Alberta is investing $7 million from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund to help Cenovus Energy study how small modular reactors could be used in northern Alberta, and what additional information might be needed to pursue regulatory approval in the future.
As outlined in the province’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan and A Strategic Plan for the Deployment of Small Modular Reactors, Alberta is committed to responsible and innovative energy development, and small modular reactors have the potential to provide zero-emissions energy and further reduce emissions from Alberta’s oil sands in the years to come.
“A few years ago, the idea of expanding nuclear energy use was on the back burner – that is no longer the case. In Alberta, small modular nuclear reactors have the potential to supply heat and power to the oil sands, simultaneously reducing emissions and supporting Alberta’s energy future. This funding is the foundation for that promising future. I want to thank Cenovus Energy and Emissions Reduction Alberta for their leadership in this work.”
“Alberta is determined to be a leader in the support and development of market-driven emerging energy technologies like small modular reactors. With Alberta’s long history of responsible energy development, we are optimistic about the opportunities ahead and will continue working with industry to explore and enable small modular reactor development in this province.”
Small modular reactor technology involves scalable and versatile nuclear reactors that could potentially supply non-emitting heat and power to the province’s oil sands. Provincial funding delivered through Emissions Reduction Alberta is supporting the work needed to determine how this technology could be effectively used in Alberta.
“Small modular reactors have great potential to supply non-emitting energy in many different applications, including the oil sands. Further studies like this are needed to see if the technology is suitable for those industrial applications. If so, it could be transformational for the in-situ oil sands sector and other sectors in Alberta.”
“This enabling study is a great example of the collaborative approach we’ll need to help us reach our ambition of net-zero emissions from our operations by 2050. We’re exploring multiple technologies that would help significantly reduce our emissions, and small modular reactors show potential. This study will help us understand if this possible solution is economical and technically viable.”
Cenovus Energy’s $26.7-million enabling study will look at whether small modular reactor technology could be applied to steam-assisted gravity drainage projects in the oil sands, which drill into the reservoir and inject steam to soften the oil. Alberta Innovates recently released a study on the feasibility of using small modular nuclear reactors in steam-assisted gravity drainage operations, which is an early step to see if this technology could be part of Alberta’s long-term solutions to reducing emissions from industry operations. While there is currently no project being planned, this study frames the discussion around what is possible in the years ahead.
“Building off the work previously supported by Alberta Innovates, the success of Cenovus's small modular reactor ERA-funded enabling study could provide substantial economic and environmental advantages throughout Alberta's industrial sector, helping to advance a clean energy future for Canada.”
- Funding for this project comes from Emissions Reduction Alberta’s Industrial Transformation Challenge.
- Any future adoption of small modular reactor technology in Alberta would require an extensive regulatory and engagement process. The province is currently working to ensure the regulatory framework is in place and ready should private industry pursue this technology.
- On Sept. 12, an Alberta-Ottawa working group on emissions reduction and energy development met for the first time. The working group agreed to commence the development of a regulatory framework for small modular reactor technology and continue work on federal and provincial incentives for CCUS, hydrogen and other emissions-reducing technologies.
- Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick released A Strategic Plan for the Development of Small Modular Reactors in 2022. The plan commits the Alberta Utilities Commission and Alberta Energy Regulator to deliver findings on areas of overlap, uncertainty and duplication between the federal and provincial regulatory systems to Alberta’s government in 2023.
- The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates all stages of life of nuclear power plants in Canada, starting from the initial environmental assessment to decommissioning. The approval process takes several years and offers opportunities for public participation.