SNC-Lavalin, Aecon join team building North America’s first small modular reactor

GE Hitachi’s conceptual render of the BWXR-300 small modular reactor to be built at the Darlington nuclear plant site in Ontario, Canada (Courtesy of Ontario Power Generation)
Canadian power company Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has retained Candu Energy, part of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and Canadian contractor Aecon to design and build a small modular reactor (SMR) at the Darlington nuclear plant in Ontario before the end of the decade.

Candu and Aecon will work with GE-Hitachi on the project which, if successful, would deliver the first grid-scale SMR in North America.

SMRs are conceived as compact reactors with a capacity below 300MW that can be built faster and more cheaply thanks to their modular design.

More SMRs would follow in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Alberta according to a strategic plan these provinces agreed to between 2019 and 2021.

“Canada was the second country in the world to ever generate commercial nuclear power,” said Joe St. Julian, SNC-Lavalin’s president of nuclear.

SNC-Lavalin will use its expertise in getting licenses from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. As the original equipment manufacturer of Candu reactors, it’s the only company to have its technology pass all three phases of the Commission’s pre-project design review.

SNC-Lavalin chief executive Ian L. Edwards said: “Canada’s 2050 Net Zero commitments will require large-scale electrification of transportation, buildings and heavy industrial processes. That electricity needs to be generated from clean, reliable, and cost-efficient sources, whose employment in the energy mix will not weaken energy security.”

OPG says the Darlington site is the only one in Canada licensed for new nuclear, with an accepted environmental assessment and a site preparation licence.

SNC-Lavalin and Aecon are about half-way through working on the 10-year refurbishment of the Darlington plant.

In December 2021, OPG said it would work with GE Hitachi to deploy the BWXR-300 SMR at the Darlington site.

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