Steve Threlfall featured in Canada’s The Hill Times
04 January 2022
U-Battery's General Manager, Steve Threlfall, has contributed an opinion piece to Canada's The Hill Times, entitled: "Advanced nuclear crucial to Canada’s clean energy transition and our global fight against climate change". Read the full article below.
Last month, world leaders from close to 200 countries gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. For many years, the annual summit has served as an opportunity for countries to share what they have proactively been doing to achieve long-term climate goals, as well as announce potential new commitments or call on each other to up the ante. This year was no different.
One of the more notable developments was the UN’s request for all nations to return to COP27 next year with concrete plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. Prior to this, countries had been given until 2025 to present their 2030 GHG emissions plans.
As well, the official climate agreement that all participating countries reached referenced the role that fossil fuels have played in the ongoing climate crisis. This is the first time in COP’s history that the burning of fossil fuels has been acknowledged as a core issue. A major success story coming out of COP26 was the evident worldwide support for nuclear energy.
“This COP is perhaps the first where nuclear energy has a chair at the table, where it has been considered and has been able to exchange without the ideological burden that existed before” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), last month.
During the conference, the United States committed to US$25-million in support of expanding access to clean nuclear energy. The funding was called a “Nuclear Futures Package,” which hopes to support advanced nuclear power generation, and inherently safe nuclear technologies such as advanced small modular reactors (SMRs).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made several commitments on Canada’s behalf including halting all public financing of fossil fuel projects, donating $1-billion to help developing countries reduce their use of coal, and imposing a cap on oil and gas sector emissions – just to name a few.
When asked about Canada’s journey towards decreasing reliance on fossil fuel, Trudeau said: “I think we’re going to need every different alternative pursued and explored fully as we try to get off fossil fuels, and that means investing more in wind, investing more in solar, and yes, exploring nuclear.”
There is little doubt that momentum has continued to build when it comes to advanced nuclear and the potential for SMRs to have an integral role in our global fight against climate change, and in many respects, Canada has been leading the charge.
Canada’s former Natural Resources Minister, Seamus O’Regan has long been a strong advocate for SMRs, having led the development of Canada’s SMR Roadmap in 2018 and more recently the SMR Action Plan in December 2020. O’Regan has publicly stated that there is no net zero without nuclear, an idea that seemed to have made its home at COP26.
Saskatchewan Environment Minister Warren Kaeding is already using his platform to emphasise the importance of SMRs after COP26, and even met with his counterparts from Ontario and New Brunswick following the conference to discuss their plans to roll out SMRs in the coming years.
The current memorandum of understanding on SMRs between Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Alberta is a clear indication that provincial governments are willing to play their part in developing a sustainable market that can support widespread deployment.
The ball is now in the court of Canada’s newly appointed Natural Resource Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, to advocate for the role nuclear can and will play in Canada’s clean energy transition. It is up to Wilkinson, who previously held the environment portfolio, to keep the momentum going and bring forward the logical next step to Canada’s SMR Action Plan – an enabling financial commitment for SMR developers to demonstrate their technologies in the real world.
In the United Kingdom, we’ve already seen this momentum result in significant government funding including £44-million as part of the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development Project, £170-million toward the delivery of an AMR Demonstrator, and another£120-million of new fund for enabling support for SMR/AMR developers. A similar government commitment in the Canadian market will be crucial to the long-term viability from an investment perspective.
The current Liberal government, following their recent re-election, is expected to continue moving forward with its commitments to nuclear energy, and added pressure to advance SMRs from official opposition should build on this momentum. Canada has the opportunity to lead on the world stage and by leveraging its extensive nuclear expertise and globally renowned talent pool, SMRs can go from paper to practice in line with its 2030 climate goals.
U-Battery is an advanced/small modular reactor, capable of providing a low-carbon, cost-effective, locally embedded and reliable source of power and heat for energy intensive industry and remote locations. It is being developed by Urenco in collaboration with a number of supporting organisations and has received funding from the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's Energy Innovation Portfolio.