BERC Summit 2022: Nuclear Future

April 11, 2022

BERC Summit 2022:
Future of Nuclear

Solutions for a Nuclear Future: It’s Urgent to Accelerate Advanced Nuclear, say Energy Experts

On April 11, 2002, Anthropocene’s esteemed colleagues spoke at the panel “Solutions for a Nuclear Future” of the BERC Energy Summit 2022, “Powering Sustainable Energy Innovation”. They included Dr. Leslie Dewan, CEO of RadiantNano; Canon Bryan, CFO of Terrestrial Energy; Valerie Gardner, Managing Partner, Nucleation Capital; and Wendy Simon-Pearson, Associate at Morgan Lewis. Moderator Lou Martinez Sancho, Vice President of Strategy & Innovation for Kairos Power kicked off the session by asking panel participants how we can address concerns about the cost, safety, and sustainability of nuclear energy so it can become an integral part of the energy mix.

Rapid innovation

The first step is to acknowledge that today’s nuclear reactors bear little resemblance to the decades-old fission reactors most people know today. The panelists all noted that advanced, small nuclear reactors are modular, less expensive, quickly deployed, use new types of fuel, and feature advanced safety innovations.

Dozens of companies in the United States and Canada — funded by both government and private-sector capital — are building innovative, new, efficient reactors to be delivered on time and on budget. Many of these companies are already in the application process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the US and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in Canada.

The potential to decarbonize industry

Dr. Dewan noted that new reactors are not only capable of generating electricity. Many of them also can be used to generate heat for many industrial applications: chemical processing, food and beverage manufacturing, production of green hydrogen, and other needs to decarbonize industry.

Valerie Gardner likened the innovation in nuclear to the tech industry. Instead of creating behemoth fission reactors, entrepreneurs are creating reactors with different features, sizes, shapes, and underlying technologies to meet many market niches.

Nuclear’s security role

The panel also discussed the role of nuclear power in international security, especially considering the Ukraine invasion and the world’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Said Canon Bryan, “it’s a shame that it takes international conflicts to finally realize that great technology is really the only alternative.”

The panelists agreed: nuclear power is key to both international security and sustainability. Renewables alone cannot meet our energy needs, and new coal plants coming online to replace existing nuclear power generation has disastrous consequences for the climate and our health.

A bright future

Finally, the panelists discussed the future of advanced nuclear and what needs to happen to move it from development to deployment. About half a dozen advanced reactor companies now have the right level of investment and are poised to take advantage of the changing regulatory environment.

There are still issues with scaling, gaps in the supply chain, and questions about dealing with spent fuel — but innovation is happening here, too. Companies are looking for better ways of extracting uranium that are less harmful to people and the environment and there are new radiation detection methods for improved security to accelerate the sector. The future is bright for advanced nuclear, if the world can continue public-private partnerships, infuse funding, and continue the innovation needed to go from demonstration to commercialization.
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