By Alex Woodworth, NB Power
Photo above: Moltex Energy: Site rendering
This is an exciting time for energy innovation in New Brunswick.
Affirming that nuclear energy is an essential part of the climate change solution, the federal and provincial governments continue to make progress towards the development and deployment of advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMR) – the next generation of nuclear technology.
Why advanced SMR?
The interest in Advanced SMR came from its potential to generate low-carbon electricity safely, reliably, and inexpensively. It offers great flexibility for a number of uses within New Brunswick’s power grid.
Smaller in both size and output compared to conventional nuclear reactors, Advanced SMR will be manufactured in factories and transported to sites, both in Canada and for export. This equates to lower capital costs as well as ease of installation and operation. The advanced reactors are less complex and inherently safe.
Like conventional nuclear reactors, Advanced SMR will generate low-carbon, clean electricity. This offers the opportunity to replace current emitting-generation methods. These reactors will follow the demands placed on the electricity grid with exceptional flexibility due to their ability to ramp up in increments, to vary electrical output and integrate with renewables and storage.
In addition, Advanced SMR technology being designed in New Brunswick can also reduce the amount of existing used fuel from existing reactors and convert it to clean energy.
What’s happening in New Brunswick
New Brunswick is part of the pan-Canadian SMR Action Plan initiative, under the leadership of Natural Resources Canada. We can be part of harvesting benefits for our province — energy security, emission reductions, well-paid jobs, and business growth.
In 2018 The New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation, a provincial Crown corporation, committed $10 million towards the establishment of an Advanced SMR Research Cluster in New Brunswick. Two vendors, Moltex Energy and ARC Clean Energy Canada Inc. (ARC Canada) also each invested $5 million to progress research and development of their advanced technologies.
NB Power is working with both ARC Canada and Moltex to advance their technologies for use in New Brunswick and establish the province as the hub for supply chain and technical support as the technology is deployed in Canada and internationally.
Earlier this year, ARC Canada and Moltex received additional funding to progress their technology development. In February, the Government of New Brunswick announced $20 million in funding for ARC Canada towards the advancement of their design of the ARC-100, a 100-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor.
Further, in March, the Government of Canada announced $50.5 million in funding for Moltex through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) towards the advancement of their design of a 300-megawatt Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) and Waste to Stable Salt (WATSS) facility.
The Government of Canada also announced funding for NB Power to prepare the site at the Point Lepreau location for SMR deployment and demonstration, and to the University of New Brunswick to expand its capacity to support SMR technology development.
The Government of New Brunswick is also playing a role in helping to map the Canadian strategy. In December 2019, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work cooperatively towards the development and deployment of SMR in Canada. This April, under the MOU, an SMR Feasibility Study was released. The study, prepared by NB Power, Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power, and SaskPower, includes the business case for the development and deployment of SMRs in their respective jurisdictions. The power companies assess that SMRs have the potential to be an economically competitive source of energy in their respective provinces.
On the same day, Alberta also signed the MOU, strengthening the Pan-Canadian collaboration.
The next step will be the development of a strategic plan for the deployment of SMRs. This plan will identify steps required to achieve project commitments in a timely manner, while identifying economic impacts, key risks, mitigation measures, as well as the policy and regulatory analysis required to enable and govern expanded deployment of nuclear technology in Canada.
To learn more about the SMR opportunity, reach out to NB Power at https://smrnb.ca/contact/.