Nuclear power needs to be part of energy mix: Lightbridge CEO
Nuclear power is being recognized as an important part of the global renewable energy transition, according to an industry CEO who says world leaders appear more open to the technology than ever before.
Canada was among a group of 20 nations including the U.S. and the U.K. that announced an agreement to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050 at the United Nations’ COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
Seth Grae, CEO of American nuclear fuel tech development company Lightbridge, told BNN Bloomberg nuclear power discussions are being “celebrated” at this year’s conference, after simply being “tolerated” at past meetings.
“World leaders are speaking at nuclear events, and countries are coming together to promote nuclear power,” he said in a Thursday television interview from the United Arab Emirates.
Grae said there’s a growing understanding that “if climate goals are to be met, and if energy security goals are to be met, a substantial growth of nuclear power must be part of the growing energy mix.”
The Republic of Korea, Finland and Ukraine are other signatories of the agreement, as are G7 members France and Japan, with “a very large number” of other countries expected to sign in the near future, Grae said.
“But the countries that have already signed are a good portion of nuclear power in the world, and (include) the new nuclear plants that are being planned or under construction,” he said.
NUCLEAR POWER IN CANADA
According to the World Nuclear Association, around 15 per cent of Canada’s electricity currently comes from nuclear power, with 19 reactors spread across four active nuclear power plants in the country.
Canada’s commitment to tripling nuclear capacity by 2050 represents a “U-turn” in Canadian climate policy, according an advocate for the energy model, as Canada had previously left nuclear power out of its 2022 Green Bond program, which supported clean energy projects.
“We’ve gone in the last two years from a very lukewarm approach to nuclear to a very warm embrace,” Chris Keefer, co-founder of Canadians for Nuclear Energy, told CTV News.
Grae said that globally, there are more than 400 active large nuclear reactors. The agreement signed at COP28 would add another 800 large reactors or a few thousand smaller ones to the world’s total capacity.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND GROWING NUCLEAR ACCEPTANCE
Climate change effects are being felt across the world, but particularly acutely in places like the Middle East and Europe, Grae said. Leaders are putting increased focus on reducing emissions as a result.
“We're starting to see sea levels rise, we're starting to see summer fill most of the year in terms of weather,” he said.
“The UAE and other places used to have longer and nicer winters, when it wasn't cool, but it just wasn't very hot, and it's pretty hot here now in what should be a cooler time of year, so there is more of a sense of urgency.”
Grae noted that countries like the U.S., Japan and Germany have “pockets” of people who still oppose nuclear power, but most of those opponents tend to be over the age of 65.
“Younger people tend to be very supportive,” he said. “It's very interesting here at COP28, the large numbers of young nuclear engineers and young supporters from around the world who are helping to promote these events.”