Premier Scott Moe, telling Estevan it will be the site of SaskPower’s first small modular reactors, should they go ahead. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

 

ESTEVAN – If Saskatchewan builds small modular reactors, the first two will be near Estevan, according to Premier Scott Moe. Speaking to the Estevan Chamber of Commerce on May 30 on the occasion of its 120th anniversary, he provided some clarity for workers who work in coal-fired power generation.

A few weeks earlier, Moe had touched on the Estevan getting the planned reactors in a speech to the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce. He was more detailed while speaking in Estevan on May 30.

Here is the power generation portion of Moe’s speech, verbatim:

I’m going to make some comments on that, in the case of Estevan here. that I hope will be, as I said, as transparent as I can possibly be with the information that we have.

This year alone, you’re seeing significant investments by SaskPower $1.6 billion as part of a just over $4 billion across-government investment. $1.6 billion of that is from SaskPower, either and transmission or some generation facilities. And when we look into the future, from a SaskPower perspective, the mix of generation sources is going to be variable. We have some hydro, we have some natural gas, we have some renewables. But as you know, the conversation is progressing around developing nuclear reactors in the province, specifically small modular nuclear reactors are what’s known as SMRs. And I think I let it slip a few weeks ago at a Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce Day in Regina a few weeks ago, I think I made the comment that it was likely going to be at Estevan. While I’m here today to probably put a little bit of meat on that bone.

Up until today, SaskPower has been focused on really two regions on where they could locate an SMR. As of tomorrow morning when a news release comes out from SaskPower, but I’ll let you in on it this evening, that’s going to be one region. And it’s going to be the community of Estevan is where SaskPower is going to be looking to locate their first SMR, should they go down a nuclear path. And we don’t have a lot of other options. And so that’s the path we’re most certainly looking at.

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This will create a significant number of jobs, in the way, first, in construction of an SMR, and a number of long term operational jobs at the plant over the period of the next number of decades. There are going to be two locations here of which I think SaskPower will be engaging with local leadership, both at the RM level and at the community level. One’s at Boundary Dam, one’s at the Rafferty reservoir. They’re going to consult on which, and further do some testing, on which of those locations will work. And they’ll be looking at those locations.

As I said, we’ve selected the site for our first SMR build, should we be building nuclear facilities, which we don’t have a number of other options. But they’re going to be ensuring that that site is capable of more than one.

And so that is some of the work that SaskPower will be up to, at these two sites in the Estevan area is we look ahead.

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The intent, I would say, the government’s intent is to ensure that over the next a number of years, we have a significant amount of transmission capacity that is coming into this community. And it’s our intent to use it. It’s not our intent to leave that transmission capacity vacant in any way. And so that’s a commitment that I would make to you, here this evening.

And as I said, all of this is going to come out in a press release by SaskPower tomorrow. Funny story: I mentioned to our minister of SaskPower that doesn’t live too far from here. I said, ‘Can I see that press release before I go down to Estevan?’

And he had said, ‘Sure. I’ll try to get it to you.’

And he didn’t get it to me for about a day. And so I saw him again. And I said, ‘Listen.’ I said, ‘I have some things I’m going to say when I go to Estevan,’ I said, ‘If you get me the press release,’ I said, ‘I will confine them to what’s in that press release.’ I said, ‘If you don’t get that press release to me,’ I said, ‘I’m going to say some things. And I would hope that the press release will match what I said.’

I got the press release in about 15 minutes.

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Workforce continuity

I want to just make one more comment. I don’t want to go on too long. And I want to talk about a little bit about workforce continuity, here in the Estevan region. And I’m just going to maybe set the frame on some of the discussion. And this might make some sense, with respect to some of the discussions that maybe we’ve had publicly, and should be having more non-publicly with the federal government, either this administration or the next. We will see.

But the federal plan, versus a provincial plan, is this is one of the precipitous behind, or the reasons behind why we even have a provincial plan. One is cost. But two is this: it’s workforce continuity. If you look at the federal plan, right now, it’s a coal-fired power until 2030, at which time you turn that off, you’ve converted, I suppose to natural gas, run that. We’re looking at potentially bringing on our first SMR, about 2034. And then multiple SMRs, potentially, in the years after that. So, you would have that gap on workforce continuity between 2030 and 2034. That’s why we have had conversations like, you know, our coal fired plants here in Estevan are actually their end of life is 2038, 2042, a number of them. If we’re able to actually run those plants out for beyond 2030, think of the much more structured way that we’re actually able to train our workforce that may be working in a coal-fired facility today, and actually transition that training through. And those very same people that are part of your community and have lived here all their life into skilled professionals that would then work in a nuclear facility in the future.

And so that’s the discussion that we’re going to continue to have with the federal government is we want to ensure that however this move from overtime, likely from coal to nuclear, unless there’s another option that comes along through Harry Potter’s strike of his wand or something, one of the priorities that we have is, you know, how are we going to seamlessly transition the workforce here in Estevan.

And so I just wanted to broach that in the era of always trying to be as transparent as possible in a community where there’s a number of regulatory changes in this space that, you know, have a great impact on this community. And I want you to know that we’re doing everything through the advice of Lori (Carr) to her neighbor to the north one Dustin Duncan, but to the broader cabinet and caucus, doing everything that we can not only with an eye of producing reliable, affordable power to the province, but also with an eye to ensure that, you know, we are doing the right thing by the people that worked at this plant for many years here in Estevan, and ensuring that we’re setting Estevan up to be, not only setting Estevan and the people that live here up for success in the future, but great success. And we’ll be able to go out and repaint that sign that says Estevan is the Energy City and we will be for decades into the future.

 

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