Alberta to explore SMR development

10 August 2020

Alberta is to join three other Canadian provinces to support the development of small modular reactors, its premier Jason Kenney has announced. SMRs could provide energy for on and off-grid communities as well as steam to industry, including Alberta's oil sands, he said.

Kenney (on the right) and Savage announced by video Alberta's intention to join the MoU (Image: Government of Alberta/World Nuclear News)

Alberta is to join the MoU signed in December 2019 by New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan to work together to support the development and deployment of SMRs. Canada's federal Department of Natural Resources in November 2018 issued a roadmap for the development of SMRs in the country, and the federal government plans to launch a national SMR Action Plan later this year.

"Alberta is joining a memorandum of understanding with our fellow provincial partners to support the development and deployment of small modular reactors. This safe, emerging technology has the potential to provide needed power to remote communities, to lower emissions and further to diversify Alberta's energy sector," Kenney said. The agreement will help Alberta stay "at the forefront" of SMR technology development and ensure that the province has the appropriate regulatory framework in place, should private industry decide to pursue it in the future, he said.

Alberta Minster of Energy Sonya Savage said the province has "a lot of advantages" that could make it attractive for the deployment of SMRs including its history of "responsible and innovative" energy development; its innovation and research sector; a highly technical and skilled, educated workforce; and an established regulatory system. In addition, the uranium resource-rich Athabasca Basin straddles the northern Alberta-Saskatchewan border providing an "enormous and reliable" supply of fuel for SMRs, she said.

"Small modular reactors could provide reliable, non-emitting, low-cost energy supply for on-grid and off-grid communities around Alberta, including many in remote and rural areas of the province," Savage said, adding that she was "really excited" about the potential use of SMRs within Alberta's oil sands industry. "Oil sands facilities are often very far remote and are off-grid. They require a lot of heat and power to operate, and SMRs are versatile [and] scalable to meet those facilities' needs while also providing clean, non-emitting sources of affordable energy," she said.

"As we continue to take actions that support Alberta's economic recovery to get past the COVID crisis, Alberta's government promises to explore all opportunities that could diversify our economy and create jobs while also reducing our emissions by supplying clean, affordable energy to Alberta communities," Kenney said.

The introduction of SMRs in the future could also support Alberta's oil and gas industry by reducing their emissions, he said, adding, "We intend to stay ahead of the game and the development of this promising technology."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News