“World will be watching” as deal signed to build SMR’s at Clarington’s Darlington Nuclear

“World will be watching” as deal signed to build SMR’s at Clarington’s Darlington Nuclear

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By Glen Hendry

Published January 30, 2023 at 8:55 am

Ken Hartwick, OPG, Jay Wileman, GE-Hitachi, Joe St Julien, SNC-Lavalin, Jean-Louis Servranckx, Aecon

Friday’s contract signing ceremony between Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its three partners to build North America’s first small modular reactor (SMR) at the Darlington nuclear site is intended to serve as a manual for other projects “here and around the world” to build nuclear power, OPG said -President and CEO Ken Hartwick.

OPG has officially partnered with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon to build the 500-megawatt SMR in Darlington, with the reactor — which will provide enough power to power 300,000 homes — to be completed by 2028 and power should feed into the grid a year later.

Hartwick described the collaborative nature of the project as “truly innovative” and will guide others around the world in building SMRs. “This is the beginning of a great partnership,” he said. “There’s decades of nuclear experience here and all four of us have figured out how to do business in Darlington.”

Brenda McDonald, who has the verbose title of Senior Vice-President of New Growth and Commercial Management at OPG, said the renewed global interest in nuclear power (and SMRs in particular) lately means the world is paying attention to Darlington.

“We all know that all eyes are on us. The world will watch as we implement this nuclear project.”

Under the eyes watching developments at the Clarington nuclear power plant will be the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which just gave the green light to America’s first-ever small modular nuclear design.

The commission approved the design of a 50 megawatt module by NuScale, an Oregon-based nuclear reactor company.

Nuclear power remains controversial in the US among many climate advocates, but US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said in a statement that SMRs “are no longer an abstract concept.”

“They are real and ready for action,” she said. “This is innovation at its finest and we’re just getting started.”

Innovation will be on full display at Darlington over the next five years as each party will play a specific role as they lead the build of the BWRX-300 SMR as an integrated team:

OPG: The license holder; OPG retains overall responsibility for the project including operator training, commissioning, indigenous engagement, stakeholder outreach and oversight. GE Hitachi: The technology developer; responsible for design, procurement of major components, engineering and support. SNC-Lavalin: The architect engineer; provides design, engineering and procurement support. Aecon: The Constructor; takes over the construction planning and execution.

The Darlington SMR is expected to spearhead similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, with growing interest in Europe as well.

Joe St. Julian, President, Nuclear at SNC-Lavalin, spoke Friday about working on a nuclear project in 2011, when an earthquake — the worst in Japanese history — “blew up” the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

“We thought nuclear power was dead,” St. Julian recalled. “And here we are 12 years later. This is fantastic.”

St Julian said Canada needs to double its energy production over the next 30 years and with the net-zero climate targets “the only thing that can do that is nuclear power”.

“We are now at the forefront of truly bringing nuclear power into the 21st century,” he said. “This is the next step towards nuclear power.”

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