SaskPower is a publicly owned electricity generation, transmission and distribution company in the province of Saskatchewan. The company has $7 billion in assets under management.
It has decided to select GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) to support its electricity supply in the province of Saskatchewan. Its deployment is expected to take place in the mid-2030s. This decision is in line with its objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
The BWRX-300 reactor, a flourishing technology
The technology of the BWRX-300 reactor allows to limit CO2 emissions since it does not produce CO2 during its operation. Beyond this ecological interest, the technology has important economic advantages. Compared to traditional nuclear technologies, the BWRX-300 reactor reduces construction and operating costs. In addition, the construction time for such a reactor is shorter.
This type of reactor is licensed as an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition, the reactor uses GNF2 certified fuel.
Thus, an important international craze was born around the BWRX-300 reactor. In addition to Canada, memoranda of understanding or contracts have been signed with companies in the United States, Poland, Sweden, Estonia and the Czech Republic to explore deployment of the technology.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is developing this reactor. The company was created by the alliance between General Electric and Hitachi in 2007 to support the development of the global nuclear industry. Since its inception, the company has become a leader in the construction of advanced reactors. Projects using the BWRX-300 are key for GE. They ensure General Electric’s leadership in the energy transition sector.
GE Hitachi’s presence in the local market
In addition, SaskPower has certainly chosen to partner with GEH to establish itself in its local market. General Electric’s support for the nuclear industry in Canada dates back to the early 1950s. The company helped build the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor. This is the first nuclear reactor built in Canada. NPD is the basis for the development of CANDU reactors.
GEH has recently expanded its presence in the Canadian market. In May 2022, GEH SMR Canada signed an agreement with the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Supplier’s Association to develop the BWRX-300.
SaskPower was also chosen because of GEH’s experience in deploying the BWRX-300 rectifier. There is a synergy between the agreement between GEH and SaskPower and the work already underway between GEH and Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
OPG is Ontario’s largest electricity generating and marketing company. The company is one of the largest power producers in North America with a total production of 22 GW. The company has 3 nuclear power plants in operation.
The latter will apply for a construction license this year to develop the first model of the BWRX-300 reactor. In addition, OPG has selected GEH to provide the technology for the Darlington New Nuclear Project, which will be completed by 2028.
Thus, the agreement between SaskPower and GEH is based on the attractiveness of the technology, GEH’s location in Saskatchewan, and GEH’s experience with similar projects.