Saskatchewan includes SMRs in growth plan

15 November 2019

Saskatchewan has identified the reduction of carbon emissions from electricity generation and development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology amongst its goals for growth. The province could have its first operational SMR by the middle of the 2030s, according to a newly released provincial roadmap.

Scott Moe launches the plan (Image: Sask Mining Assoc)

Growth Plan: the Next Decade of Growth 2020-2030, released yesterday by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, sets out 30 goals for 2030, including key targets of a population of 1.4 million people, 100,000 new jobs, and increasing exports by 50%.

"Our province has seen unprecedented growth since 2007 and this plan sets the stage for a strong, innovative economy that will drive that growth over the next decade," Moe said. "Our government has always maintained that growth itself is not the goal; rather, growth will afford the ability to invest in a better quality of life for Saskatchewan families and communities."

While all Canada's current uranium production comes from Saskatchewan - its 2018 uranium production was the second-largest in the world for a single country according to World Nuclear Association - it does not currently use nuclear power. According to the Canada Energy Regulator, about 84% of the province's electricity is produced from fossil fuels, with the remainder from renewables, primarily hydroelectricity. Most of the province's electricity is generated by SaskPower.

The development of lower carbon emission electricity generation will be part of SaskPower's plan moving forward, the Growth Plan says: "SaskPower's current plan is to reduce carbon emissions by over 40% from 2005 levels by 2030." This will involve increasing the amount of renewable electricity in Saskatchewan's generation mix "up to as much as 50%" by 2030, but even with then "50% or more of Saskatchewan's electrical power generation would continue to come from fossil fuels, it notes.

"Incorporating nuclear power through small modular reactors (SMRs) into Saskatchewan's energy mix could provide SaskPower with the ability to generate up to 80% of the province's electricity through zero-emission sources, when combined with renewable power sources," it says.

SMRs are smaller and better suited to meeting Saskatchewan's power needs compared to larger older reactors, and could replace aging baseload power generation in the province and provide a new GHG emission-free source of power fuelled by Saskatchewan uranium, it adds.

The first SMR could be operational in the province by the early- to mid-2030s, it says: "To ensure SMRs are an option for Saskatchewan's power future, the Government of Saskatchewan will partner with New Brunswick and Ontario to continue research and evaluation of SMRs as a new source of electricity production in Canada."

Ontario is home to 18 of Canada's 19 operating nuclear reactors, and its nuclear capacity was key to the province's complete phase-out of coal-fired generation by the end of 2014. New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation, a joint venture established by the New Brunswick government and NB Power, operator of the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant, last year committed CAD10 million towards the establishment of an advanced SMR research cluster in the province.

Uranium growth

The plan also sets a goal to increase the annual value of Saskatchewan's uranium sales to CAD2 billion by 2030. To support this, the provincial government will work with the federal government to remove barriers to global market access and foreign investment restrictions on uranium. It also plans to support growth and sustainability of the province's economy through innovation in mining, and highlights in-situ mining for uranium and the introduction of sensor-based sorting as key technology areas.

Strategic metals also present a new opportunity for Saskatchewan's mining sector. "Saskatchewan has world-class resources of both lithium and rare earth elements which are extracted as part of oil and uranium production," the plan notes. The provincial government will accelerate the development of cost-effective extraction technologies, it says.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News