Michelle Robichaud, Commentary

We have less than eight years to reach the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets Canada has put in place (cutting emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 targets by the year 2030). Following this, there will likely be a Clean Electricity Standard in place that will further require a net-zero electricity grid by 2035.

On top of these targets, the federal government’s own Emissions Reduction Plan notes that, “by 2050, Canada will require two to three times the current generating capacity.” Today, we simply do not have the clean electricity generation capacity to meet these targets.

It is imperative to add more wind and solar to the Atlantic region’s energy mix, but these renewable options require a non-emitting backstop, especially in this northern climate.

Atlantic Canadian utilities and governments are exploring many potential clean energy options, including smart grid and electrification, small modular reactors, large-scale energy storage, hydrogen and increased electricity transmission (through a potential Atlantic Loop) to provide more capacity. All of these innovations can be part of the mix, none of which are on the ground today as the solution.

What’s interesting is New Brunswick’s position to make a clean energy transition with advanced small modular reactors (aSMR). It would seem the province has aligned all the critical elements to succeed.

New Brunswick has experience in nuclear; for almost 40 years, the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, located just outside of Saint John, has developed nuclear expertise in the province, including the safe and successful refurbishment of the facility completed 10 years ago.

The political support at federal and provincial levels has been at the forefront; nuclear was included as an important component of the federal government’s recently released 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, and further backed by significant investments outlined in the 2022 federal budget. The technology was initially supported by the province’s previous Liberal government and is being actively promoted by the current Progressive Conservative leadership.

The provincial utility is supportive and, in fact, leading the charge. NB Power is working with two leading proponents, ARC Clean Energy Canada and Moltex Energy to move forward an aSMR industry in New Brunswick.

There are academic and training programs in place at the University of New Brunswick, and the New Brunswick Community College is designed to meet the needs of the future workforce. Many provincial training institutions are actively involved in engaging with the nuclear industry.

One extremely important piece of any future involving aSMRs is the early commitment of and engagement with Indigenous communities and First Nations people. First Nations in the province have publicly acknowledge support for participating in the aSMR industry in New Brunswick based on direct engagement with the proponents.

ARC and Moltex, have made private investments in the development of this 4th generation of nuclear technology. It appears they are committed to making New Brunswick a world leader in advanced SMR technology.

A New Brunswick supply chain event for aSMRs was held on June 14, 2022 at the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre. Supported by Opportunities New Brunswick and ACOA, the event attracted more than 270 delegates to the in-person event. Participants included industry, government and first nations people, representing 150 organizations.

The interest demonstrated at this event to participate in the future aSMR supply chain demonstrates a willingness to develop regional climate change solutions and realize the economic benefits that come with innovation.

If New Brunswick pursues these next-generation technologies with rigor, the benefit from the associated investment, intellectual properties and job growth will benefit the entire Atlantic region.

Atlantic Canada must continue curbing emissions through leadership in energy efficiency, non-emitting electricity generation and the ability to store and move clean energy around the region. As it takes steps to leverage and grow the region’s capacity in emerging clean energy technologies, including the supply chain, the region will reap the rewards of building the expertise here at home.

Canada has a short timeframe to reach its climate action goals; it is clear that pursuing novel aSMR technology can help protect the environment while ensuring Atlantic Canada has a viable and competitive economy that supports current and future generations.

For any inquiries, please contact Michelle Robichaud, President at Atlantica Centre for Energy by emailing michelle.robichaud@atlanticaenergy.org