Canada’s OPG presses ahead with SMR development

8 October 2020

Canada’s Ontario Power Generation (OPG) said on 6 October that it is advancing engineering and design work with three grid-scale Small Modular Reactor (SMR) developers: GE Hitachi, Terrestrial Energy and X-energy. “OPG is leveraging more than 50 years of nuclear experience to support the development of carbon-free nuclear technology. Our work with these three developers, along with our partnership with Global First Power and its SMR project to support remote energy needs, demonstrates OPG’s unique position to become a world leader in SMRs,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG President and CEO.

X-energy is developing the 80 MWe Xe-100 high-temperature SMR, scalable to a "four-pack" plant to generate about 320 MWe. The company earlier this year initiated a Vendor Design Review for the Xe-100 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Terrestrial Energy's 192 MWe Integral Molten Salt Reactor has already completed the first phase of the CNSC's review process. GEH made the first submittals for the VDR of its BWRX-300 water-cooled SMR in February.

“SMRs will play a key role in helping to reinvigorate Ontario’s economy and further support the province and Canada as they work toward meeting their climate change targets of zero-emission electricity.” Bill Walker, Associate Minister of Energy, noted: “With over 70,000 jobs supporting this key sector of our economy – the vast majority based here in Ontario – we are poised to lead the world in the development and deployment of small modular reactors.”

In December 2019, the Provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) putting in place a framework for action on the deployment of SMRs in their respective jurisdictions. In August 2020, Alberta also signalled their intention to join the MOU.

OPG recently concluded a due diligence process, in collaboration with other major energy utilities, to advance the development of an SMR in Ontario that would pave the way for the potential deployment of SMRs in other jurisdictions. OPG said: “The deployment of SMRs in Ontario would capitalise on the existing nuclear supply chain within the province and could enable other provinces to transition away from coal; provide alternative energy options to benefit energy intensive industries; drive national job creation and innovation; facilitate deep, economically sustainable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; and accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to a zero emissions electrical grid in Canada.”

GEH said in a press release that it will be working with OPG “to progress options for the potential deployment of small modular reactors in Ontario including GEH’s BWRX-300 SMR, a major step in making the Canadian SMR Roadmap a reality”. GEH will provide detailed information on the design process, licensing, scheduling and contracting that will help inform OPG on options for siting an SMR in Ontario. 

GEH added that  it  intends to develop a supply chain of Canadian companies to support the project and announced that it hadentered into Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with five Canadian companies. The MOUs with Aecon Nuclear, BWXT Canada Ltd., Hatch Ltd., Black & Veatch and Overland Contracting Canada (a Black & Veatch Company) form the foundation for the establishment of a Canadian supply chain to support potential BWRX-300 construction and provide future services and components. Through the MOUs GEH intends to cooperate in areas that include construction, engineering, modularisation and manufacture of safety-related components. All five companies have extensive nuclear industry experience.

“Our design-to-cost approach ideally positions the BWRX-300 to help OPG consider options for future deployment of affordable, clean and reliable energy,” said Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH. “We are excited about working with OPG and Canadian suppliers to fulfill our vision to construct and operate a BWRX-300. We also believe this technology can serve other provinces that are looking to nuclear energy to help Canada meet its decarbonisation goals.”

“GE applauds the bold leadership and commitment of the Canadian government and the provinces who have been strong advocates for nuclear power,” said Heather Chalmers, President/CEO of GE Canada. “GE has operated in Canada for 128 years and we are honored to be a part of this effort.

In April 2020, GEH conducted a webinar for Canadian suppliers interested in providing material, equipment and services in support of the possible BWRX-300 construction in Canada. GEH is planning to conduct supplier forums in the coming months and is committed to working with Canadian organisations and stakeholders to involve Indigenous companies in its supply chain strategy.

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 US NRC-certified ESBWR. Through dramatic design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.

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