has been committed from the Canadian government’s Future Electricity Fund, which returns pollution pricing proceeds to support clean energy projects, energy-efficient technologies and other initiatives that will help Canada meet its climate goals and achieve a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

Announcing the funding in Saskatoon on 19 August, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said the government is investing in the future of nuclear technology, building on Canada’s decades of nuclear power experience and leveraging Saskatchewan’s “world-leading” uranium production to position the province to thrive. “Delivering clean, reliable and affordable electricity will look different in every region of Canada. That is why the Government of Canada is committing up to $74 million to explore the potential for small modular reactors in Saskatchewan to provide abundant non-emitting power, drive economic growth and create good jobs throughout Saskatchewan,” he said.

Advancing new non-emitting electricity infrastructure projects as it strives to shift to a non-emitting grid by 2035 – as outlined in its recently released Powering Canada Forward vision document – is described by NRCan as a “nation-building project”. As well as reducing greenhouse gases, moving to a clean grid will deliver health benefits, it added: a 2015 study found that air pollution from electricity generation contributed to about 150 premature deaths per year in Canada and “many non-fatal negative health outcomes” with a cost of around CAD1.2 billion per year.

SaskPower has identified the regions of Elbow, in south-central Saskatchewan, and Estevan, in the far south of the province, as potential areas to host an SMR. It has begun an engagement exercise to share information and gather input as it works to narrow down a site. According to its project timeline, it expects to finalise its site selection in 2025.

John Gorman, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said the funding is a “strong indication” from the government that Canada is “at the forefront of global innovation and implementation” of SMRs. “Saskatchewan’s SMR program will provide reliable, low-carbon baseload energy to meet increasing electricity needs, supply clean power to its resource extraction industry and fuel the province’s economic growth. This is exciting news for the residents of Saskatchewan, including its Indigenous communities, who have supported the province’s SMR development,” he said.

Source: World Nuclear News