Unlocking a sustainable energy mix with nuclear

By Amar Jolly | October 14, 2020

Beyond overcoming a global pandemic, some of the major issues facing the world today include energy inequality, urbanization, and perhaps the biggest one—climate change. They all share one thing in common: a need for access to sustainable and reliable power.

When it comes to tackling these unquestionable issues, the world’s power developers, producers, and utilities are going to play a critical role. They will be the ones to bring power to remote communities and projects sites, power the cities of the future in a way that’s sustainable, and find ways to meet the world’s increasing demand for power with sources that are carbon-free, yet reliable. While we’re excited about the advancements that we’re seeing in technology and the increasing global embrace of renewable power sources, we have much work to do when it comes to developing green technologies for power generation.

In my opinion, one of the most important pieces to solving this puzzle—which is achieving a less carbon-intensive world—lies in power generated by nuclear and fusion technologies. Currently, nuclear energy provides 15 percent of Canada’s total electricity supply, and that figure alone reduces carbon emissions in Canada by at least 50 million tonnes annually. That’s equal to nearly a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction target under the Paris Agreement. Combined with other renewable power sources and energy storage technologies, nuclear power can have a major and positive impact in the energy transition–if we let it. It can provide a reliable source of baseload energy safely, while providing stability to the power grid. And as populations move towards electrification, this stability will be critical.

Recently Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O'Regan explained that if Canada is to meet the carbon emissions reduction targets it agreed to five years ago in Paris, Canadians must be open to the idea of more nuclear power generation. "We have not seen a model where we can get to net-zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear," O'Regan advised. "The fact of the matter is that it produces zero emissions."

One path that will allow us to increase this reliable energy production is through the deployment of flexible nuclear technologies, like small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs can help solve issues for urbanization and provide power to remote locations. These technologies have the ability to displace expensive carbon-intensive energy sources. While some technologies are proven and ready for deployment, others are still in the development stage. To move forward, we need to collectively help the industry get onboard today. To put this into context, if we start today, we’re looking at implementation years down the road. To be successful in this endeavor, we have to come together and make carbon reduction technologies a priority and a feasible pathway not only for investors, but also for developers and users alike.

Achieving this will pay out in dividends for our collective future. And while it may seem complicated, it really doesn’t have to be. The way I look at it, it’s just an engineering and project implementation issue at this time. And that’s where we can help. We’ve already started through our support and partnerships with X-energy, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and other SMRs technology developers, end-users, and government regulators.

Another area in which we are doubling down is fusion energy. The order of magnitude is clear: it’s clean, energy dense, and it carries all of the benefits of nuclear power, without the waste. If we can get past the physics hurdle, this is the kind of technology that can literally change mankind for the better. We believe this so much so that we are making it a point to be on the ground floor in demonstrating its technology and feasibility through our collaboration with organizations like General Fusion.

As global energy consumption continues to increase, a sustainable energy mix is the only solution. That is, new nuclear fission and fusion reactors complemented by other clean sources of energy. And we will only get there if we continue to invest in technology and innovation. Unlocking green power sources won’t just meet the challenges of today, it’s how we can invest in our collective future.