New feasibility study details made-in-Canada path forward on SMRs

On Wednesday, a new study was released with details on Canada’s path to deploying small modular reactors (SMRs) across the country.

The study—a collaboration between nuclear operators in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan—outlines in detail three streams of SMR deployment in Canada:

Stream 1 proposes the first grid-scale SMR project to come online at the Darlington nuclear site by 2028. SaskPower would subsequently deploy four of the same units in Saskatchewan, with the first coming online in 2032. Selection of a technology and developer for this stream is well underway and expected to be complete by the end of this year.

Stream 2 is in New Brunswick, where NB Power has been supporting the development of two fourth-generation designs located in the province. Demonstrations of both these designs will be built at the Point Lepreau site in the early 2030s.

Stream 3 is the development of micro-SMRs for remote applications. A demonstration reactor is expected to be in service at the Chalk River site in Ontario by 2026, and Bruce Power and the NII are actively studying options for deploying the Westinghouse micro-SMR design.

The report goes on to share detailed studies of the potential impact and remaining challenges for SMRs in each of the three provinces, looking in turn at Ontario (pg. 44), New Brunswick (pg. 51), and Saskatchewan (pg. 54). It examines topics like expected market demand, the relative cost of SMRs compared to other energy sources, and the policies and regulations needed from government.

The most important takeaway from this report? The collaboration it signifies in the Canadian nuclear community.

SMR development to date has been somewhat scattershot, with many different designs and use cases competing for attention. This study is a clear signal that Canada’s biggest nuclear operators are beginning to develop a more concrete plan forward.

What happens next?

The study will be used to inform development of a strategic plan to advance each of the three streams. The plan is expected to be complete in the coming months.

The project has also been expanded through the support of a fourth provincial partner, as Alberta signed on to the agreement underlying this inter-provincial project.

--David Campbell is the Director of the Bruce Power Centre for Next Generation Nuclear.