Three Canadian First Nation economic organisations on 11 May signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly pursue small modular reactor (SMR) investments. “We just think we want to be part of this discussion and look at it as a strong business opportunity going forward,” said Sean Willy, the CEO of Des Nedhe Group, also speaking on behalf of Athabasca Basin Development and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band’s Kitsaki Management. “Whenever they deploy these small modular reactors), wherever in Canada, hopefully the uranium they use comes from northern Saskatchewan.”

Willy said it is an ideal time to sign a memorandum of understanding between the three groups because SMR development is being discussed by the provincial governments of Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan. He added that it was important for First Nations, Métis and Inuit people be involved in those talks when the time comes. Collectively, the three groups have partnerships with more than 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations across Canada.

Willy said their companies have supported uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan since the 1980s and they want to make sure their voices are heard in this “new and exciting technology.” He added: “We think if you’re serious about climate change and you want to make a difference on the decarbonising the power-producing aspects, small nuclear reactors is the way to go. We look at this as a made-in-Canada approach because all the uranium that’s coming out of Canada is coming from northern Saskatchewan.”

Willy feels they will be able to bring an Indigenous business focus to the development and construction of SMRs. “We support this industry. We want to make sure that these things get to the finish line and are effectively and safely put in place across the country and make sure that Indigenous participation is maximised.”

“By signing this MOU, we plan to address key items for SMR investment, including research, due diligence, environment, communications and financing,” Kitsaki CEO Russell Roberts stated in a press release. “We are very open to discussion with interested parties and excited to be part of this group to invest in and further advance Canadian SMR technology.”

Athabasca Basin Development is an investment company owned by Black Lake Ventures, Hatchet Lake Development, Fond du Lac First Nation, the Northern Hamlet of Stony Rapids, Northern Settlement of Wollaston Lake, Northern Settlement of Uranium City and the Northern Settlement of Camsell Portage. Des Nedhe Group is the economic development organisation of English River First Nation.

The Saskatchewan government welcomed news of the MOU between the three Indigenous-owned companies. The Ministry of Environment said it continues to foster positive relationships with Indigenous communities to better understand the roles they can play in SMR development. Under the proposal signed by the provinces, Saskatchewan could have the first of four grid-scale SMRs in service by 2032.

Willy welcomed the fact that their organisations have already been consulted by the Saskatchewan government. “I just think it would make good business sense to work with three business entities who have the strong experience and the strong, positive history in the nuclear industry that our three groups have,” he said.

He noted that SMRs have the potential to supply power to isolated regions of the country, not just Saskatchewan. “There is strong momentum in Canada towards novel nuclear reactor technologies that have the potential to supply power throughout the country, including remote or off-grid areas,” he said.