Community Governance for Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Development: Lessons from Northern and Indigenous Energy Projects




Community Renewable Energy, Energy Security, Indigenous Economic Development


Remote Indigenous communities in northern Canada often suffer from energy insecurity and energy poverty. In developing local clean energy production, there is an obvious benefit for government and industry partnering with these communities. However, the record of these partnerships is poor, with some failing to produce the expected benefits and others failing to get off the ground at all. This article is based on a study of four case studies of renewable energy projects in Indigenous communities in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, in which I interviewed community project leaders to understand why these communities were interested in energy projects, what they hoped to achieve, and their experience with their partners. I also interviewed government and industry partners.  While the results underline the importance of Indigenous intermediaries who can move easily between the communities and the larger energy production context, they also reveal a fundamental misalignment of expectations between Indigenous communities and their partners. Recent discussions about the potential for small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in remote communities have generally focused on features of the technology rather than on aspects of the social context of Indigenous communities. I argue that, for communities to fully understand the advantages and drawbacks of this technology, much more attention needs to be paid to the construction of a safe space where communities can frame the discussion within Indigenous world views and lived experience. I offer some policy suggestions for how this space can be constructed and protected.

Author Biography

Mariia Iakovleva, University of Saskatchewan

Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Environment and Sustainability





Research Articles