Saskatchewan SMR to be located in Estevan

03 June 2024

SaskPower has identified two potential sites for Saskatchewan's first small modular reactor (SMR) to begin detailed site analysis ahead of a final site selection in 2025. Both sites are in the Estevan area in the south-east of the province.

The Boundary Dam site (Image: SaskPower)

Two "high-potential sites" - one at Boundary Dam Reservoir and one on the Rafferty Reservoir - were identified for further study following analysis of the Elbow and Estevan study areas, coupled with public feedback and Indigenous engagement which SaskPower said will continue throughout the project. Detailed site assessment of each potential site will now begin, including the collection of ground water and geotechnical data and the conducting of detailed land and water analyses to collect data to help identify a final site while protecting the natural environment by minimising impacts to sensitive lands and habitats, the utility said. It aims to select a final host site in early 2025, with a final investment decision expected in 2029.

The Elbow study area remains an attractive option for the development of nuclear power. SaskPower will continue to seek land options in the region and work with Rightsholders, Indigenous and municipal leaders and community members. The utility continues to explore this area for potential future nuclear development.
 
"In addition to the technical suitability of the sites, the Estevan region offers many benefits, including proximity to the City of Estevan to access existing services, a skilled workforce, accommodations and emergency services, as well as infrastructure, roads and transmission," SaskPower President and CEO Rupen Pandya said. "Selecting a site for the first SMR facility will allow us to proceed with the many regulatory processes which are site-specific and critical to the project moving forward."
 
Canada was the world's largest producer of uranium until 2020 - and is still the second largest producer after Kazakshtan. Although it is responsible for all of Canada's current uranium production, Saskatchewan does not currently use nuclear power. However, SMR technology has been included in its growth plans since the publication of a provincial roadmap in 2019, and utility SaskPower is in year four of an eight-year planning phase for the development of nuclear power from SMRs and envisages building its first 315 MWe reactor by 2034, with another to potentially follow shortly after at the same facility. It has selected the GE Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR for potential deployment.
 
Ahead of SaskPower's announcement, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters that reasons for the choice of Estevan rather than Elbow included the region's existing transmission capacity and workforce continuity. Estevan is home to two of SaskPower's three coal-fired power plants, totalling over 800 MWe of capacity, but a federal ruling means all conventional coal units are to be phased out by 2030, by when they must either retire or convert to carbon capture and storage. Only one of SaskPower's coal-fired units - 120 MWe unit at the three-unit Boundary Dam Power station - has been equipped with such technology.
 
"I think this is fantastic news for Estevan, it will help give us some more certainty on what our future might look like here," said Lori Carr, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Estevan. "Being able to have that certainty that we're going to have power protection for years to come is just nothing but absolutely great news," she said.
 
"Having continuity in the workforce is paramount. Being able to, I guess, have them look at a future, and be able to transition and train as they’re still working in existing facilities, is going to be really important to ensure success in the future. And we have all those trained people here already. We just need to retool them a little bit."

Moe and Carr's words were reported by Saskatchewan energy news service Pipeline Online.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News