SMR siting work progresses in Canada and Czech Republic

05 December 2022

Site preparation is now under way for Canada's first grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR) at Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington site. Meanwhile, an initial geological survey has been completed for a proposed SMR at the Temelín nuclear power plant site in the Czech Republic.

The ceremony to mark the start of site preparations for the SMR at Darlington (Image: Doug Ford - Twitter)

A ceremony - attended by OPG and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) representatives, as well as Ontario government officials - was held on 2 December to mark the start of site preparation work.

"We are going to start putting in all the infrastructure - the roads, the utilities - to get ourselves set to build the first SMR in Canada," said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick. "And we're excited. It's starting to look like a construction site."

He added: "This project leverages OPG's decades of experience in providing reliable, safe and affordable electricity as well as Ontario's strong nuclear supply chain to develop the next generation of nuclear power. The electricity produced by the SMR at Darlington will help ensure we meet Ontario's growing energy needs, as electrification drives demand."

In March this year, Niagara-based ES Fox was awarded the contract to deliver early site preparation work, including water supply, electrical power, information technology and road services. This work, valued at CAD32 million (USD24 million), will support more than 100 new jobs in the Durham region.

Site preparation work - which consists of non-nuclear infrastructure activities, such as clearing and grading parts of the site to build roads, utilities and support buildings, and for which the site is already licensed - is planned to continue into 2025.

On 31 October, OPG submitted an application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a Licence to Construct the SMR at the Darlington site. This licence is required before any nuclear construction work on the SMR can begin.

OPG expects to make a construction decision by the end of 2024 and has set a preliminary target date of 2028 for plant operations.

In December 2021, GEH was named as OPG's technology development partner to deploy a BWRX-300 SMR at the Darlington new nuclear site.

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 ESBWR boiling water reactor. It is currently undergoing a CNSC pre-licensing Vendor Design Review.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank recently committed CAD970 million towards the Darlington New Nuclear Project in the bank's largest investment in clean power to date, providing financial certainty and signalling federal support for the project.

"With global businesses looking to expand in jurisdictions with clean and cost-effective electricity, small modular reactors will help compete for and attract more game-changing investments in Ontario's economy," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. "Our government is getting it done and building the future of nuclear energy right here in Ontario to support the needs of our growing province."

Rock surveys at Temelín

Experts are examining the subsoil in detail at the Czech Republic's Temelín plant to determine the type and integrity of rocks by measuring electrical resistances and monitoring the speed of propagation of seismic waves from a special vibration source. They are verifying the first results through 30-metre-deep boreholes.

Testing of a borehiole near the Temelín plant (Image: ČEZ)

"We want to present absolutely specific conditions to those interested in construction," said Tomáš Pleskač, a member of the ČEZ board of directors and director of the new energy division. "We are sure that this is the most suitable location, but before any construction of this importance, it is necessary to know exactly the geological conditions and other factors that can affect the project."

An area of the Temelín nuclear power plant is to be developed as the South Bohemian Nuclear Park, referencing the name of the self-governing region. The agreement towards its founding was signed in May this year.

ČEZ - which will be the final investor - said it has already signed Memoranda on Cooperation in the field of SMRs with NuScale, GE Hitachi, Rolls-Royce, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and Holtec, and has also held discussions with Westinghouse.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News