ELBOW - The production of nuclear energy in the Lake Diefenbaker area was on the minds of many who came through the doors at a public information session hosted by SaskPower last week.
Held at the Harbor Golf Club tournament building in Elbow over two nights on October 12 & 13, representatives with SaskPower were on site to talk with people about the project and answer any questions or address any concerns they may have had.
The main topic of discussion, of course, was the future possibility of a small modular reactor (SMR) being housed in the immediate area. SaskPower has narrowed their choices down to two potential sites, one being Elbow and the other being the Estevan area. Specifically, the Estevan are being studied includes the areas around Boundary/Rafferty Dam and the Grant Devine Dam, while the Elbow study area includes Lake Diefenbaker from Gardiner Dam to the Diefenbaker Dam.
Between now and September of next year, the Crown corporation's goal is to narrow down their options for a site based on the information collected through studies and engaging with communities, stakeholders and rightsholders in the targeted study areas.
To date, the specific project that will be deployed at one of the sites has been confirmed as SaskPower has selected GE Hitachi's BWRX-300 SMR design. Selecting the type of technology that will be used is required in order to advance planning, regulatory and licensing work.
At the event in Elbow, people came and took a deep look at the information provided, learning all they could about the possible project in their local area. As well, some asked questions and gave their concerns about nuclear energy, which was to be expected since the topic is seen as a hot button issue in the public eye. The theme of this event was to provide an informal, drop-in atmosphere and for SaskPower to gather as many opinions and views on the project as possible.
Boards that were set up all around the room asked people to post their questions, concerns and views on the project. For example, one board asked people what information they were seeking and what was on their mind the most about the project, and another asked what people valued the most about the Elbow/Lake Diefenbaker area, wondering if there were specific priorities in the area of which to take note. Responses to some of these questions included people asking questions of their own:
"How will this work with the proposed irrigation project? Can the irrigation project be redesigned if this goes ahead?"
"Will this project work with the current generation from the dam to allow for better water regulation in the lake?"
"Would the temperature of the lake change?"
As well, people listed employment, the local volunteer fire departments and the fluctuation of Lake Diefenbaker as items that people think SaskPower should consider in making their decision.
The corporation's anticipated milestones of this project include site selection in 2025, followed by impact assessment, a license to prepare a site and the final decision on whether or not to build an SMR in 2029. From there, a license to construct could come in 2030, with a license to operate by the following year.
SaskPower expects to host several more of these public events over the coming months as new information is released about the SMR project.