Canada, like many industrialized countries, is committed to reducing its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But what makes Canada unique is how it wants to achieve that goal. Like others, he stimulated renewable energies. But he also plans to add a powerful new source to the mix: small modular reactors, or SMRs, which can be deployed faster than conventional reactors and at a lower cost per unit of production. The province of Ontario is already in the process of selecting a company to build an SMR and bring it online by 2028. It would be the first such facility in the world.
An SMR is defined as a reactor that produces up to 300 megawatts of carbon-free electricity. GE Hitachi is currently developing one of the first reactors of this type, the BWRX-300, which is under consideration for the Ontario project as well as others in the United States
In fact, Canada wants to become the world’s leading center of excellence for this technology, which is expected to grow into a $ 150 billion market by 2040, according to a independent report by PwC. The Conference Board of Canada, the country’s leading independent research organization, has indicated that in Ontario alone, technology can generate C $ 2.6 billion (US $ 2.07 billion) in gross domestic product, 1 7 billion Canadian dollars in wages and 873 million Canadian dollars in taxes for the economy of the province. “Canada has considerable nuclear experience and is a world leader in the nuclear industry,” said Lisa McBride, GE Hitachi’s national leader for PMRs in Canada. “We are looking to leverage the expertise in Canada and leverage it for the future of PMS.” Heather Chalmers, CEO of GE Canada, adds, “This is the start of something great.
The foundations of this SMR hub are already under construction. Last week, GE Hitachi, Cameco Corporation – one of the world’s largest suppliers of uranium fuel – and Polish energy company Synthos Green Energy signed a memorandum of understanding to assess the potential establishment of a supply chain in uranium fuel in Canada capable of serving a potential fleet of BWRX-300 reactors in Poland.
This builds on previous agreements. In 2019, Synthos and GE Hitachi agreed to collaborate on potential deployment applications for the BWRX-300 in Poland. In July 2021, GE Hitachi and another GE joint venture, Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF), announced a protocol of agreement with Cameco Corp. from Canada. “Cameco intends to be a benchmark fuel supplier for these innovative reactors,” said Tim Gitzel, President and CEO of Cameco. “We look forward to working with GE Hitachi and GNF to see what opportunities may exist around their new SMR design.”
GE Hitachi is also working with First Nations Power Authority (FNPA), an organization that develops energy projects serving Indigenous peoples in Canada, to tap into talents within Indigenous communities in Canada. GE Hitachi is currently looking to hire and train 30 new field service technicians, who could be some of the world’s first O&M experts trained on BWRX-300 reactors. The company also plans to open 80 new jobs in Ontario to support the deployment of its RMS, and this summer it recruited nine interns from Canadian universities. “GE Hitachi values diversity in our workforce, including equal employment opportunity for Indigenous peoples,” says McBride. “We are working to develop a highly skilled workforce to serve the current nuclear fleet, with the ability to service the BWRX-300 SMR fleet when it is deployed in Canada. ”
Top image: A rendering of GE Hitachi’s small modular reactor BWRX-300. Image credit: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.