Canada’s roadmap for small modular reactors.

Canada’s government is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by the year 2050, and meeting this goal includes a call for sustainable energy sources. Nuclear energy is one such zero-emission energy technology, and small modular reactors (SMRs) are particularly fit for this purpose.

As per the Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors:

SMRs respond to these needs: they are smaller nuclear reactors that involve lower capital investment and modular designs to control costs; they can compete with other low-cost forms of electricity generation; they incorporate enhanced safety features; and they could enable new applications, such as hybrid nuclear-renewable energy systems, low-carbon heat and power for industry, and offset diesel use in remote communities and mine sites.

The Government of Canada spelled out its commitment to safe and efficient nuclear energy in its SMR Action Plan, and its 2023 federal budget. The latter includes investment tax credits to support a Canadian SMR supply chain; government funding to assist with financing over the return on investment (ROI), via money from the Strategic Innovation Fund and Canada Infrastructure Bank; and a commitment to reduce regulatory delays and get major projects done.

Canada has already had rapid developments in the SMR space. In July 2023, the Government of Ontario announced the “pre-development of a large-scale nuclear power plant to be developed by Bruce Power on the site of their existing Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (Bruce Power Station),” which is already the world’s largest nuclear generating station and capable of producing approximately 6,550 MW of electricity (the proposed project would increase its capacities by roughly 4,800 MW). The Ontario government has also announced a plan (in conjunction with Ontario Power Generation) to obtain licensing for three new SMR projects at the Darlington Nuclear site, bringing a total of four SMRs to Darlington and providing 1,200 MW that could power 1.2 million homes.

In Alberta, the Energy and Minerals Minister has a mandate to incentivize the uptake of SMR technology by oilsands producers (SMRs can be used to produce steam for oilsands extraction, without generating greenhouse gases), and the premier has called for a regulatory framework for SMR technology in that province. The Government of Alberta is also promoting investment in that province’s emerging nuclear industry via Invest Alberta, a provincial crown corporation.

In New Brunswick, the province is planning to augment its existing nuclear capacities with the construction and operation of an advanced SMR that will be capable of generating 100 MW and should be integrated in the province’s energy grid by 2030.

Although the Saskatchewan government has indicated that it won’t make a final decision about building an SMR until 2029, it has already begun planning for an SMR’s construction within that province by identifying areas of interest and collecting data, and hopes to have evaluations completed by 2024.

In summary, as per McCarthy Tetrault:

The achievements of nuclear energy initiatives in Ontario and New Brunswick should serve as encouragement for other provinces to pursue significant investments and further development of similar technologies. The current trends as evidenced by the interprovincial Collaboration Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into by the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick, the planning of new SMR projects, increased investment, and the federal incentive tax credits demonstrate a willingness and even a desire to build out these technologies further. 

Companies offering goods and services for SMRs may find opportunities in the Canadian market.

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