Federal government invests in small nuclear reactors to help it meet net-zero 2050 target

The federal government says it's investing $20 million in the nuclear industry to help Canada meet its target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

$20M investment will help preserve 186 jobs and create 52 co-op placements, says Ottawa

An architectural rendering of Terrestrial Energy's Integral Molten Salt Reactor power plant that it expects to have in production by the end of the decade. (Terrestrial Energy)

The federal government says it's investing $20 million in the nuclear industry to help Canada meet its target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The investment in Oakville Ontario's Terrestrial Energy is meant to help the firm bring small modular nuclear reactors to market.

"By helping to bring these small reactors to market, we are supporting significant environmental and economic benefits, including generating energy with reduced emissions, highly skilled job creation and Canadian intellectual property development," said Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains in a media statement.

Small modular reactors — SMRs — are smaller than a conventional nuclear power plant and can be built in one location before being transported and assembled elsewhere.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited says it sees three major uses for SMRs in Canada:

  • Helping utilities replace energy capacity lost to closures of coal fired power plants.
  • Providing power and heat to off-grid industrial projects such as mines and oilsands developments. 
  • Replacing diesel fuel as a source of energy and heat in remote communities.

The reactor that Terrestrial Energy hopes to have in production by the end of the decade is an Integral Molten Salt Reactor. The company says the reactor can provide additional utility power and power for industrial projects. 

The company says that the reactor can produce up to 195 megawatts — enough to power a city the size of Regina — likely making it too powerful for use in remote communities.

Bains said nuclear energy is part of the energy mix Canada must have to reach its climate targets. 

Another part of that mix, Bains said, was the recently announced $590 million investment — split evenly between the Ontario and federal governments — to help the Ford Motor Company upgrade its assembly plant in Oakville and start making electric vehicles there.

(CBC News)

Recycling nuclear waste

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said the federal government is reviewing its radioactive waste program to ensure it adheres to the "highest international standards."

"We do have to make sure that Canadians trust the power system," O'Regan said. "SMR technology allows us to minimize the amount of waste and in some cases has the potential to recycle nuclear waste."

The federal government says that Terrestrial Energy has committed to creating and maintaining 186 jobs and creating 52 co-op placements nationally.

The government says the company also has promised to undertake gender equity and diversity initiatives to, among other things, boost the number of women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

How a nuclear reactor works (This diagram, which should be read clockwise from bottom left, shows how a nuclear reactor works.)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?