Canada’s federal budget backs nuclear; UK to approve Rolls-Royce SMR

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An artist's rendition of the Rolls-Royce small modular reactor (SMR) (Source: Rolls-Royce)

Canada’s 2022 Federal budget has laid out a series of state-backed investments into nuclear power, a significant shift for the government’s position on the technology, according to Canadian Nuclear Association.

“The Budget indicates that the Government is committing to including nuclear technologies in efforts to shift towards a net zero economy and meet ambitious climate plans, with specific funding for small modular reactors (SMRs) and uranium exploration and development,” the CNA said in a statement.

The 2022 budget proposes CAN$120 million ($79 million) to back small modular reactors (SMRs), and CAN$69.9 million for Natural Resources Canada to undertake research on waste, support the creation of a fuel supply chain, strengthen international cooperation agreements and enhance domestic safety practices.

The other CAN$50.7 million will go to the CNA to build the capacity to regulate SMRs and work with international partners on global regulatory harmonization, the budget says.

The budget will also broaden the role of the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), which announced a CAN$10 billion growth plan in 2020 including a stated goal of helping Canada achieve its emissions reduction targets, allowing the CIB to invest in small modular reactors.

The budget decision comes after the government excluded nuclear from its first ever Green Bond Framework, leading some in the industry to worry the Canadian government was turning its back on the technology.

UK SMR to see regulatory approval by 2024

Britain will likely issue regulatory approval for a Rolls-Royce SMR by mid-2024, Chairman of Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactors Paul Stein told Reuters in an interview.

Rolls-Royce’s $546 million funding round to develop the country’s first SMR was backed by a 210-million-pound ($273 million) investment from the government, alongside 193 million pounds from Rolls-Royce, BNF Resources UK and Exelon Generation.

The government asked the nuclear regulator, the ONR, to start the approval process in March.

"We are trying to work with the UK Government, and others to get going now placing orders, so we can get power on grid by 2029," Stein told Reuters.

Each of Rolls-Royce SMRs will have a capacity of 470 MW and would occupy around one tenth the size of a conventional nuclear power plant, the company said.

“Entering the Generic Design Assessment process is another major milestone as we head at pace towards our goal of deploying a fleet of SMRs which will produce affordable, low carbon electricity – helping meet future energy demands and reach our net zero targets,” Rolls-Royce SMR CEO Tom Samson said in a statement in March.

US to support nuclear LTO 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced plans to seek applications to support long-term operations (LTO) of nuclear reactors under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program, the DOE said in a statement mid-April.

The government has published guidance for owners and operators of nuclear facilities that are going to be shut down due to economic circumstances on how to apply for funding to avoid premature closure, it said.

The guidance includes instructions on formulating and submitting sealed bids for the allocation of credits, the DOE said.

“We’re using every tool available to get this country powered by clean energy by 2035, and that includes prioritizing our existing nuclear fleet to allow for continued emissions-free electricity generation and economic stability for the communities leading this important work,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have led to the early closure of 12 commercial reactors in the United States since 2013, leading to the loss of thousands of jobs, an increase in carbon emissions, and poorer air quality, the DOE said.

Extending the life of existing nuclear plants is the most cost-effective source of low-carbon electricity, according to the five-yearly International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) and OECD-NEA’s ‘Projected Costs of Generating Electricity’ study in 2020.  

Moltex, SNC-Lavalin form partnership

Moltex Energy Canada and SNC-Lavalin Group have announced a strategic partnership to advance clean nuclear power, the two companies said in a joint statement mid-April.

Moltex is developing a Stable Salt Reactor-Wastburner (SSR-W), which uses recycled nuclear waste as fuel, and a process for recycling nuclear waste dubbed Waste to Stable Salt (WATSS), while SNC-Lavalin is a project management company that delivers a wide range of services to sectors such as engineering services, nuclear, operations and maintenance, and capital.

Moltex will draw on SNC-Lavalin’s network of experts in engineering, licensing and regulatory affairs, cost estimating, supplier qualification and management, quality assurance, and construction and operation planning while SNC-Lavalin will collaborate with Moltex to attract new customers and promote the group’s business goals, they said.

The accord was supported by the provincial governments of New Brunswick and Ontario, both of which have entered into feasibility studies to aid the rollout of SMRs and advanced reactors alongside the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

By Reuters Events Nuclear