OPG partnering up to build Small Modular Reactor at Clarington’s Darlington nuclear plant

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Published January 27, 2023 at 9:28 am

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has officially partnered with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, SNC-Lavalin, and Aecon to construct North America’s first Small Modular Reactor (SMR) at the Darlington New Nuclear Project site.

All partners will be at the Darlington site Friday morning to announce the deal.

The agreement, among the worst kept secrets in the nuclear industry, represents an innovative contracting approach for a nuclear project in North America. Under terms of the agreement, GE Hitachi, SNC-Lavalin, Aecon, and OPG will provide a range of expertise and services as part of an integrated project delivery model to develop, engineer and construct a BWRX-300 SMR, with construction to be complete by late 2028.

All parties will manage the project as an integrated team and each company will play a specific role in successfully completing the Darlington New Nuclear Project:

  • OPG: The license holder; OPG will maintain 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, and engineering and support.
  • SNC-Lavalin: The architect engineer; provides design, engineering and procurement support.
  • Aecon: The constructor; will provide construction planning and execution.

“Working with these three companies, OPG is leveraging decades of nuclear energy and large project experience to deliver much-needed new, reliable electricity generation to Ontarians,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG President and CEO. “Construction of the Darlington SMR will create jobs and help ensure we meet Ontario’s growing energy needs as electrification and a growing economy drive demand.”

The Darlington SMR is expected to spearhead similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, with interest also growing in the U.S. and Europe. Site preparation is now underway at the Darlington site and OPG has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a License to Construct.

OPG announced it would be working with GE Hitachi to deploy the BWXR-300 at the Darlington site in December, while AECON, Canada’s largest nuclear constructor with 50 years building nuclear infrastructure, expressed its interested in the SMR project in 2020. SNC-Lavalin Aecon got involved when it was awarded a contract for detailed design, fabrication/manufacturing and first commercial deployment of the newly developed Pressure Tube Circumferential Sampling Equipment (PRECISE) tool at Darlington in early 2021.

OPG is currently working with SNC-Lavalin and Aecon on the Darlington refurbishment, one of Canada’s largest clean energy projects. More than half-way through its 10-year execution, the project remains on time and on budget.

A 2021 Conference Board of Canada study declared the SMR project and its 60-year lifespan will lead to 700 direct and spin-off 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 could reach more than $2.5 billion and increase provincial revenues by more than $870 million and will support Canadian efforts to become a global SMR technology hub in a market estimated to be $150 billion per year by 2040.

“With today’s announcement, Ontario is one step closer to securing our legacy as a world leader in cutting-edge nuclear technology,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy. “Canada’s first grid-scale SMR at the Darlington site will help ensure a reliable, affordable and clean electricity system, increase export opportunities and support our success in driving electrification and attracting unprecedented investments in Ontario.”

Darlington is the only Canadian location licensed for new nuclear, with an accepted Environmental Assessment and a Site Preparation Licence.

Refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear plant is on time and on budget

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