GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300 SMR selected for Saskatchewan

28 June 2022

Utility SaskPower has selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's (GEH) small modular reactor (SMR) for potential deployment in the province in the mid-2030s after an assessment process in which it looked at several SMR technologies.

GEH's vision of a BWRX-300 plante (Image: GEH)

SaskPower said it made its selection after an assessment that focused on factors including safety, technology readiness, generation size, fuel type and expected costs of electricity. The "independent and comprehensive" assessment process also included close collaboration with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and a review by independent engineering firm Calian.

"This is an important milestone as Saskatchewan works towards a cleaner, more sustainable future,” said Don Morgan, minister responsible for SaskPower, adding that conducting an independent and comprehensive evaluation while also collaborating with the other provinces on joint SMR strategy had been "extremely valuable" in reaching the milestone.

Although all of Canada's uranium production comes from Saskatchewan, the province does not currently use nuclear power. However, Saskatchewan's government identified development of SMR technology as a goal for growth in its 2019 development roadmap, and earlier this year, alongside the governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, it released a joint strategic plan setting out a path for developing and deploying SMRs.

OPG has already selected the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 for their Darlington New Nuclear Project in Ontario, where Canada's first commercial, grid-scale, SMR could be completed as early as 2028. SaskPower's selection of the same technology helps enable a pan-Canadian, fleet-based approach to SMR deployment, it said, which offers advantages including lower regulatory, construction and operating costs while also eliminating first-of-a-kind risk.

The Government of Ontario said it supported SaskPower's choice. "By selecting the same technology developer, Saskatchewan is following Ontario's lead to build their first SMR, and build on Canada's legacy of leading the world in clean nuclear power," it said. "Saskatchewan-produced uranium linked with Ontario nuclear knowledge and expertise will create exciting new opportunities for both provinces at home and abroad."

SaskPower said it will not make a decision on whether to build an SMR until 2029, but in the meantime will continue with project development, licensing and regulatory work, including identifying an appropriate site for Saskatchewan's first nuclear power facility. It is currently conducting a detailed technical evaluation of potential regions that could host an SMR, and is expected to identify suitable regions this year.

"The BWRX-300 is the ideal SMR technology solution for SaskPower and customers that want to make an impact on climate change and energy security in a meaningful timeframe," GEH President and CEO Jay Wileman said, adding that there is potential for "great synergy" between its planned work with SaskPower and ongoing work with OPG, which expects to submit a construction licence application later this year

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH's US Nuclear Regulatory Commission-certified ESBWR boiling water reactor design and its existing, licensed GNF2 fuel design, a unique combination that GEH says positions it to deliver an "innovative, carbon-free baseload power generation source" this decade. The design is attracting international interest, and GEH has memoranda of understanding or other agreements in place with companies in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Sweden and the USA.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News