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SaskPower signs contract with GE Hitachi Canada for SMR development

Lisa McBride, GEH Canada country leader.

SaskPower has signed an agreement with GE Vernova’s Nuclear business, GE Hitachi (GEH), to further advance SMR development in Saskatchewan. The Jan. 30 media event and announcement marks the next step in SaskPower’s long-term plans for SMR development, which began in 2019 with evaluating the feasibility of SMRs in the province.

With the signing of the Jan. 30 agreement, the SMR development process continues and allows SaskPower to access critical technical and engineering information.

SaskPower and GE Hitachi announce new agreement on Jan. 30 in Regina.

“Gaining detailed technical specifications, requirements and designs to the BWRX-300 is necessary for our planning work and license applications,” said Rupen Pandya, SaskPower’s president and CEO with the announcement. “Leveraging experience and expertise from our colleagues in the nuclear industry is an important part of our planning work.”

The selection of the area where the SMR will be built continues, with the Elbow and Estevan areas chosen for further evaluation. Environmental and economic concerns are paramount in the selection process. While other provinces have committed to several SMRs, the SaskPower project is focused on its first reactor.

Whenever nuclear energy is discussed, one of the primary concerns is the waste created. SaskPower said at the announcement that the nuclear waste from the SMR will be safely stored on site for decades before needing to be transported anywhere. In the eventual case of needing to transport the waste to a different facility, the facilities will exist in Ontario.

When asked about the costs of building an SMR in Saskatchewan, it was pointed out that because the province has left it so long before exploring nuclear energy, many of the costs associated with being an early adopter have been eliminated or borne by others who have already begun to build and use this technology. While the actual final cost may not be known at this time, SaskPower anticipates they should be able to avoid surprise over runs because it is no longer unexplored or untested technology. Studies are underway to explore the side benefits of the technology that should include new job creation and long-term construction projects leading up to the launch of nuclear energy production in Saskatchewan.

That is, of course, in addition to the many long-term skilled jobs involved in running a nuclear facility and supporting the new industry. According to SaskPower, this will generate vast economic benefits in a wide variety of fields once the facilities are built. The construction and operation of a nuclear facility in Saskatchewan will mean more manufacturing, more shipping and more processing that will benefit the overall economy.

The agreement between SaskPower and GE Hitachi will also “streamline SaskPower’s planning and licensing work to inform its decision in 2029 whether to proceed with nuclear power in Saskatchewan.”

In June 2022, SaskPower chose GE Hitachi BWRX-300 as the technology to be used in its SMR development work.

“This agreement is another important step in our efforts to support Saskatchewan’s workers, businesses and clean energy goals,” said Lisa McBride, GEH Canada country leader with the announcement. “The BWRX-300 reimagines what is possible when it comes to generating reliable, carbon-free energy.”