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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    How can I help to promote Estevan as the best location for this project?

    Garret asked 3 months ago

    Thanks for reaching out! To determine a suitable site, we’re looking at several technical criteria. We’ll also be taking into consideration what we learn from folks in and around the study areas. So please— keep engaging with us, show your support and encourage people in your networks to attend one of our events. You can see what’s coming up and sign up for them on our key dates page. We encourage you to add some pins to the online map and share your ideas with us as well. This will allow us to share your feedback with on the project with the region.

    By getting a picture of how you use the area and your interests, we can plan for a project that takes into account what you value most. Your feedback will help identify reasons a location could be 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. 

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    Why small modular? Why not a larger, more substantial conventional reactor with a higher output? Seems like there is all the space in the world around the proposed sites, so size shouldn't be a problem. Is SMR the best option truly, or is it more of a convenience issue to have it manufactured elsewhere and shipped in. Seems like a large number of site related issues are non issues: close to a large reservoir, existing infrastructure, access to emergency services, as well as next to zero tectonic activity, no chance of colossal tsunamis, and a fairly uninhabited surrounding area. I'm totally for nuclear power, but why choose a smaller and potentially lesser option when we could do it right, and large, and sell off excess power to other provinces/US states?

    BLEMS41855 asked 3 months ago

    Great question! SaskPower has studied the potential for nuclear power since the early 1970s. Those studies found that the reactors operating in Canada today are too large for a small grid like Saskatchewan’s. Our system has to be able to handle when a generation unit suddenly trips offline. We plan to be able to handle the loss of our largest unit, which is currently around 350 Megawatts (MW). Soon will be close to 380 MW. If we added a 600 – 1000 MW unit, our current system wouldn’t be able to support it.

    The SMR we chose is about the same size as the larger coal and natural gas plants we have on our grid now. The size and modularity of an SMR, compared to a conventional reactor also lowers the financial risk for SaskPower. Although a nuclear facility would still be a large construction project with a high upfront cost, having some elements built in a factory setting and shipped to site does help us reduce the risk of schedule and cost overruns. 

    Saskatchewan also has some of the best wind and solar resources.  Long-term, these renewable resources may allow SaskPower to sell off excess power to other jurisdictions, while SMRs contribute to our need for baseload power. 

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    So how much do they cost for the 300 megawatts, I think we would need 14 or so for our existing load , not including future load for cars and heating houses . Can two be run by the same 125 people?

    Just Sam asked 3 months ago

    Thanks for the questions!  We’ve answered them separately here. 

    Cost per 300-Megawatt facility – While we don’t know exactly what the cost per 300-Megawatt facility would be, our early analysis is the cost of electricity from SMRs are competitive with the cost of power from other zero-emissions supply options. As we make any decisions on the project, cost to our customers is a major consideration. This includes looking at whether nuclear power from SMRs will help keep rates as low as possible as we transition to a net-zero future.

     Replacing the existing load – We’re not looking to replace our entire grid with SMRs, but they could play an important role in providing us with reliable, baseload power.  The initial feasibility study we did scoped out four reactors on two sites.  If four SMRs were to be developed in Saskatchewan we anticipate there could be some economies of scale.  As other units are deployed within Canada and around the world, we may see increased benefits from the modularity of Small Modular Reactors. 

     Workforce per site – The simple answer is no. If a second reactor was built at the same site, we’d need to increase the number of employees working at that site. That said, the workforce likely wouldn’t double for the second reactor at the site. We are working to get a more accurate estimate of the workforce requirements for operating. 

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    Form Energy just received another $450 million dollars in funding and are planning to build its first factories in the near future. As I'm sure you know, they are developing Iron Air batteries for multiday storage to help address the problem with renewables in places like Saskatchewan (lots of cheap wind/sun, but it is intermittent) beyond the periods that lithium batteries can cover on their own. They're focused on Iron Air because iron is very cheap and the goal is to make a low-cost solution that can be rapidly scaled. If this works, nuclear might start to be a very expensive choice compared with building out wind capacity and a mix of grid storage options plus geothermal and maybe some micro nuclear in the north. I think you should continue to do the groundwork for SMRs, as I'm not confident these other options will work in our climate (particularly as we move to electric heat in homes), but I hope you are avoiding becoming locked into nuclear as the only option if some of these other technologies prove themselves feasible in the next decade.

    Jim Clifford asked 3 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your perspective! Our final decision whether to proceed with nuclear power won’t happen until 2029. In order to make that decision though, we need to do extensive planning and regulatory work now. 

