Advanced Reactor Concepts Nuclear (ARC Nuclear) and Moltex have each committed $5 million to conduct research and development activities in the province. The companies will also set up operations in Saint John, in proximity to the 660-megawatt Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS), the only nuclear reactor in Atlantic Canada.
Energy and Resource Development Minister Rick Doucet said the know-how, research capacity and infrastructure at Point Lepreau makes the province well-positioned to take part in the development of this technology.
“Canada and New Brunswick have an opportunity to become world leaders in SMR technology and in bringing a new clean, secure and reliable source of zero carbon emitting power to the forefront of the global climate change challenge,” he said.
An SMR is a low-to-medium energy advanced nuclear power unit. It has a simplified and inherently safe design, making it more cost efficient in construction and operate long-term. The technology enables units to be scaled for output from between five and 300 megawatts, which can be distributed on or off a grid. This makes it adaptable and flexible to meet the needs and demands of customers.
For New Brunswick, SMR research and development could lead to future opportunities, Minister Doucet said. This may include the replacement of generation methods that currently produce higher levels of carbon.
“We’re very interested in the development of expertise and technology related to next-generation non-carbon emitting technology. Your government sees the energy sector as an opportunity to grow our economy. This will generate jobs and revenue for New Brunswickers,” he said.
Although the province can meet its current power load demand, an aging infrastructure means New Brunswick can look to advancements in SMR technology to fulfill future needs. Moreover, the province will be more prepared to export carbon-free energy to other jurisdictions if the opportunity presents itself.
“New Brunswick is already a climate change leader. Carbon-free sources of power already account for 75 per cent New Brunswick’s energy production. We will continue to strike the right balance by doing our part in a way that protects the economy and consumers,” Doucet said.
The commitments by Moltex and ARC Nuclear complements the $10-million commitment by the Government of New Brunswick, providing to the New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation (NBESC) with funding to foster research and development into SMRs through a Nuclear Research Cluster.
The NBESC was formed last year as a joint venture to capitalize on the province’s geography in energy exports. It will allow NB Power to partner with the provincial government to seek business opportunities.
David Campbell, the chair of the NBESC said ARC Nuclear and Moltex have the ability to make advancements in the growing sector.
“This has great potential not only to make New Brunswick a leader in emerging energy sectors but to bring growth and opportunities to our economy,” he said.
The province is making a short-term investment of $10 million in NBESC and setting the conditions for economic growth via SMR research as a means to leverage commitments by outside companies that will set up operations in the province. This is expected to lead to $20 million worth of research activity in the province, employing up to three doctoral researchers, as well as five to 10 graduate students and additional support staff at the academic institution.
“We have done extensive research into which partners would best be suited to work with us in New Brunswick on this important research and development project,” said Gaëtan Thomas, President and CEO of NB Power. “These companies are at the leading edge of their field and will be a great asset here in the province as we broaden our opportunities in the energy sector.”
The provincial government and NB Power are also stakeholders in developing a Canada-wide roadmap for the development of SMR.
Development of the technology could lead to construction of a commercial demonstration SMR plant at Point Lepreau, a project estimated to require a minimum of $1 billion investment and thousands of construction workers.
ARC Nuclear is currently working towards development of a safe, 100-megawatt SMR with metallic fuel that’s cooled with sodium. It aims to license, build, and commission its first operational, grid-connected reactor in Canada. The company uses proprietary technology from its partner, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and will have the support of the multinational’s engineering and design teams.