The Canadian government has approved up to $74 million in federal funding for small modular reactor (SMR) development in Saskatchewan, to be led by SaskPower.

This funding will support pre-engineering work and technical and regulatory studies, environmental assessments and community and Indigenous engagement.

SaskPower has selected the GE Hitachi BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s. The provincial power utility anticipates construction of its first SMR to begin as early as 2030, with a targeted in-service date of 2034. Additional facilities could begin construction as early as 2034.

Canada has been financially supportive of deploying new nuclear as it works to significantly increase carbon-free power.

The government of Ontario and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) are planning to build a total of four SMRs at the Darlington nuclear site in the province, with the GE Hitachi BWRX-300 as the chosen technology. OPG is partnering with GEH, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon on the first reactor, with construction expected complete by 2028.

The four units once deployed would produce a total 1,200 MW of electricity.

Canada is targeting a net-zero electric grid by 2035.

In 2020, SaskPower and Ontario Power Generation commissioned the Conference Board of Canada to study the potential economic opportunity and job creation related to the development of small modular reactors in both provinces.

Up to $50 million of the $74 million allocated to SaskPower comes from NRCan’s Electricity Predevelopment Program — a $250-million program to support pre-development activities of clean electricity projects of national significance.

The remaining more than $24 million has been committed to the Government of Saskatchewan from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Future Electricity Fund. This program returns pollution pricing proceeds to support clean energy projects, energy-efficient technologies and other initiatives aimed at helping Canada achieve a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.

As part of the utility’s planning and regulatory work, SaskPower previously identified two areas to potentially site SMRs The Estevan study area includes the areas around Boundary/Rafferty Dam and around the Grant Devine Dam. The Elbow study area includes an area around Lake Diefenbaker, from Gardiner Dam to the Diefenbaker Dam.

The Estevan site is close to the Boundary Dam power station, which is Saskatchewan’s largest coal-fired power plant. The Gardiner Dam site plays host to around 186 MW of hydropower generating capacity.

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