Planning for Nuclear Power

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We need all options on the table to help us reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions in how we generate power, as soon as possible. Nuclear power from Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) is one of those options.

Watch the video below to learn more about SMRs in Saskatchewan.

While a decision on whether to build a small modular reactor (SMR) in Saskatchewan won’t be made until 2029, planning needs to happen now. The lengthy planning process requires us to select a specific nuclear technology and potential site.

We've selected GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR design and shortlisted two study areas for evaluation. They include:

  1. Elbow Study Area
  2. Estevan Study Area

Right now, we're in the site selection phase of the project. We have a long list of criteria - some of the key ones are illustrated below.

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Over the next year, our goal is to narrow down options for a potential site based on information we collect through studies and engagement activities with communities, stakeholders and Rightsholders in the study areas.

That’s where you come in. We’ll be sharing information and seeking to learn more about each area. We’re interested in hearing about your values and your environmental, social and economic priorities. Your feedback will help identify reasons that a location is a good fit or a poor fit. It could also identify things that would need to be considered and planned around if a facility were to be built in one of the study areas.

We'll compile the feedback we hear through engagement and use it to inform the site selection process. We also want to know what you’re wondering about and how you’d like to get updates, to help shape our communications and information-sharing.

We need all options on the table to help us reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions in how we generate power, as soon as possible. Nuclear power from Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) is one of those options.

Watch the video below to learn more about SMRs in Saskatchewan.

While a decision on whether to build a small modular reactor (SMR) in Saskatchewan won’t be made until 2029, planning needs to happen now. The lengthy planning process requires us to select a specific nuclear technology and potential site.

We've selected GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR design and shortlisted two study areas for evaluation. They include:

  1. Elbow Study Area
  2. Estevan Study Area

Right now, we're in the site selection phase of the project. We have a long list of criteria - some of the key ones are illustrated below.

""

Over the next year, our goal is to narrow down options for a potential site based on information we collect through studies and engagement activities with communities, stakeholders and Rightsholders in the study areas.

That’s where you come in. We’ll be sharing information and seeking to learn more about each area. We’re interested in hearing about your values and your environmental, social and economic priorities. Your feedback will help identify reasons that a location is a good fit or a poor fit. It could also identify things that would need to be considered and planned around if a facility were to be built in one of the study areas.

We'll compile the feedback we hear through engagement and use it to inform the site selection process. We also want to know what you’re wondering about and how you’d like to get updates, to help shape our communications and information-sharing.

What questions do you have for us about the project?

Nuclear power from small modular reactors is a new concept for most Saskatchewan residents. You probably have a lot of questions – share them here. 

Questions may be posted publicly. Please ensure your questions are clear, concise and relevant. You can ask multiple questions, but please submit one question at a time so we can provide clear and direct answers. We’ll do our best to respond within 2 to 4 business days. Please be respectful and follow the moderation policy. Submissions that do not meet these requests may not be answered or posted.

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    Where are the proposed sites for disposal of the nuclear waste generated by SMRs? What stage is the developement of a permanent storage site at? What studies have been done regarding the safety and long-term viability of permanent storage sites? Has Sask Power made the studies for long-term storage public?

    Doug B asked 3 months ago

    Most nuclear facilities in Canada safely store their high-level nuclear waste (spent fuel) on site, in accordance with federal regulations and overseen by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Part of the planning phase for SaskPower’s potential SMR project will include the development of waste management strategies for the lifecycle of the facility, including decommissioning.

    The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has been mandated by the Government of Canada to design and implement a plan for the safe, long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel in a manner that will protect people and the environment for generations to come. Canada’s plan will contain and isolate all the country’s used nuclear fuel – including that created by new and emerging technologies like SMRs – in a deep geological repository, using a multiple-barrier system. It is consistent with best practices adopted by other countries with nuclear power programs, such as Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and emerged through a three-year dialogue with the public.

    Once the NWMO’s deep geological repository is permitted to contain fuel from SMRs, SaskPower will transfer all high-level waste to that facility for permanent storage.

