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Small modular reactors… and you – A conversation with Hatch’s Mario Pieries

May 9, 2024 | By Anthony Capkun

Mario Pieries, global director, Nuclear, Hatch

May 9, 2024 – It was roughly seven years ago when Electrical Business Magazine first started reporting on a new paradigm for baseload power called small modular reactors (SMRs).

The president & CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, John Gorman, told us that these innovative reactors are designed to be built economically under factory conditions and, because they are modular, they can be custom designed for the application at hand.

Those applications can range from serving Canada’s remote and smaller communities that are not easily connected to the grid, to resource industries, such as mining and oil extraction. Plus, SMRs promise more than just electricity: they can serve to provide thermal energy for process and district heating applications, and serve as a pathway for low-carbon clean fuels such as hydrogen.

That was then.


We were curious to learn the status of SMR deployment across Canada today, and where electrical professionals fit into that scenario.

For answers, we turned to Mario Pieries, global director, Nuclear, at Hatch. He prefaced our conversation with a clarification: SMRs are actually not new technologies.

“People might say that SMRs are new technologies—there are advanced reactors that we would call emerging—but a lot of Gen 3 nuclear reactors, like the BWRX-300, are scaled down to smaller versions of their larger counterparts. They’re based on proven technology,” Pieries says.

“And if we think about what nuclear submarines use… small reactors, right? They have pedigree; six, seven decades-worth of deployments, and industry continues to build on that intellectual property.”

Pieries points out that small modular reactors are being deployed in other parts of the world, so it is just a matter of our regulatory environment “going through the right steps and adopting these technologies for deployment within Canada, is a crucial part of the pathway toward commercialization”.

He pointed to current projects underway (OPG, Chalk River, etc.), adding that “I envision that, by 2030 or so, you will see a lot more of these construction projects going on”.

Room for electrical pros?

So will electrical professionals be shut out of all this SMR excitement? Pieries sees opportunities for any number of skilled professionals, including electrical. The big question is whether we have enough labour capacity.

“That’s been identified as one of our risks and limitations. If we’re going to be building hundreds of SMRs across the globe, it presents an opportunity for professionals, contractors, electricians, apprentices, and more to enter that supply chain—that labour force—currently I don’t think we have enough of those professional and skilled resources.”

“And this is where we are going to have to be innovative while building capacity,” Pieries says. “For example, looking at building capacity in Indigenous communities, encouraging more people to get into STEM and trades, and so forth.”

He points out that, while SMRs may be designed and fabricated offsite, the deployment and licensing will be site specific. “That cannot be done by robots.”

Even though there will be some prefabrication work, Pieries says pre-construction activities, site prep, transport, hook-up, commissioning, ongoing maintenance, and the like will be carried out by skilled tradespeople, including electrical.

But despite possible skilled labour shortages, Pieries remains enthusiastic.

Besides the prospect of using SMRs to help decarbonize heavy industry, “What excites me the most is the opportunity to develop professionals organically within Canada and globally, and high-value, high-paying jobs that will contribute to generational success,” he says. “And I’m a big proponent of engaging our Indigenous communities and partners to help build capacity while delivering benefits that last seven generations and beyond.”

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