The Ontario government has announced the start of site preparation at the Darlington nuclear power plant for Canada’s first grid-scale small modular reactor: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) BWRX-300.
Darlington’s owner and operator, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), awarded Niagara-based E.S. Fox a contract in March 2022 valued at C$32 million (about $23.5 million) for early site preparation and support infrastructure, including water supply, electrical power, information technology, and road services. OPG expects the work to generate some 100 jobs.
What they’re saying: “With global businesses looking to expand in jurisdictions with clean and cost-effective electricity, small modular reactors will help compete for and attract more game-changing investments in Ontario’s economy,” said Ontario premier Doug Ford at the December 2 ceremony marking the commencement of the work. “Our government is getting it done and building the future of nuclear energy right here in Ontario to support the needs of our growing province.”
Todd Smith, Ontario minister of energy, claimed that “Ontario is clearly leading the world when it comes to new nuclear technologies,” adding that the proposed SMR at Darlington “will ensure that we have the electricity we need to support our success in driving electrification and attracting new jobs to the province, including unprecedented investments, from electric vehicles and battery manufacturing to clean steelmaking.”
OPG’s president and chief executive officer, Ken Hartwick, noted that the project “leverages OPG’s decades of experience in providing reliable, safe, and affordable electricity, as well as Ontario’s strong nuclear supply chain to develop the next generation of nuclear power.”
The tech: The BWRX-300 is a 300-MWe water-cooled, natural-circulation SMR with passive safety systems. According to GEH, as a result of design simplification, the BWRX-300 should require significantly lower capital costs per megawatt than other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.
Background: Darlington, home to four 878-MWe CANDU pressurized water reactors, is the only site in Canada currently licensed for new nuclear. OPG was granted a license by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2012 to allow site preparation activities for a nuclear new-build project. The license was renewed in October 2021.
In October 2020, OPG announced that it was working with three grid-scale SMR technology developers—GEH, Terrestrial Energy, and X-energy—to advance engineering and design work with the goal of identifying options for future deployment. The following month, the utility announced the resumption of planning activities for future nuclear power generation at Darlington, with the goal of hosting a grid-size SMR as soon as 2028. (An earlier project plan had focused on the construction of traditional large reactors.) OPG selected GEH in December 2021 as its technology partner for the SMR project.