    Nuclear power is just one of the options we’re evaluating and it’s important to keep in mind that it’s just one part of what our future power system could include. SaskPower needs a diverse mix of options to have reliable power while cutting emissions and minimizing the impact on rates. This includes looking at all new and emerging technologies, including a number of energy storage options.

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    Reports from the 90's indicate CANDU designs in the 600 MW range were considered feasible. The CANDU is already taxpayer subsidized so why are they excluded specifically from consideration, especially with known construction variables and even operating reactors in the 300 MW range?

    Konlin Stolz asked 4 months ago

    The CANDU reactor technology was developed by Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2011, the Government of Canada sold the commercial reactor division of AECL including design and marketing rights for the CANDU design to SNC-Lavalin. 

    The Enhanced CANDU 6 is a 740 MW reactor design that was ruled out as a feasible option for SaskPower in 2010 primarily because of its large generation size which made it uneconomic to reliably deploy in SaskPower’s relatively small grid. AECL did undertake early conceptual design work in the 1980s on a smaller CANDU reactor design in the 300 – 400 MW range but that work was discontinued in the early 1990s. 

    SaskPower considered the smaller CANDU design in its feasibility assessment but ultimately concluded that the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 was a technically and economically stronger option for potential deployment in Saskatchewan by the mid 2030s.

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    What will happen to the mill rate of electricity once the service is operational? Will the consumer see a lowering on the cost of power to households?

    JGULDIMAN asked 4 months ago

    We are committed to providing cost-effective, reliable, and sustainable power for our customers and the communities we serve.  Current climate change policies are increasing the cost to generate power from familiar sources such as coal and natural gas.  There are limited options available to SaskPower to add baseload power to the grid, that is emissions free.  Nuclear power from SMRs does not emit carbon or pollutants that contribute to climate change.  

    To move forward with this project the cost of electricity from SMRs must be competitive with the cost of power from alternative zero-emissions supply options.  It’s important to note, we believe we are going to need a mix of options that can complement each other in order to meet our emission reduction targets, while keeping our electrical grid reliable and our rates as low as possible.  

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    The plan seems to be a 300MW nuclear reactor working by 2035 for $5 billion. Judging by current reactors under construction, wouldn’t it be 300MW of expensive power by 2045 at a cost of $10 Billion? Every current build is way over budget and way behind schedule, making me concerned that any reactors here will be the same.

    Mike Bray asked 4 months ago

    Thanks for the question and sharing your concern on the potential for cost overruns.

    Understanding and evaluating this cost and risks is an important part of developing this supply option for Saskatchewan. The SMR project must be competitively priced against other baseload, non-emitting power generation options available in the 2030s to proceed. Based on feasibility work done to date, SMRs have the potential to be a competitive option. Two things that are helping us mitigate cost overruns should, SaskPower decide to construct an SMR are: 

    1. The modularity aspect of SMRs in general.  Modular in Small Modular Reactor, means some of the power plant can be built in a factory setting and assembled on site. This reduces the risk of construction cost overruns.  
    2. Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) new nuclear project.  OPG is advancing a build of the same GE-Hitachi design that we selected. They are currently targeting to have that unit operational prior to our targeted construction decision date in 2029. 
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    What is the plan for the waste? Recycle or dispose?

    Jeannette asked 4 months ago

    Thanks for the Question. Canada has a long history of safely and effectively storing high level radioactive waste. The licensing process for any nuclear activity in Canada – from medicine to research to power generation -- must include a plan for waste management over that activity’s full operational lifecycle. In fact, although all forms of power generation result in a waste stream of some sort, nuclear power is the only one that stores and tracks all the waste it generates and has a transparent and fully funded plan for safe and responsible long-term management.

    In Canada, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of spent nuclear fuel and waste. Once implemented, the dry, spent fuel will be transferred to their site. The NWMO is also looking at a national strategy for the intermediate and low level nuclear waste that is produced in Canada.

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    How many acres will the complete reactor site occupy?

    Dale Neurauter asked 4 months ago

    Thanks for the question.  We're likely to acquire a ½ section of land (approximately 320 acres) to study for this potential project. The actual power plant, if constructed, will be a fraction of that size.  While the final decision on whether to build an SMR will be made in 2029, a ½ section of land gives us flexibility for how we develop the site for potential operation and it ensures there's enough land for the potential of a second unit in the future. 

Page last updated: 25 Jan 2023, 11:27 AM