Cameco aims to be the fuel supplier of choice for small modular reactors

Cameco believes that the future of nuclear energy lies in small modular reactors (SMR). So do federal and provincial governments and some indigenous communities.

The Saskatoon-based company, one of the largest uranium mining companies in the world, recently signed several memorandums of understanding (MOU) to work together on the potential use of SMRs.

Continue reading:

Experts are examining possible nuclear energy in Saskatchewan

The company believes nuclear power will play a role in the transition to carbon-free energy and aims to become the fuel supplier of choice for SMRs.

“We are very excited about the outlook for market growth in the Small Modular Reactor and Advanced Reactor market,” said Jeff Hryhoriw, director of government relations and communications for Cameco.

“We think this holds great promise for expanding nuclear power in countries that currently have nuclear power like Canada and even in some new markets that want to explore nuclear power as a low-carbon base load alternative.”

The story continues under the advertisement

Click here to play the video: “Cameco Delighted with the Prospect for Small Modular Reactors”

0:42Cameco is excited about the prospect of small modular reactors

Cameco is excited about the prospect of small modular reactors

However, opponents of SMRs have concerns and say that the use of SMRs will be too slow to tackle climate change.

“It will be a decade or more before we know if the small modular reactors are commercially viable, and it will be more than a decade before they will be able to have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Said Ann Coxworth, who sits on the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.

“So the climate really can’t wait.”

What are SMRs?

SMRs are nuclear fission reactors designed to be smaller in size but in greater numbers than most of the world’s current nuclear fleet.

The Canadian Department of Natural Resources said SMRs have lower initial capital costs and improved safety features. Some SMR designs are small enough to fit in a gym.

The story continues under the advertisement

The International Atomic Energy Agency defines “small” as less than 300 megawatts of electricity and up to around 700 MWe as “medium”.

Natural Resources Canada has worked with interested provinces, territories and utilities to develop a roadmap for the future of SMRs in Canada.

According to the roadmap, SMRs will have three main areas of application:

  • network-based powers to replace disused coal-fired power plants with non-emitting base load power plants of a similar size
  • On- and off-grid heat and power for heavy industry such as oil sands producers and miners
  • Off-grid electricity, district heating and desalination in remote communities

Continue reading:

Are Small Nuclear Reactors Really Better? Here are the pros and cons

SMRs represent a “paradigm shift” for nuclear reactor technologies – similar to moving steam engines from mine shafts to ships and vehicles or moving computers from mainframes to desktops and then to laptops, according to the roadmap report.

Saskatchewan is driving SMRs forward

Part of Saskatchewan’s growth plan includes developing SMRs.

The province has stated that SMRs provide clean nuclear power that will provide the tools to fight climate change.

As part of the mandate, the government has established a nuclear secretariat whose mandate is to develop and implement a strategic plan for the use of SMRs in the province.

The story continues under the advertisement

In 2019, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick signed a letter of intent to study the feasibility of SMRs as a clean energy option. Alberta was added in 2021.

Continue reading:

Saskatchewan is looking at advances in small nuclear reactors with 3 other provinces

According to the proposal signed by the provinces, Ontario will install the first 300 MWE SMRs. Saskatchewan could have the first of four grid-scale SMRs operational by 2032.

Hryhoriw said Ontario Power Generation has shortlisted three SMR developers to consider for the province – GE Hitachi, X Energy and Terrestrial Energy.

“Cameco now has MOUs to look into working with each of these SMR developers,” he said, adding that all MOUs are non-binding and non-exclusive.

“We intend to position ourselves to capitalize on future opportunities that are emerging in Canada, across North America, and truly around the world.”

Click here to play the video: “Cameco Delighted with the Prospect for Small Modular Reactors”

0:42Cameco is excited about the prospect of small modular reactors

Cameco is excited about the prospect of small modular reactors

Hryhoriw said this would benefit the province, particularly northern Saskatchewan.

The story continues under the advertisement

Cameco is heavily invested in the north, where it mines and grinds most of the uranium it produces for the world.

