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Alberta eyes nuclear as slow, but potentially successful power grid and emissions answer

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Alberta’s government is continuing its push for nuclear power in the province.

Premier Danielle Smith spoke at an energy summit Tuesday about the benefits of small modular reactors (SMRs), just hours after funding was announced for deployment research.

“It’s crucial that Canadians know the technology is safe and it represents a tremendous opportunity,” Smith said to room of SMR producers and politicians.

That group included Ontario’s Energy Minister Todd Smith, whose province has long been the face of nuclear in Canada, using it to power much of its electricity grid.

Alberta’s system looks a little different.

A cold snap in January led to record demand and load challenges for the local grid, which is highly reliant on natural gas.

“(The snap) has helped us make the case about why we need more base load power,” Smith said Tuesday. “And that includes your industry.”

Smith not only wants to integrate nuclear into Alberta’s electricity grid, but also to use it to power oil extraction.

Energy producers are convinced SMRs can provide non-emitting heat and power — which has potential to lower emissions and meet net zero goals.

On Tuesday, Smith’s government announced new funding support for a related project.

X-energy will soon be studying the deployment of a high-temperature reactor in Alberta, thanks to financial help from Emissions Reduction Alberta.

X-energy will assess regulatory impacts, licensing requirements and the potential project timeline.

“We believe Alberta is poised to become a leader in SMR deployment,” VP Ben Reinke said. “We are targeting really the early-to-mid 2030s.”

Alberta still needs to implement regulations before any project can go ahead.

“If we can do it sooner, we will, but we need to make sure we take the time to bring Albertans along with us because it’s a change,” Smith told CTV News. “We haven’t had nuclear in the province before.”

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