    To learn more about Canada’s plan, visit Nuclear energy in Canada (nwmo.ca).

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    Where are these small modular reactors in use now and how safe are they?

    Rosaleen Quinn asked 3 months ago

    While there are no Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in commercial operation in Canada, there are a number either in the licencing or construction phase here and in other parts of the world (strictly speaking to power generation). 

    Small scale nuclear reactors, as a technology, have been in safe operation for years, with over 160 ships in the United States navy currently powered by more than 200 small nuclear reactors.

    SaskPower has concluded that deployment of the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor design in Saskatchewan presents a lower overall deployment risk with the strong likelihood of a materially lower cost of power than the other technologies that were evaluated. This is the same technology that was selected by Ontario Power Generation and several other US and European companies as well. Since Saskatchewan is a green field jurisdiction for nuclear power, we are aiming to be a close follower to other jurisdictions that are developing projects for SMRs.

    The BWRX-300 is an enhanced and scaled down version of GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR technology, which has been in existence since 1955. This water-cooled reactor design utilizes enhanced passive safety systems that leverage the existing design and operating experience over the past several decades.

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    I hear that nuclear power is very expensive compared to the options of hydro, solar, wind , battery back up and the judicious use of gas peaker plants. Is Sask power going to entertain the greater use of rooftop solar to add to the mix. SMR would bring a limited number of jobs to Sask as well. Can we try other alternatives first?

    Larry asked 3 months ago

    SaskPower is committed to achieving a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions power system by 2050 or sooner. To reach this goal, SaskPower is planning to significantly increase solar and wind generation in the coming years (up to 3,000 megawatts of new wind and solar by 2035).  

    Currently, natural gas generation is the main source of baseload power that backs up these intermittent options. Utility-scale energy storage options, such as batteries, are something we are pursuing to be part of our power mix in the coming years. 

    As a result of climate change, we must invest in and leverage many new tools and technologies in order to significantly reduce emissions, while keeping our grid reliable, sustainable, and cost effective.  This means we need to find the right balance of energy options as we make the transition.

    Nuclear power would provide reliable, zero-emissions baseload electricity, create jobs and support the growth of our provincial economy. Learn more by visiting the Conference Board of Canada’s report: A New Power: Economic Impacts of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in Electricity Grids (conferenceboard.ca).


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    How many cubic meters of water per day of water are required for the reactor and has SaskPower considered reuse of further treated wastewater as a potential source? If so what quality of water is required to make this successful?

    Russ asked 3 months ago

    A key component of our planning work is to determine how much water would be used in the cooling process of the BWRX-300. There are several processes that could be utilized but a final decision has not been made yet.  

    Some existing nuclear power plants and some of SaskPower’s existing coal-fired power plants use treated wastewater for cooling purposes. This is being considered within the cooling technology review that is part of the planning stage for Small Modular Reactors in Saskatchewan.

    There are many options related to the various cooling processes, with some resulting in more consumption and some less. Understanding these options is a key part of the planning work and ultimately, the goal is to have the smallest impact to the community and the surrounding ecosystem while maintaining a cooling process that is efficient and reliable.

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    With the proposed changes to SaskPower’s electricity generation, what is SaskPower’s end goal?

    Ron asked 3 months ago

    We’re committed to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 or earlier while providing reliable, sustainable, and cost-effective power for the communities we serve. Right now, we’re seeking input from the public on their values, priorities and preferred power supply options as we update our long-term supply plan. Once this update is complete, the long-term plan will provide direction for annual planning. The annual plan recommends specific supply decisions and ensures short-term plans support long-term goals.

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    Has a location been selected for the nuclear reactors in either Estevan or Elbow? And is this still a plan or unsure?

    Nat asked 4 months ago

    A location to site our Small Modular Reactor (SMR) development project has not been selected. We’re still evaluating an area near Estevan and an area near Elbow. Our goal is to have two potential locations selected in the coming months and a final site recommendation by the end of 2024.