The company also relies on indigenous labor for its operations.

“About half of the staff and long-term contractors working there are residents of northern Saskatchewan, the vast majority of which are indigenous,” said Hryhoriv.

“These are communities that are very knowledgeable about uranium mining and everything related to industry.”

Three indigenous companies in Saskatchewan are also considering SMR investments.

Continue reading:

Saskatchewan Indigenous Companies Consider SMR Investments

Kitsaki Management, Athabasca Basin Development and Des Nedhe Group have supported uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan and want to ensure their voices are heard as SMR research advances.

Earlier this year, they signed a letter of intent to further investigate the feasibility of SMRs.

“We believe small nuclear reactors are the way to go if you are serious about climate change and want to make a difference in decarbonizing power generation,” said Sean Willy, CEO of Des Nedhe Group, in an interview with Global News Early of the year.

The story continues under the advertisement

“We consider this a Made-in-Canada approach, as all of the uranium that comes from Canada comes from northern Saskatchewan.”

Hryhoriw said Cameco, while not an equity investor in any of the SMRs under development, does support all partnerships.

“Northern indigenous communities have been involved in some form or form in this sector for over 60 years,” he said.

“But I think the upcoming SMR developers will be very interested in finding partners, especially indigenous partners, to drive the expansion of SMRs.”

Objection to SMRs

One group that opposes SMRs is the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES).

The SES said replacing coal-fired power plants with traditional, large nuclear reactors, or SMRs, was inappropriate for the province as they are too slow in dealing with climate change.

“The construction is not only extremely expensive, but the planning and construction of nuclear power plants takes 12 to 15 years,” says a position paper of the SES.

“We have to start reducing emissions as soon as possible. We cannot wait a decade or more. “

SES board member Ann Coxworth said there are already cheaper and safer options that should be explored other than SMRs.

The story continues under the advertisement

“The potential for renewable energy in Saskatchewan is really huge,” she said.

“We have the best solar systems in the country, so there really is huge potential for solar and, in some cases, wind.

She recognizes that storage technology will be key to developing these resources.

Click here to play the video:

3:33The climate can’t wait for small modular reactors: Saskatchewan Environmental Society

The climate can’t wait for small modular reactors: Saskatchewan Environmental Society

Radioactive waste

The disposal of radioactive materials is a concern of Coxworth.

Coxworth, who previously worked as a nuclear scientist in California and the UK before moving to Canada, said it could take 30 years to set up a landfill for radioactive waste from SMRs.

She said the type of waste that will be produced will, in some cases, be different from radioactive waste that comes from Candu reactors.

The story continues under the advertisement

“Until there is a disposal facility, the waste collection system, that waste must remain at the reactor sites,” said Coxworth.

“And if these are in remote northern communities, for example, there are concerns about the security and technical resources that will be available locally for the administration.”

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) has the task of designing and implementing the Canadian plan for the safe and long-term disposal of used nuclear fuel.

The plan calls for fuel to be trapped and isolated in a deep geological repository.

The NWMO, which is fully funded by the nuclear industry, said its site selection process began in May 2010 and will take many years.

An estimated construction time of 10 years follows. Subsequent phases include the transport, handling and placement of the used nuclear fuel, followed by extended monitoring.

Continue reading:

Canada’s nuclear waste is to be buried in a deep underground repository

Hryhoriv said there is no such thing as a perfect form of electricity generation, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

He said there were concerns about the disposal of components used in both wind and solar power.

The story continues under the advertisement

“The wind turbines and solar panels need quite a bit of raw materials to build,” he said.

“At the end of their 20 to 30 year lifespan, many of them are disposed of in landfills, where there is a possibility of various toxic substances being washed out.”

Hryhoriw said a mix of different solutions would be needed to achieve a green energy future.

“We believe that the safest path to a decarbonised and net-zero power grid in the future is renewable energies like wind and sun, backed by carbon-free forms of power generation like hydro and nuclear,” he said.

“This is the safest way for large economies and countries to decarbonise themselves and reach net zero.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Comments are closed.