Nuclear is a relatively clean energy source that complements wind and solar energy generation and provides a reliable power source that isn’t dependent on the wind blowing or sun shining. 

PCL has a long history of meeting the unique industrial construction needs of clients in the petrochemical, oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining and power and cogeneration industries. Over the past few years, we have been able to take this extensive experience and tailor it to safely deliver nuclear projects and small modular reactors.

“Safety and quality are a top priority in nuclear and are a top priority on all PCL jobs. We have exceptional safety and quality programs and perform far better than the industry average,” says Louie Shoukas, director, power generation, PCL.

“Because of the nuclear hazard we need to be a bit more thorough than most industries to ensure we have the right material being installed by qualified workers in the safest manner possible with at least one back up plan if things don’t go well,” says Shoukas. “Safety is paramount in the nuclear industry because if there is an incident, it affects the entire industry.”

To lower capital costs, the industry is moving towards the development of small modular reactors (SMRs). There are three tiers of reactor sizes. They can range from very small with a one to 10MW range. “These reactors are designed to meet the needs of small communities or remote operations that don’t have grid access. They can also be paralleled up to provide over 25MW which can service an entire remote mine,” says Shoukas.

The second-tier ranges in size from 50 to 100MW and are considered grid size. “We are able to lean on our extensive modular construction expertise to deliver this size of reactor. We can manufacture 80 to 90% at our modular facility then ship the modules to site. Modularization takes place in a controlled environment which reduces costs and increases schedule certainty,” says Shoukas.

The third-tier ranges in size from 100 to 400MW.

SMRs are designed to be produced using modular construction. “Our modular fabrication facility in Nisku, Alberta is the largest in Canada. It can accommodate the manufacture of SMRs en mass. Our experience along with the facility’s capacity will allow us to produce five to six SMRs in parallel at once if that level of production is required,” says Shoukas.

SMRs can produce everyday electricity power, energy to power district heating systems that provide power to produce high pressure steam and heat for chemical plants and they can also produce hydrogen. They are versatile and can produce various forms of power or energy that can be tailored for a multitude of end uses. 

To work in the nuclear industry, you must have a special quality program. Over the past couple years, we developed our N286 program, which is a management quality program like ISO9001, but it goes beyond those requirements. We also completed the N285.1 Pressure Boundary Audit. This allows us to fabricate pressure equipment at our Nisku fabrication facility in Alberta and construct and do repairs, replacements and modifications on-site at the four nuclear facilities in Ontario. 

 “As a first-time applicant, we completed the audit process with zero findings and zero deficiencies, a feat the auditor said they had only seen once before. It speaks to the hard work and determination of the entire nuclear team,” says Shoukas.

We completed the audit on an accelerated timeline and finished it in half the typical two to three years that it usually takes to complete. Three of our essential key core values – training, teamwork and trust - are what allowed us to successfully complete the audit in a compressed timeline.

Working in the nuclear sector requires repetition and repeatability. Everyone must be specifically trained for what they do, and everything must be documented and readily available. To support this, we have developed roles and responsibilities and training for all the required positions. We also developed procedures and work instructions for special tools and equipment to take on different types of work that may need to be performed within a nuclear plant. 

As governments continue to recognize nuclear as a clean energy source that doesn’t increase hydrocarbons in the air, we are prepared to help the industry deliver on the promise of the resource.

“The shift to nuclear makes sense. Small communities and remote mines currently use diesel fuel to power the community or site. Diesel is one of the dirtier energy sources and is expensive,” says Shoukas. “In these areas it can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000 per MW hour. Nuclear brings in pricing certainty. SMRs could power these areas for approximately $200 per MW hour with a locked in price for 18 years.”

During preconstruction for SMRs, our experts work with developers to review their design from a transportability perspective, site construction perspective, provide feedback from a constructability standpoint and connect them with suppliers for development of modular design.

“We work with developers to support decision making and knowledge building while they work on detailed design. Same with the licensing process, we support them as much as we can throughout the process which is really important,” says Shoukas. “No matter who we are working with or what industry we are working in, we approach every project with rigor, meticulous attention to detail and a best-in-class approach to safety and quality.”

Our people and their specialized skillsets combined an exceptional quality and safety record prepares us to embark on nuclear construction and deliver success for our clients.