Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will work together with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to deploy a Small Modular Reactor (SMR)—the BWRX-300—at the Darlington new nuclear site, the only site in Canada currently licensed for a new nuclear build. OPG and GE Hitachi will collaborate on the SMR engineering, design, planning, preparing the licencing and permitting materials, and performing site preparation activities, with the mutual goal of constructing Canada’s first commercial, grid-scale SMR, projected to be completed as early as 2028.
GEH SMR Technologies Canada, Ltd., based in Markham, Ontario, is the Canadian division of the world-leading provider of reactor technology and nuclear services. As a tenth generation of GE’s proven reactor design, the ~300 MWe BWRX-300 is their most simple yet advanced design since GE began developing nuclear reactors in the 1950s.
This reactor’s innovative features include the use of natural circulation and passive cooling systems, which are designed to cool the nuclear fuel under all conditions without the need for external power or external water supply for extended periods.
To generate electricity, the BWRX-300 reactor relies on nuclear fission to heat water, which turns into steam and then drives a steam turbine to produce power.
The Darlington SMR will provide a critical new source of clean nuclear energy for Ontario’s future projected energy capacity needs—a demand widely expected to ramp up as transportation and other sectors electrify, using Ontario’s clean power to help decarbonize the broader economy. International bodies, including the International Energy Agency (IEA), have been clear: climate change initiatives will fall short without nuclear power as part of the electricity supply mix.
A single SMR of about 300 megawatts in size can prevent between 0.3 megatonnes (MT) to 2 MT of carbon dioxide emissions per year, depending on where it is located and what kind of power it is displacing.
A 2020 study undertaken by the Conference Board of Canada found strong economic benefit to Ontario from construction and 60 years of operation of a single SMR facility in the province. According to the report:
Direct, indirect and spin-off related employment would result in an annual average of approximately: 700 jobs during project development; 1,600 jobs during manufacturing and construction; 200 jobs during operations; and 160 jobs during decommissioning.
The estimated positive impact on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could reach more than $2.5 billion and result in an increase of provincial revenues of more than $870 million.
Beyond the positive jobs and GDP impact of constructing and operating a single SMR in the, construction of a new nuclear generator at Darlington is expected to:
Drive employment and economic growth, due to the strong existing Ontario- and Canada-based nuclear supply chain. It is anticipated that 70 to 80 percent, or more, of the necessary components and materials for OPG’s SMR will be sourced in Ontario.
Spur SMR deployment elsewhere in Canada and abroad. Saskatchewan is also looking to follow Ontario and build SMRs to replace its coal fleet, building up to four SMRs with the first unit in Saskatchewan being in service in the early 2030s. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Poland and Estonia have all expressed interest in building SMRs, and Ontario would be well placed to contribute to the Canadian and international supply chain.
Provide significant environmental benefits to Ontario and reduce emissions elsewhere: clean nuclear power could be used to maintain Ontario’s low carbon electricity grid and help meet emerging electricity needs in the short term due to Pickering closure and electrification, as well as support other jurisdictions’ efforts to phase out coal and Canada’s goals of becoming net zero by 2050.
Site preparation will begin in the spring of 2022, pending appropriate approvals. This work will include installation of the necessary construction services. OPG’s goal is to apply to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a License to Construct by the end of 2022.
Darlington Nuclear Generating Station is one of the top-performing nuclear stations in the world and generates about 20% of Ontario’s electricity each day. The Darlington New Nuclear Project is the only site in Canada with an approved Environmental Assessment and regulatory licence for new nuclear.
Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the advancement of SMRs as a clean energy option to address climate change and regional energy demands, while supporting economic growth and innovation.