Canada’s well down the road to SMR deployment26 November 2020
Industry conference draws cross-country support to meet clean energy and economic goals with small modular reactors, as Jacquie Hoornweg reports
There was no Action Plan but plenty of evidence of action at the Canadian Nuclear Society’s G4SR two-day conference, which took place from 18-19 November.
The conference had been anticipated to be the kick-off to a follow-up report on the 2018 Canadian SMR Roadmap, with release now expected in December.
But no matter. In an event buzzing like the Oscars, the conference provided a clear and extensive blueprint of the work underway on Canada’s vision to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs) for on and off-grid applications, both in Canada and globally. The conference featured a “who’s-who” of industry leaders representing all facets of government and industry rallied around a single message: Canada is ready, willing and able to use SMRs to meet its clean energy and economic goals.
Above: Alberta's Minister of Energy Sonia Savage was one of four plenary panelists along with her counterparts from New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan. The four provinces signed an agreement to collaborate on small modular reactor development
Since the Roadmap was launched in 2018, there has been a rapid succession of partnership announcements and developments co-mingled between vendors, utilities, Canada’s supply chain, and the country’s national lab, which is serving as a demonstration site and/or research partner for some qualified projects. Over the past year, four of the country’s provinces have signed onto a memorandum of understanding on SMR development. Two of those provinces (Ontario and New Brunswick) already get the majority of their electricity from nuclear, while the other two are the country’s dominating oil and gas producers (Saskatchewan and Alberta) looking to SMRs as part of a greenhouse-gas transition strategy. As well, several Indigenous communities and businesspeople have become engaged in the development process; something that will be critical to deployment success.
As Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) parliamentary secretary Paul Lefebvre observed, “Since (the Roadmap’s release) the momentum has only grown.” When the Action Plan is released, he says, it will include more than 100 chapter submissions from partner organisations across the country. Calling SMRs “the next great opportunity,” Lefebvre said the country can leverage its long-standing energy sector expertise to deploy SMRs in Canada and as a sought-after partner in the global market.
Above: Paul Lefebvre, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources was the keynote speaker for Canada's G4SR conference hosted by the Canadian Nuclear Society. On 20 September Lefebvre participated in a ceremony to inaugurate one of the new facilities at the Chalk River Laboratories
“SMRs will allow us to take a bold step toward meeting our goal of net zero by 2050 while creating good middle class jobs and strengthening our competitive advantage, all while continuing to meet the gold standard of safety,” Lefebvre said.
The morning plenary sessions were free and open to the public allowing interested host community and Indigenous community members to join in. The open plenaries featured the political representatives (from the federal government and the four partner provinces), as well as a speaker from the First Nations Power Authority and a First Nations engagement specialist.
Later in the day, Rumina Velshi, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) underscored the importance of an open, engaged and trusting relationship between the industry and communities in SMR development and deployment.
Velshi walked through the actions the CNSC has been actively undertaking in preparedness for its regulatory safety role before reminding the industry that social licence is equally critical to success.
“Understanding and addressing community views and considerations is a process that proponents must invest as much effort in as they do preparing a safety case for us…
Proponents are responsible for the trust and acceptance a community has for a particular project,” she said.
Throughout the conference, the theme of dual track projects and cross-border development was raised. Velshi said Canada’s regulator has taken an active role as a “prominent voice” in harmonisation of SMR regulatory requirements and practices to ensure consistency, shared knowledge and validation across international boundaries. She said this international collaboration will be critical to successful global development and deployment of SMRs.