Small reactors could power far north mines

The feasibility study found that the most economical energy mix was for vSMRs to provide 90 per cent of the baseload power required for mining operations and associated uses, with only peak demand periods managed through use of diesel generation, reducing emissions by 85 per cent. Emissions could be lowered further by adding other renewables to the mix, decreasing the diesel component, at a slightly increased cost.

Advantages of a vSMR, producing less than 10 megawatts of power, include:

Global First Power, a joint venture between OPG and USNC-Power, is the most advanced vSMR project in Canada. The project recently received Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) approval to begin a technical review. Subject to federal government financial support, the next step in the process is to construct a demonstration vSMR at CNL’s Chalk River campus.

This demonstration project will serve as a model for future SMR deployments as called for in Canada’s SMR Roadmap and Action Plan, by producing competitively-priced clean energy ideally sized for remote communities and heavy industry such as mining and resource projects.

“Nuclear power and SMRs play an enormous and critical role in meeting Canada’s climate change goals,” said Robin Manley, Vice-President of New Nuclear Development at OPG. “This study demonstrates that not only can a vSMR dramatically reduce emissions in an industry that currently relies heavily on diesel, but it can do it in a cost-effective way.”

"This study paves the way for the future of mining: not only does it show that vSMRs could provide a cost-effective and reliable energy source, it demonstrates that vSMRs are a long-term solution that can help diversify and intensify a mining operation while also providing a surplus that will benefit communities in the area,” said François Caron Director of the Energy Center and Bruce Power Chair for Sustainable Energy Solutions, MIRARCO, Mining Innovation.

“Small modular reactors hold great potential in helping not just the mining sector, but Canada, move closer to a low-carbon future,” said Dr. Jeff Griffin, Vice-President, Research & Development, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. “CNL, through the SMR invitation and siting process, coupled with the world-class research and development conducted at the laboratories, is working to unlock that potential.”

“This study clearly demonstrates the incredible potential of vSMR technology,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. “vSMRs have the potential to change the game and further reduce GHG emissions in the mining sector and beyond. I am excited by these results and hopeful that this technology can play a meaningful role in providing affordable, clean energy in the future.”

“Small modular reactors represent one of the most exciting areas of new nuclear innovation in Ontario and are a potential game-changer for the energy industry,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy. “As this study indicates, vSMRs, with their versatility and ability to generate clean, low-cost energy, could provide the perfect solution for unique energy challenges, such as powering remote communities and mines that currently rely on expensive diesel power.”

As a global climate change leader and the largest, most diverse electricity generator in the province, OPG and its family of companies are helping lead the charge to a post-carbon economy.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a world leader in nuclear science and technology offering unique capabilities and solutions across a wide range of industries. Actively involved with industry-driven research and development in nuclear, transportation, clean technology, energy, defence, security and life sciences, we provide solutions to keep these sectors competitive internationally.

MIRARCO, or Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation, and Applied Research Corporation, has been providing innovative solutions for mining industry challenges since our inception in 1998. We are a not-for-profit research arm of Laurentian University, Canada’s Mining University. Our team of talented academic and industry professionals offers expertise for applied research in: Rock Mechanics, Safety, Decision Support Software, and Energy.