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

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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 expected to act as the handbook for other projects “here and around the world” on how to build nuclear, said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick.

OPG has officially partnered with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon to construct the 500-megawatt SMR at Darlington, with the reactor – supplying enough energy to power 300,000 homes – scheduled to be completed by 2028 and supplying power to the grid a year later.

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

Brenda McDonald, who has the wordy title of Senior Vice-president of New Growth and Commercial Management at OPG, said renewed global interest in nuclear (and especially SMRs) of late means the world will be paying attention to Darlington.

“We all know all eyes are on us. The world will be watching as we deliver this nuclear project.”

Among the eyes watching the development at the Clarington nuclear power plant will be the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S., which has just given the green light to America’s first-ever small modular nuclear design.

The Commission approved the design of a module capable of 50 megawatts of power from NuScale, an Oregon-based nuclear reactor company.

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

“They are real and they are ready for deployment,” she said. “This is innovation at its finest and we are just getting started here.”

Innovation will be on full display at Darlington over the next five years as each party will have a specific role while managing the construction of the BWRX-300 SMR as an integrated team:

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

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

Joe St. Julian, the President, Nuclear at SNC-Lavalin told the story Friday of working on a nuclear project in 2011 when an earthquake – the worst in Japanese history – caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant to “blow up.”

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

St. Julian said Canada needs to double its energy output over the next 30 years and with net zero climate goals in place, “the only to do that is through nuclear power.”

“We’re on the leading edge now for bringing nuclear power truly into the 21st century,” he said. “This is the next step in nuclear power.”

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