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Millennials concerned about climate change, support new nuclear

By John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in QP Briefing, February 26, 2019

This Wednesday, the Canadian Nuclear Association kicks off its 2019 Conference and Trade Show at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa.

The theme of CNA2019 is: “New Nuclear: Generating Solutions for Climate and Health.” Over 800 attendees will talk about the innovations in nuclear technology – and how that makes the future of nuclear energy so different from the past.

There is growing evidence that the millennial generation evaluates and supports innovative technologies more strongly when they are seen to bring real solutions to society’s challenges. First and foremost among the solutions is whether the technology can significantly reduce GHG emissions and help decarbonize our energy supply.

This is where new nuclear comes in. The nuclear industry is undergoing a renaissance in innovative solutions that hold the promise of lifting communities out of energy poverty or coal dependence, while enhancing public health through clean air and medical isotopes. Small, ultra-safe reactors could hold the key to significant reductions in GHG emissions, while providing copious amount of clean electricity to communities and industries alike.

In advance of CNA2019, the independent firm Abacus Data was commissioned to measure the views of young Canadians on climate change and the role that nuclear and small modular reactors (SMRs) may play in reducing emissions.

The findings of the online poll* will be presented by Abacus Data CEO David Coletto at a keynote address at the conference on February 28. But here in advance are some of the highlights.

  • Young people were the most concerned about climate change. Sixty-two per cent of those 18-to-29 in age said they were extremely or very concerned about the issue, compared with 54 per cent nationally.
  • Those 18-to-29 were also more likely to say a shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources was extremely or very important – 69 per cent, compared with 58 per cent for the general population.
  • While the 18-to-29 age group was most likely to believe that nuclear energy created more carbon pollution than oil, they were strongly in support of nuclear replacing higher emitting energy sources after being informed that nuclear was a low-carbon technology.
  • Eighty-nine per cent of those 18-to-29 supported or were open to using nuclear in this scenario, compared to 83 per cent of the overall population.
  • The poll also found that 86 per cent of those 18-to-29 supported or were open to SMRs as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Most importantly, the data shows that when young people, who are most concerned about climate change, are informed that nuclear and new nuclear are low-carbon sources, they quickly become strong supporters.

Canada is home to new nuclear. The innovation is happening throughout the nuclear industry.

It is happening in advanced reactor design, refurbishment of our CANDU fleet, development and use of robotics and 3D printing and artificial intelligence, development of alternative clean power sources such as hydrogen that can be generated through nuclear power.

Canada is emerging internationally as a leading country for the research, development and regulation of small modular reactors, which offer to small and remote communities the possibility, hitherto beyond reach, of unlimited, reliable clean electricity and heat on a 24/7 basis.

All this tells us that new nuclear is not a dream. It’s not around the corner. It’s here now. Come to CNA2019 and see for yourself!

*The survey was conducted online with 2,500 Canadians aged 18+ in February 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample is +/- 1.96 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census to ensure sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education, region.

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Getting markets and economics right panel at CNA2019

On Friday,March 1, at 9 a.m. Dr. Ken Coates, Fiona Reilly, and Keith Matthew take the stage at CNA2019 to discuss new nuclear, getting markets and economics right.

One of the challenges facing New Nuclear is its commercialization – finding and accessing the right markets and getting its own economics right. What steps are needed now and in the future for New Nuclear to establish itself as a viable, affordable clean energy solution not only in Canada but internationally? What are the patterns of finance, ownership and operation that will make large reactors and small reactors attractive to communities and governments?

Dr. Ken Coates is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.  He is also the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Senior Policy Fellow in Aboriginal and Northern Canadian Issues. He has served at universities across Canada (UNBC, UNB and Waterloo) and at the University of Waikato (New Zealand), an institution known internationally for its work on Indigenous affairs.

Fiona Reilly is Managing Director – FiRe Energy Ltd. and Chair of the Expert Finance Working Group NED – at the Nuclear Industry Association. She is a world leading authority on nuclear power, with over 20 years’ experience in the industry. She is also recognised as an expert in the development and financing of nuclear projects by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and has served as a designated expert on the financing, development and structuring of nuclear projects at special meetings of the IAEA.

Keith Matthew is the President and Director of the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (CANDO). He is also founder of Seklep Business Services and a member and former chief of the Simpcw First Nation. He served for five years as chief and five years as Councilor up until December 2010.

For more information about CNA2019 visit https://cna.ca/cna2019/.

CNA2019

Top scoring student entries for CNA2019

Every year, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) sponsors 100 college and university students to attend its annual conference and trade show. Part of the application process involves answering a question about the future of nuclear technology in 100 words or less. The CNA reads and scores all of the entries, and the students who score the highest secure an all-expenses-paid spot.

Below are the top scoring entries.

Describe a ‘new nuclear’ project you think will change the future and outline the changes it will bring?

By Peria Yaghi, McMaster University

With the rise in nuclear power since the 1950’s, it has become a steadily increasing power source around the world. A new nuclear project that I think would change the future would be the floating nuclear power station which was first created in Russia in 2007. A floating nuclear power plant is a group of nuclear reactors at sea that provide electricity to remote areas (E.g. Northern regions). These floating nuclear power plants can be mass produced and put in different parts of cities and towns in need of power. The capacity of these floating plants is enough to serve cities and their needs. The benefit to using these is that they eliminate the need for burning coal and fossil fuels, which helps climate change issues. Another interesting point about these reactors is that it could be used as desalination plants, which produces fresh water. These are all important and valuable pros in the energy system sector because climate change and lack of water are two issues we will face in the future. This project should be looked at more closely to see how this could further benefit the future of our planet.

By Mr. Liam Dow, McMaster University

I am excited by the latest developments in small module reactors (SMRs). Specifically, the integrated molten salt reactor (IMSR) developed by Terrestrial Energy. I believe that molten salt reactors will find great success in the coming years due to a few reasons. First, I believe that the safety features MSRs offer could not only decrease the risk of accidents, but also improve public perception of how safe nuclear is as an energy source. One of the safeguards that is easily understood without any background in nuclear technology is the “Freeze plug” that simply melts in the event of overheating allowing for automatic cooling and containment without room for human or mechanical error. I also think that the ability to create SMRs will open nuclear energy to new applications as well as lower the economic barrier to entry. IMSR could be used on site in industries requiring high heat as well as electricity as the outlet temperature is much higher (600°C) than traditional reactors. Finally, with the ability to be converted to run off of spent fuel or thorium, the IMSR appears to have a bright future!