Aecon and ES Fox to support SMR development

1 June 2023

Canadian construction and infrastructure development company Aecon Group has announced a partnership with ES Fox Limited to support innovative modular fabrication for the delivery of a grid-scale small modular reactor (SMR). The SMR is part of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) Darlington New Nuclear Project (DNNP), for which Aecon provides all construction services, including project management, construction planning and execution. Establishment of the supply chain partnership was marked during an event held at ES Fox’s fabrication facility in Port Robinson, Ontario.

In February, OPG teamed up with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, SNC-Lavalin, and Aecon to construct a SMR at Darlington. Under the agreement, the four companies will provide a diverse range of expertise and services as part of an integrated project delivery model. The aim is to develop, engineer and construct GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR, for completion by late 2028. The Darlington site is the only Canadian location licensed for new nuclear, with an accepted Environmental Assessment and a Site Preparation Licence. In December 2021, OPG and GE Hitachi agreed to work together to deploy the BWXR-300 at the Darlington site.

All parties will manage the project as part of an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) partnership and each company will play a specific role in the project. OPG, as licence holder, will maintain overall responsibility for the project while technology developer GE Hitachi will be responsible for design, procurement of major components, and engineering and support. Architect engineer SNC Lavalin is providing design, engineering & procurement support. Aecon will build the SMR and provide construction planning and execution.

Aecon has formed a teaming agreement with ES Fox to jointly fabricate steel components offsite at Aecon’s fabrication facility in Cambridge and at the Port Robinson facility. These components will be welded into sub-assemblies and shipped to the DNNP project site, where they will be built into larger modules on-site and used to construct the primary steel structure of the reactor building. Leveraging a modular approach to help build the BWRX-300 SMR is expected to reduce construction costs.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH's ESBWR boiling water reactor. The CNSC issued a positive decision in March, making the BWRX-300 the first SMR to complete such a pre-licensing Vendor Design Review in Canada.

“This modular fabrication partnership is a made-in-Ontario solution, illustrating the strength of Ontario’s robust nuclear supply chain – a network that is critical to deploying the future of nuclear in Ontario and beyond,” said Thomas Clochard, Aecon Executive Vice President, Nuclear & Civil. “Aecon is playing an important role in delivering the next generation of nuclear plants.” Pat Cimek, Vice President, Construction & Fabrication Services at ES Fox, said: “With the experience of both companies, we look forward to building large sections of the structure at the two facilities leveraging a modular approach and shipping them to the DNNP project site – helping reduce field labour and equipment costs, improving the overall project schedule, and supporting high-paying skilled jobs in Niagara Region.”

In March 2022, ES Fox was awarded the contract to deliver early site preparation work at Darlington, including water supply, electrical power, information technology and road services. This work, valued at CAD32m ($24m), consists of non-nuclear infrastructure activities, such as clearing and grading parts of the site to build roads, utilities and support buildings, and for which the site is already licensed - is planned to continue into 2025.

In October 2022, OPG applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a Licence to Construct the SMR at the Darlington site. This licence is required before any nuclear construction work on the SMR can begin. OPG expects to make a construction decision by the end of 2024. In March this year, nuclear engineering firm BWX Technologies was contracted by GEH to provide engineering analysis, design support, manufacturing and procurement preparations for the reactor pressure vessel for the BWRX-300.

Image: Aecon Group has announced a partnership with ES Fox to support innovative modular fabrication for the delivery of a grid-scale small modular reactor (courtesy of Aecon)

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