Nuclear power plan for the Far North: Laurentian U, MIRARCO, Bruce Power to study small nuclear reactors for remote communities and mines.

Author:McKinley, Karen
Position:MINING
 
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The first step toward having feasible nuclear power for remote Northern communities and mines has been made with an agreement.

Representatives from Bruce Power, MIRARCO Mining Innovation and Laurentian University met at the Sudbury university on April 6 to announce they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to research the feasibility of small modular reactors (SMRs) as a sustainable, clean and safe power source for communities that still rely on diesel fuel generators for their power needs.

The five-year, $1-million research agreement will create an industrial chair position at MIRARCO, which will help highlight clean energy solution opportunities in the province's North.

The MOU will also help mining companies study the feasibility of using SMRs as a power source for remote mine projects, as well as study the long-term effects of low-level radiation exposure and possible production of medical isotopes.

"This is not just an important announcement for the mining sector, but for the planet," said Vic Pakalnis, president and CEO of MIRARCO Mining Innovation and the associate vice-president of Laurentian Mining and Technology.

He was quick to highlight the environmental and economic impact this group would have.

In remote First Nation communities, many still rely on diesel generators that cost around 32 cents per kilowatt-hour to run. It goes beyond Ontario's borders, into the communities and mining projects in the Arctic.

This research group, Pakalnis said, would see if it is possible to produce and run small nuclear reactors, how effective and clean will they be, and Canada's reputation for clean, safe nuclear power would be taking a lead role in the research.

Pakalnis said MIRARCO's area of study is industrial applications of the SMRs because it will be a way for companies to generate their own power without needing to tie into the existing grid, or rely on diesel, which is why they created the chair.

"Once you get it in the mining industry, and they can be conservative, others will see if the mines are buying into it the rest of the world will go to other applications," he said.

James Scongack, vice-president of corporate affairs and environment at Bruce Power, said the company is looking at a long-term program of study on both fronts to see how reactor technology can be put in smaller applications.

Currently, nuclear provides 60 per cent of Ontario's power, but at three large stations: Bruce, Pickering and Darlington.

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