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Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick Agree to Develop Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

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Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick will work together to research, develop, and build the technology for small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) under a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday by Premiers Doug Ford, Scott Moe, and Blaine Higgs.

They’re touting the as-yet unproven [1] technology as “a way to help their individual provinces reduce carbon emissions and move away from non-renewable energy sources like coal,” CBC reports [2], adding that the premiers described SMRs as easy to build, safer than large nuclear plants, cleaner than coal, and potentially small enough to fit in a school gym. They estimated the Canadian market for the devices at C$10 to $150 billion.

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“SMRs are actually not very close to entering operation in Canada,” CBC notes, with about a dozen companies seeking licences from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and their designs currently under review. “Natural Resources Canada released an SMR roadmap [4] last year, with a series of recommendations about regulation readiness and waste management for SMRs.”

While the three provincial energy ministries will meet in the new year to plan next steps on SMR development, “don’t expect to see them popping up in a nearby field anytime soon,” CBC advises. “It’s estimated it will take five to 10 years before they’re built.”

Ford, last seen asserting [5] that he would shut down every Ontario wind turbine if he could, called SMRs an “opportunity for Canada to be a true leader.” Higgs said the memorandum of understanding was a chance to show unity despite adversity between federal and provincial governments. “It’s showing how provinces come together on issues of the future,” he told media. Moe declared that “Canadians working together, like we are here today, from coast to coast, can play an even larger role in addressing climate change in Canada and around the world.”

CBC says SMR proponents see three main uses for the systems: replacing CO2-emitting coal plants on traditional grids, replacing diesel generation in remote communities, and powering remote mining or oil and gas sites.