Alberta to fund research of small modular nuclear reactors

The United Conservative government has announced funding for supporting research into nuclear power, though development is likely a decade away.

Premier Danielle Smith says her government is setting aside $600,000 for energy developer, X-energy, to look into the possibility of integrating small modular reactors (SMRs) into Alberta’s electric grid.

Speaking at an energy summit in Calgary Tuesday, she says she’d like to apply that power to oil and gas extraction.

Ontario has long been the face of nuclear power in Canada, and is the site of the country’s first SMR in Darlington, near Toronto, which will come online in 2028.

That province’s energy minister was on hand to speak to its benefits, adding that plans are underway for three additional SMRs on the same site.

Smith says it’s crucial people know nuclear energy is safe, particularly in light of the demands on Alberta’s electric grid during January’s cold snap.

“It’s helped us to make the case about why we need more baseload power, which includes your industry,” she said. “[The technology] represents a tremendous opportunity.”

Ben Reinke, vice-president of global business development with X-energy, says the province’s first small modular reactor should be deployed sometime early in the next decade.

Meanwhile, solar projects in Alberta continue to receive approvals, despite a more than six month moratorium by the UCP government on renewable projects.

The utilities commission recently approved a 450-megawatt air solar project, southwest of Medicine Hat.

Concerns have been raised over its impacts to pronghorn migration, but Alberta Environment says the project poses an overall low risk.

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