Initiatives support Indigenous inclusion in Canadian SMR sector

20 December 2021

The Government of Canada has announced support for Indigenous communities in exploring the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs) to provide emissions-free energy for a wide range of applications, including electricity generation in remote communities. Meanwhile, X-energy Canada is to collaborate with First Nations representatives to build Indigenous capacity in the future advanced SMR industry.

(Image: X-energy)

"Indigenous leadership will be extremely important in building Canada's low-carbon energy future. This new Indigenous Advisory Council will be playing a key role in helping Indigenous communities assess which energy generation options are right for them," Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said as he announced an investment of CAD800,000 (USD626,000) in the First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) to create a national Indigenous Advisory Council as part of the country's SMR Action Plan.

The advisory council is composed of individual First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit members from Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and the territories to ensure a coordinated, Indigenous national leadership voice on the development of SMRs, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) said. It has already held its first meeting.

"Much work over several years has gone into this initiative, and it's great that we are finally ready to kick it off," Guy Lonechild, president and CEO of the FNPA, said. "This council will help prepare Indigenous peoples to participate in the SMR economy in many ways and provide an Indigenous lens to SMR policies, programmes and decisions as the SMR Action Plan develops."

The initiative is funded through NRCan's Smart Renewables and Electrification Pathways Program, which encourages Indigenous inclusion in Canada's energy transition.

The SMR Action Plan was launched in 2020 and seeks to advance the safe and responsible development and deployment of SMRs through a pan-Canadian approach in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous Peoples, organised labour, utilities, industry, innovators, academia and civil society. Its 117 signatories have agreed to strengthen diversity and representation in the nuclear industry and explore meaningful, long-term economic partnership opportunities with Indigenous communities.

MoU to leverage Xe-100 for inclusion

Separately, SMR developer X-energy Canada has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore opportunities to build Indigenous capacity for the future advanced SMR industry. The MoU leverages the Xe-100 SMR to increase Indigenous access and inclusion in the wider Canadian nuclear industry, with potential collaborative activities including the development of skills training, employment and commercial opportunities that could spur multi-generational Indigenous economic wealth.

The Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor is currently undergoing vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and is also one of the subjects of the Canadian and US nuclear regulators' collaborative project on the licensing of SMRs.

"I cannot overstate the importance we place on including Indigenous Peoples and businesses in our efforts here, in Canada," said X-energy Canada President Katherine Moshonas Cole. "Our Xe-100 SMR generates more than just clean electricity - it generates significant economic opportunities for Canadians. Combined with our proposed fuel fabrication facility, our technology will also be [a] catalyst for numerous ancillary economic benefits."

X-energy Canada and FNPA will also explore ways to increase Indigenous cultural awareness within the wider Canadian nuclear industry, in keeping with Call to Action 92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

FNPA is a not-for-profit organisation that was established in 2011 to create a landscape favourable to Indigenous inclusion in Canada's power sector.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News