Sask. considering small nuclear reactors to lower carbon emissions

Saskatchewan may look to small modular nuclear reactors in the future as part of its goals to lower carbon emissions.

Sask. hopes to lower emissions by 40% in next 11 years

Premier Scott Moe said he has had discussions with New Brunswick and Ontario about small nuclear modular reactors. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Saskatchewan may look to small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in the future as part of its goals to lower carbon emissions.

Premier Scott Moe said the provincial government has been in discussion with Ontario and New Brunswick about small modular nuclear reactor technology.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili expressed concerns about whether the technology is ready. 

"We haven't seen those rolled out in a commercial way that's actually producing power in any other jurisdiction, so we need to make sure that that's actually possible," Meili said on Thursday. 

Meili said a potential obstacle is that SMRs would require activated uranium, which Sask. would have to import from elsewhere. 

NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the government should look at readily available alternatives to coal, like wind and solar power. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Saskatchewan's goal is to lower its emissions to 40 per cent less than 2005 levels within the next 11 years, but its main source of power is still coal.

"That's not saying we're moving ahead with [SMRs] but we'd most certainly want to have the conversation around the clean supply of nuclear power here in the province," Moe said.

The Premier said the province will look at cleaner power generation while keeping the assets it already has, such as carbon capture storage (CCS).

"That technology, that innovation continues to advance," Moe said of CCS.

Meili said the government could instead look at readily available, affordable options right now to reduce emissions like wind and solar power. He said that under the NDP's plan, Renew Saskatchewan, investments could be made in solar and wind retrofits for homes, businesses and farms.

Not only do those alternatives have lower emissions than coal, jobs could be created for the installation, maintenance and manufacturing of infrastructure from solar and wind home retrofitting.

Smaller is more convenient, cost effective: engineering dean

Esam Hussein, dean of engineering and applied science at the University of Regina, said the smaller nuclear reactors could be beneficial for smaller jurisdictions because they don't put a big strain on the province's grid. 

If a reactor goes down, the grid could still function, he added. A challenge with bigger reactions is the possibly delays for construction time, as well as cost.

Smaller reactors could be built on site and if there is a part that needs to be replaced, the entire system will not need to replaced.

"These reactors are designed to be inherently safe, which means that if something goes wrong, if the reactor heats up, the physics will shut down the reactor automatically," Hussein said. 

Some newer, larger reactors have similarities but most older ones do not, instead they are constructed with several redundancies for safety, which also increases the cost, he said. 

With files from Adam Hunter and Radio-Canada's Emmanuelle Poisson


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