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Lloyd area lacks nuclear advantage

By August 11, 2022No Comments

SaskPower may pick a region like the Estevan area, with its nearby Boundary Dam, as being more advantageous to small modular reactors than the Lloydminster regions. File Photo

 

The Lloydminster region is not likely to make the SaskPower shortlist of potential zones for a small modular reactor or SMR.

That’s the opinion of Mayor Gerald Aalbers based on the technical requirements for the potential deployment of the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 reactor in the mid-2030s.

The plan calls for the Crown Corporation to operate two SMRs on one site with each reactor generating up to 300 Megawatts of electricity.

SaskPower expects to identify and name suitable regions this year based on factors such as proximity to a suitable water supply and an existing power infrastructure, something the Lloydminster area lacks.

“We’re kind of disadvantaged on this one,” said Aalbers.

“I don’t think Lloydminster would make the list because you would have to literally create a water dam or a reservoir off the North Saskatchewan River to provide that kind of water they’re looking for.”

He also notes the Lloydminster area is nowhere near any source of electric power generation.

“If we had Boundary Dam or Coronach power plant or something like that in our neighbourhood, and the transmission lines were there, I would hope council would entertain that idea,” said Aalbers.

“But we’re going against the grain. We’re at the end of the rope rather than at the beginning of it.”

SaskPower expects to complete the selection process before the end of 2024, but a lot of work needs to get done before then.

The corporation is currently conducting its province-wide technical analysis to find regions that are suitable for SMRs.

“It’s the first step in a long process,” said SaskPower spokesperson Scott McGregor, who notes a decision on whether to operate an SMR won’t be made until 2029.

McGregor says the site selection is a very quick one ahead of obtaining the necessary federal licences to operate a nuclear facility.

“It’s a very long and intricate process. There’s a lot of touch points in it,” he said.

“Once the very wide spanning regions are identified, we will then start to drill down to get down to that parcel level of the analysis.”

The naming of potential regions for an SMR this year will kick off a public engagement process with Indigenous rights holders, the general public, and other stakeholders.

SMRs will be discussed at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association community and economic committee in late August or early September, but Aalbers says the subject hasn’t come up at council, and may not.

“I honestly don’t know if this will come to council,” said Aalbers, noting our region doesn’t check off the technical boxes.

“There are a few places that will be on the list I think before the rest of us.”

Aalbers believes the Estevan area is a prime site with power generation from the Boundary Dam along with Coronach and its Poplar River Power Station.

He would also put the Croteau Creek Hydroelectric Station at Diefenbaker Lake and the E.B Campbell Hydroelectric Station near Nipawin way ahead of Lloydminster and North Battleford.

“Those are the major sources of energy produced in Saskatchewan. We are far removed from every one of them,” said Aalbers.

The mayor, however, hopes people are open-minded about SMRs to supplement power from renewable energy sources. 

“If we don’t use coal, oil or natural gas, nuclear is a strong possibility as being an alternate fuel that’s being used around the world for many years,” said Aalbers.

Saskatchewan and Alberta signed a Memorandum of Understanding along with Ontario and New Brunswick in 2019 to develop SMRs as one more emissions-free power source to help Canada meet its climate change goals.

“It’s important to note that nuclear power is not the only thing we’re looking at. It’s not the basket that we’re putting all our eggs into,” said McGregor.

He says SaskPower is aggressively, but responsibly expanding its renewable portfolio and even increasing its interconnections with neighbouring jurisdictions to import hydro from other provinces.

“We’re looking at any and all non-emitting options available to Saskatchewan like geothermal and biomass etc.,” said McGregor.

“Nuclear power could play a role in that power future, but it certainly isn’t the only thing we’re evaluating to power Saskatchewan and to cut our emissions.”