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'It is safe, it is simple, it’s reliable': Sask. eyes microreactor to power remote communities, industries

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The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) is getting a multi-million dollar boost to help fund its microreactor project, which aims to provide heat and power to remote communities and industries.

The Saskatchewan Government has made an $80 million commitment to the SRC to help get through the “highly complex” licensing and regulatory requirements for operating the microreactor.

“Microreactors provide a custom solution for Saskatchewan’s unique energy needs,” Premier Scott Moe said on Monday.

Moe said the government believes microreactors will play a “key role” in providing clean energy.

“This project has the opportunity to be transformative for our economy, industry and communities,” he said.

The SRC said if it can get approval, the eVinci microreactor will be built by the Westinghouse Electric Company, a firm in which Saskatoon-based Cameco owns a 49 per cent stake.

It's expected to be operational by 2029.

SRC president and CEO Mike Crabtree said the goal is to use a microreactor in an industrial setting, and lay the ground work for future projects.

“What we learn through this project will prepare SRC to assist communities and industries in future projects,” he said.

Crabtree said the eVinci differs from a small modular reactor. He said a microreactor generates less than 20 megawatts of power, while small modular reactors would generate about 300 megawatts of power.

He said the eVinci microreactor can generate five megawatts of power, 13 megawatts of heat, or run on a combined heat and power mode.

Crabtree said it can power about 3,000 homes for about 8-10 years, and once that time is up, it will be sent back to the factory where it will be refuelled.

“It is essentially a rechargeable battery,” Crabtree said.

He said the spent fuel is put into long-term storage, and is the equivalent of three 200-litre drums.

“Those three drums replace a million drums of diesel,” he said.

Crabtree said those one million drums create about half a million tons of CO2.

“It is safe, it is simple, it’s reliable, it does not use water,” he said.

Crabtree said it’s fuelled by TRISO (Tri-structural ISOtropic particle fuel).

“It’s a little grain of uranium surrounded by a silicon carbide shell, that effectively armour-plates the fuel,” he said.

The SRC said the surrounding infrastructure for the microreactor takes up less than two-thirds of a hockey rink. It said a location hasn’t been determined yet, but it will be once the regulatory process begins.

“We want this to pay its way, we don’t want this to be simply a research reactor, so we will want to provide power to either a community or in an industrial process,” he said.

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