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    SaskPower representatives consistently say that technology does not yet exist to build non GHG emitting nuclear facilities at our target 300MW units. I continue to put forward the CANDU SMR which was originally designed in the 1990s specifically for Saskatchewan’s needs. Please tell me why all representatives always say this 300 MW SMR technology is not ready for deployment. SNC Lavalin now owns this ready to go design.

    Joan asked 5 months ago

    Thanks for your question. There’s a lot to consider when looking at nuclear power from small modular reactors (SMRs). Many more years of detailed engineering design work would be required for the CANDU 3 to be ready for commercial deployment. The CANDU 3 is not currently in any phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s VDR process and SaskPower is not aware of any utility in the world that is advancing an SMR project using the CANDU 3 design.   

    To arrive at our decision to select the GE-Hitachi BWRX 300 , we completed an extensive evaluation of several technologies. We considered many factors including safety, technology readiness, generation size, fuel type and expected cost of electricity.

    We also considered Ontario Power Generation’s (OPGs) selection of the same technology for their Darlington New Nuclear Project. They’re planning to have their first GE-Hitachi BWRX 300 SMR operational by 2030. By choosing the same technology, we can learn from OPGs experience. It helps lower our risk of scheduling delays related to the regulatory process and construction of the project. It also helps manage the project’s cost. 

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    In 2050 what percentage of provincial power needs will come from SMRs? In 2050 how many SMRs will be required to produce that power? What is the current estimated cost of an SMR? How much power is lost per kilometre of transmission?

    Bill asked 5 months ago

    Hello and thanks for reaching out. At this time, we can’t say for certain what Saskatchewan’s grid will look like in 2050 or what percentage of our mix will come from nuclear power. However, as our population grows and electrification increases, we could see our grid more than double in size. When it comes to cost, we’re still working on developing an estimate to deploy an SMR in Saskatchewan. In terms of the amount of power lost per kilometre of transmission, it’s difficult to project because this would depend on the size of the line, voltage, and the amount of power.

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    The decision for SaskPower to select the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR poses some real challenges for the power and energy security for the province. Specifically, the GEH reactor uses proprietary fuel that is only manufactured in the United States and Europe. How does SaskPower plan to achieving and securing a stable supply chain across international borders and markets given the susceptibility of this complex system to transport risks, geopolitical vulnerabilities, nuclear proliferation concerns, regulatory and political challenges, and supply chain disruptions? Is there scope for a fully integrated 'made in Saskatchewan' nuclear supply chain?

    Curtis Boyes asked 5 months ago

    Thanks for this question. Managing the risks and opportunities that come with planning for a nuclear fuel supply chain is an essential part of advancing our work on this project. International supply chain risk is manageable for a small number of SMR facilities, as the fuel requirements are relatively low. If Canada deploys more of this technology and becomes more reliant on enriched uranium for energy security, further consideration for enrichment supply chain will be warranted. SaskPower’s selection of the BWRX-300 came from a comprehensive evaluation that considered many factors, including safety, technology readiness, generation size, fuel type, and cost.

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    What are some of the determining factors to consider when deciding the location of a SMR? More specifically for one of the proposed locations (Elbow). Is there a more specific location description (1 mile north of Elbow, 5 miles north of Elbow..?)

    Curtis asked 6 months ago

    Thanks for your question. A lot goes into choosing a site for a potential SMR in Saskatchewan. To start, we looked at regions across the province that could meet the requirements for the technology we selected. We also considered factors like a region’s proximity to existing infrastructure, emergency services, and access to a workforce. Based on these factors, we selected two study regions – one near Estevan and one near Elbow which you’ve referenced. From there, we began to narrow in on specific areas within these regions that could work best. To do this, we completed a suitability analysis and a water intake study in each region. We also introduced a Regional Evaluation Process as a way to engage with groups in each region on the siting process, and other aspects of the project. At this time, we don’t have a more specific location in either region selected. Our goal is to have two potential sites chosen by the end of this year, and a final site chosen by early 2025. To learn more about the siting process, visit our Potential Facility Location page.

Page last updated: 07 Dec 2023, 08:51 AM