Meadow Lake Tribal Council looking at microreactors to provide heat, electricity

A file photo shows a cross-section of a prototype microreactor in Texas. The Saskatchewan Research Council and Meadow Lake Tribal Council have signed a memorandum of understanding that will result in a framework for collaboration regarding the applications of microreactors in the council's First Nations. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press - image credit)

The Meadow Lake Tribal Council is collaborating with the Saskatchewan Research Council on a project that could someday see residents of northern First Nations communities heating and powering their homes with nuclear microreactors.

This week, the tribal council signed a memorandum of understanding with the SRC, the research council said in a Friday news release. It will result in a framework for collaboration regarding the applications of microreactors in the council's First Nations, which are in northwestern Saskatchewan.

As the name implies, microreactors are much smaller and would produce a fraction of the output of other power plants.

They don't exist in commercial form in Saskatchewan yet, but some versions would theoretically be able to meet the needs of several thousand homes.

Microreactors are considered a net-zero power source because, as is the case with other nuclear reactors, they do not emit greenhouse gases.

"We believe it's edge-setting technology that's moving in the right direction," Richard Derocher, Meadow Lake Tribal Council vice-chief, told CBC Friday.

"We're always looking at how to use Mother Earth's energy in the best way possible with the least impact on her."

Derocher said many northern First Nation communities have been using diesel and propane to heat and power their homes, which he said doesn't align with their environmental values.

They are also looking for an alternative to high electricity and heating bills, especially during the coldest Saskatchewan winters.

"In terms of power for heat, some are on propane, some are on electric heat," said Derocher. "That's very expensive come winter time and the industry usually uses diesel."

SRC president Mike Crabtree believes there could be up to 15 microreactors built in northern Saskatchewan over the next decade.

"It's going to be transformative," Crabtree told CBC.

Last year, the provincial government provided the research council with $80 million to help develop its first microreactor.