Pembroke – A developer of small modular reactors is looking at opening a demonstration centre at Chalk River with an innovative product capable of powering about 5,000 homes in remote locations.
“They are one of our first and largest new investors to the county,” Director of Development and Property Craig Kelley said at Renfrew County council last Wednesday. “They are planning to design, develop and build their micro modular reactor (MMR) project at Chalk River Laboratories.”
Global First Power made a virtual presentation to the assembled mayors and reeves about the planned MMR project, including drawings of where the on-site demonstration model would be built and outlined the next steps as they seek approvals for the project. The company is a partnership of Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation of Seattle, Washington.
“They are the first company to develop and construct a small modular reactor in North America,” Mr. Kelley noted.
Global First Power Managing Director Yos Diening explained the MMR demonstration project at the Chalk River Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) site would supply 15 megawatts of heat energy which is approximately five MW of electricity.
“These are designed for off grid locations,” he said.
The project includes an MMR and adjacent plant. The lifespan of the demonstration site is about 20 years, he noted. It will be decommissioned then and the site restored to its original configuration. At present they have applied to the Canadian Nuclear Commission for a license and once approvals are completed will be moving forward with next steps leading to construction.
“This is clean nuclear energy,” he said.
The small modular reactors could be used in remote communities and would make it easier to heat homes and run the community, he explained. It could also be for mining communities up north or First Nations communities. The modules are also scalable depending on need.
The demonstration unit will be constructed and tested off site and assembled at Chalk River. It also has a small footprint of less than the size of two Olympic running tracks.
“Our MMR unit could replace up to 200 million litres of diesel,” he said.
The reactor uses salt to carry the heat in and out. The salt stays in a closed loop.
“The reactor only supplies the heat that is demanded,” he added.
Mr. Diening said the proposed site for the demonstration plant is at a parking lot at Chalk River. It has the least impact on the site of the different locations considered since no trees need to be removed, he said.
Each stage of site preparation, construction, operation, decommissioning and release from licensing requires authorization through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
He noted the site work would likely be done in 2024 and the operation would commence between 2026 and 2027.
Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said it is good to see the activity at Chalk River.
“It is nice to see additional investment and additional utilization of that site,” he said.
Mayor Jed Reinwald of Laurentian Hills, where Chalk River is located, questioned the 20-year lifespan and what could happen after that. “Can they be refueled or disposed of?” he asked.
Mr. Diening said there are no plans to refuel the reactor, but this could be considered in the future. If it was refueled it may or may not be done on-site, he said.
“This will be a demonstration site,” he said.
He stressed the plants also cannot be refueled while they are in operation.
Warden Debbie Robinson said it is very nice to have the presentation on what is being planned.
“I’m certainly intrigued by the fact it is going to be a training site as well,” she said.
This will give people a chance to see what is happening at Chalk River, she noted.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader