Nuclear fuel rods. Image: Pixabay
Technology

Nuclear power for mining operations

Five articles to get you thinking about nuclear power and its potential application within the mining industry

The Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) team caused quite a stir at the 2019 PDAC event in Toronto in March with a presentation centred around the benefits of small modular reactors (SMRs) for mining operations in remote locations.

The technology can potentially provide a clean, reliable source of energy for off-grid mine sites. And, despite having only gained widespread attention earlier this year, some consultants and research groups have been investigating nuclear power as a potential source of long-term, low-cost energy in these applications for some time.

Natural Resources Canada released its roadmap for the development and uptake of SMRs in Canada in November 2018, and CNL went on to launch the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative in July 2019.

Given the level of research and support available, it’s reasonable to expect that Canadian mines will be the first to deploy this technology. However, there has been a raft of announcements recently from mining companies that are switching their operations to renewable or sustainable power in certain jurisdictions, so I expect we will hear much more about SMRs for mines in the future.

Here are five articles to whet your appetite for the topic.

  1. Mining Magazine, June 2017. Nuclear power on a micro scale. Hatch was one of the first companies I heard talking about nuclear power for mines in 2017, and I commissioned this article off the back of that discussion. It has stood the test of time too. A great introduction to SMRs
  2. World Nuclear Association, Oct 2019. Small nuclear power reactors. Less of an article, more an encyclopedia. For those who like to know the ins and outs of a technology, this ones for you. A very technical read
  3. Mining Technology, June 2019. Could small nuclear reactors be the answer to powering off grid mines? A nice roundup of where the industry is at with this technology. Also some useful links to further reading
  4. Canadian Mining Journal, Feb 2019. SMR idea gets a reaction from miners. How the SMR roadmap from above could benefit Canadian mining operations
  5. The Australian Financial Review, Sept 2019. Mining industry predicts nuclear will be the cheapest power. Canadian mines aren’t the only ones that are looking at nuclear power as an option for remote mine sites. Here’s the Aussie take on it

I’d love to hear your thoughts on SMRs and their potential in the mining industry too. Will they become a widespread and accepted source of power in these applications, or it there too much controversy and risk associated with nuclear technologies?

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