A new power source is coming to the Energy City: nuclear. 

Estevan has been identified as the location for the province’s first Small Modular Reactor (SMR). The announcement was made by Premier Scott Moe last night at the Estevan Chamber of Commerce’s 120th Anniversary Banquet.

“Next step is there's two locations, one in Rafferty, one of Boundary that are identified here in Estevan. You'll see SaskPower engaging on those two locations, not with an eye to build one reactor, but an eye to build at least two,” said Moe.

He noted that Estevan is rich with two assets necessary for the future of power generation in Saskatchewan: transmission lines and an engaged workforce. He emphasized his opposition to federal regulations that aim to have coal plants offline by 2030. SaskPower intends to get at least one of the reactors online by 2034. Moe foresees a preventable gap in the workforce.

“We’re focused on the continuity of that workforce and finding our way to a generation source like nuclear in the future. That continuity, I think, is an opportunity for SaskPower and for us as a province to continue to produce power out of Estevan,” said Moe.

The premier is playing the long game. When asked about how the federal carbon tax affects the provincial government's decisions, Moe said that there are a few layers of policy that impact their decisions.

"As we attract investments, whether it be in the mining industry, the ag value-added industry, even the oil industry pipeline industry, they're asking the questions - 'what's the emissions profile of your electrical generation today?' and 'what's it going to be in the next 5-10 and 15 years?'," said Moe. 

"It's our goal to really provide [a] reliable power source to Saskatchewan people and industries. One of the opportunities that we have to do in a very structured way to ensure that we have workforce continuity in the community like Estevan is to, you know, make that move from coal as our assets time their way out to 50 years of life, quite likely to nuclear, which is not a decision that has been confirmed yet, but quite likely to nuclear because there just aren't a lot of other options."

SaskPower is in year four of an eight-year planning phase for the development of nuclear power from small modular reactors. It is seeking regulatory approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on a site for an SMR facility it plans to build by the mid-2030s.

“We're confident that we're going to make the best decisions on behalf of Saskatchewan people, and that includes the people in Estevan here and those people that work at the current facilities in Estevan, on how we can best provide, you know, that certainty to the degree that we can and the workforce continuity to the degree that we can,” said Moe.

A detailed site assessment of each potential site will be conducted throughout 2024, leading to a final site selection in 2025, with a final investment decision in 2029.