SMR project in Clarington entices $970 million investment from Canada Infrastructure Bank

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Published October 25, 2022 at 11:44 am

The hyperbole was thick but it is only expected to be six years before we learn if Canada’s first small modular reactor – a project described by Durham Chair John Henry as one that can “change the world” – will live up to expectations.

Henry, Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster, federal and provincial ministers, OPG officials and other dignitaries were all on hand at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Tuesday morning for the announcement that the Canada Infrastructure Bank will invest nearly $1 billion to build the 300 megawatt SMR by 2028.

The $970 million is CIB’s largest investment in clean power to date.

OPG is developing and constructing the 300-megawatt SMR, billed as a new class of nuclear reactors which have a smaller footprint and a shorter construction schedule. SMRs can provide zero-carbon baseload power across all regions and are crucial to decarbonizing the electricity sector and the broader economy.

“We know nuclear energy, including from SMRs, is an essential part of the electricity mix to help meet our climate change goals,” said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick. “This low-interest financing helps us advance the Darlington New Nuclear Project, paving the way for development and deployment of the next generation of nuclear power in Canada.”

The CIB-financed Phase 1 work covers all preparation required prior to nuclear construction, including project design, site preparation, procurement of long lead-time equipment, utility connections, implementation of a digital strategy, and related project management costs.

Hartwick noted that the plan is to build four SMRs on site. “But we will only build the second one if the first SMR is successful.”

Ehren Cory, the CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), said projects like the Darlington SMR help bridge the “significant gap” between the infrastructure Canada now has and the infrastructure the country needs.

“A project like this accelerates the buildup because it provides 750,000 tonnes of emission reduction every year and that’s the kind of outcome that gets us very excited.”

“It also sets the groundwork for the important role nuclear can play,” he said, adding that there is “no path” to reaching climate and carbon reduction goals without nuclear.

The Darlington SMR will be one of the first ever developed and is expected to spearhead similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, with interest also growing internationally.

The project will also support Canadian efforts to become a global SMR technology hub in a market estimated to be $150 billion per year by 2040.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said projects like the Darlington SMR are “critical” to Canada’s future. “The deployment of one of Canada’s first Small Modular Reactors … will further enhance Canada’s leadership in nuclear technology, create sustainable jobs, and reduce emissions. This announcement represents an important step forward for energy security and availability in Canada.”

Hartwick said the project shows that nuclear – “done the right way” – can be successful and cost effective, especially with the low-interest financing provided by the CIB. “The success of nuclear projects this this can be a benefit to Canadians for many generations to come.”

A 2020 study undertaken by the Conference Board of Canada shows strong economic benefits from construction and 60 years of operation of a single SMR facility. According to the report, direct and indirect employment would result in an annual average of approximately:

  • 700 jobs during project development;
  • 1,600 jobs during manufacturing and construction and;
  • 200 jobs during operations;

Henry, fresh off an election win the night before, was full of praise for the project. “Not too many projects can change the world like this one.”

Provincial Energy Minister Todd Smith was also effusive in his support for the investment. “Ontario is leading the way when it comes to new nuclear technologies and the world is watching as we build the first ever grid-scale SMR at Darlington,” he said. “Today’s investment is a demonstration of the incredible opportunities of SMRs and nuclear power as a way to produce clean electricity to attract new investment, create jobs, and grow our economy while supporting electrification.”

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