POINT LEPREAU, N.B. — New Brunswick's energy minister says he'd like to see another nuclear reactor built in the Maritime province.
Rick Doucet said the development of small modular reactors could present a significant economic and export opportunity.
"Canada and New Brunswick have an opportunity to become world leaders in the SMR technology and into bringing a clean, new and reliable source of ultra-low carbon power to the forefront of global climate change," Doucet said Monday.
Advanced Reactor Concepts — a U.S.-based company — announced it will commit $5 million to operations and research in New Brunswick.
"The long-term vision is to build a commercial demonstration SMR plant at the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station," Doucet said. "Construction of an SMR would be a major undertaking, which would see thousands of workers hired for construction."
The company wants to build small, 100-megawatt reactors that it describes as inherently safe. A prototype operated for 30 years in the United States but the technology was never developed.
"We intend to demonstrate that the inherent safety features of our reactor enable a simple and cost effective design which will be competitive with all other forms of electricity generation," said Don Wolf, chairman of Advanced Reactor Concepts.
Their ARC-100 reactor uses a technology that Wolf says doesn't require the costly safety measures required by other nuclear reactors.
"The fuel is not an oxide of uranium, it's a metal. The combination of the sodium as a coolant (rather than water) the metal fuel and the proprietary core design of the ARC reactor gives it inherent safety," Wolf said.
Gaetan Thomas, president of Crown utility NB Power, said such reactors can be cost efficient.
"When you put all those factors together, it's an ideal solution for the future," Thomas said.
The New Brunswick government recently announced it will spend $10 million to create a nuclear research cluster.
New Brunswick's 660-megawatt Candu-6 reactor at Point Lepreau is the only nuclear power plant in Atlantic Canada.
It underwent a $2.4 billion refurbishment between 2008 and 2012. The refurbishment was plagued by repeated delays and cost overruns.
Wolf said his company could start building ARC-100 reactors as early as 2030, and he said New Brunswick would be an ideal place to do it.
"I think you have an ideal situation here with respect to the trained workforce, the enthusiasm about nuclear power, and all the ingredients to have this be a world export hub," he said. "There's no reason why it shouldn't be built here."
Robert Blakely, a director with Canada's Building Trades Unions, called Monday's announcement significant.
He said while it doesn't mean shovels in the ground in the near future, it provides hope for the years to come.
"This provides an opportunity to get young New Brunswickers into great trades, high-skilled, high-paying, rewarding careers," Blakely said.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press