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June 02, 2022

Nuclear technology could supply clean energy to Base Petawawa

Feasibility study indicates that a small modular reactor could reduce the carbon footprint of 4th Canadian Division Support Base (4 CDSB) Petawawa by over 40 per cent and help meet the Department of National Defence’s emissions reductions targets                                 

Chalk River, ON – June 02, 2022 – Small modular reactors (SMR) could provide clean, economic and reliable energy to the 4 CDSB Petawawa, helping reduce reliance on fossil fuels and enabling energy security, according to a recent study completed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of National Defence (DND) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). Specifically, the study examined the feasibility of providing energy, both electrical and thermal from a SMR located at Chalk River Laboratories to achieve several goals for 4 CDSB Petawawa, including reaching net-zero by 2050 in alignment with Canada’s Climate Plan and reducing the Base’s reliance on and use of diesel fuel.

Smaller in footprint than conventional reactors, SMRs are increasingly being considered as a safe and reliable option to provide energy in remote or off-grid locations or when energy independence is needed, such as disaster relief or during extended power outages. Inherently more flexible in operations, SMRs could be used in a range of applications, including local area electricity production, heating, industrial steam, hydrogen production, or desalination of water.

Established in 1905, 4 CDSB Petawawa is one of the Canadian Forces’ most active bases with more than 400 buildings supporting over 7,000 personnel. While presently the majority of the Base’s electricity is supplied by the provincial electrical grid, diesel generators provide additional peaking capacity and redundancy.  Three natural gas boilers provide the bulk of the heating through a steam distribution system and low-temperature hot water system. Significant growth is expected at the Base in coming years, with projected energy demand increasing 59% for electricity and 9% for thermal energy, assuming additional electrification in facilities.

The Base’s present energy demand and supply were reviewed in order to establish the current baseline for comparison and to determine appropriate potential requirements for the future. Using CNL’s Hybrid Energy System Optimization (HESO) model, a variety of scenarios were modelled to identify the optimal energy mix for the Base. The HESO model helps to determine the best energy mix to minimize cost while meeting both greenhouse gas reduction targets and peak energy demands.

The results of the study indicate that this project could potentially generate enough clean energy to power roughly 90-100% of the garrison’s off-hour energy demand, and between 45-55% during peak hours. This would reduce the garrison’s GHG emissions by 18-50% overall, supporting DND in meeting net-zero by 2050.  In this scenario, two SMR units could demonstrate the provision of thermal energy to meet local area heating needs, while the electrical energy needs for the Base could be met through a combination of solar with battery storage. This scenario was also among the most cost competitive.

Fast Facts: 

  • Nuclear technology, including SMRs, will play a key role in meeting federal and provincial climate change and GHG reduction goals.
  • The SMR used for this study was a generic high temperature gas reactor which produced 15 MW of thermal energy (MWth) / 5 MW electrical energy (MWe).
  • While various scenarios did include the use of the SMR for the production of electricity, the greatest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was in building heat.
  • Chalk River Laboratories is located directly adjacent to the northwestern boundary of 4 CDSB Petawawa. The Base is home to 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (2 CMBG), the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, 1st Canadian Field Hospital, 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron and several other units.


“Small modular reactors have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting net zero goals. They are also ideally suited to service small remote communities where today diesel is the only practical option, such as military bases. AECL is proud to have worked with the Department of National Defence to analyse deploying SMRs to meet their climate change objectives at their Base in Petawawa, Ontario, next to Canada’s national nuclear laboratory, Chalk River Laboratories. We look forward to continuing this collaboration with National Defence moving forward.”

Fred Dermarkar, President & CEO, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

“We believe the future of clean energy lies in hybrid energy systems. Understanding and exploring how nuclear can work together with other energy options, including renewables, is a core aspect of our work at CNL today, and into the future. With the potential siting of an SMR on the Chalk River Laboratories campus in the coming years, we have a unique opportunity to work alongside our neighbour, Base Petawawa, to demonstrate this and ultimately move all these technologies forward.”

Joe McBrearty, President & CEO, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

About Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

AECL is a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to drive nuclear opportunities for Canada. Working with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, AECL enables nuclear science and technology and manages the Government of Canada’s radioactive waste responsibilities. For more information on AECL, visit

About Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a world leader in nuclear science and technology offering unique capabilities and solutions across a wide range of industries. Actively involved with industry-driven research and development in nuclear, transportation, clean technology, energy, defence, security and life sciences, we provide solutions to keep these sectors competitive internationally.

With ongoing investments in new facilities and a focused mandate, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is well positioned for the future. A new performance standard reinforced with a strong safety culture underscores every activity.

For more information on the complete range of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories services, please visit or contact [email protected].


CNL Contact:

Patrick Quinn
Director, Corporate Communications
CNL, 1-866-886-2325

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