In September of 2019, youth from around the globe encouraged millions to take to the street to protest climate change. Now, these same young leaders are changing our energy industry through their pursuit of clean energy solutions.
Nuclear power in particular plays a critical role in a lower emissions future. This panel will looked at how the nuclear energy industry is changing with a new influx of young, smart, energy experts and scientists that are also committed to combating climate change. Why is nuclear power so important to a clean energy future? What’s next on the horizon in terms of innovation in nuclear power? And how is the next generation changing the way we think about energy? These are just some of the questions that were addressed in this Power Breakfast edition.
- Eric Meyer, Founder and Executive Director of Generation Atomic
- Jessica Lovering, Co-Founder, Good Energy Collective
- Moderated by, Osama Baig, Assistant Technical Engineer, Ontario Power Generation, Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability
Craig Ruttan: [00:02:30] Good morning, everyone. My name is Craig Ruttan. I am one of the board's policy directors, specifically for energy, the environment and land use planning. So you can imagine how much I've been looking forward to this morning's discussion, the latest in our power breakfast [00:03:00] series. For those new to the series, these sessions are an opportunity to speak, frankly, and think boldly about the region's energy future. It's a series made possible by presenting sponsor, Ontario Power Generation, platinum sponsors, BrucePower and Enbridge and supporting sponsor the Power Workers Union, as well as the board of trades principal sponsors. The Glob and Mail, Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and Scotia bank.
[00:03:30] Some quick housekeeping notes before we get started. This webcast is being recorded and you can watch it or other sessions at supportbusiness.bot.com. If your video is lagging select click here to switch stream to view at a lower bandwidth. For any other technical issues, click request help in the bottom right corner. And finally, to ask our panelists questions at any point you can do so through the Q&A feature to the right.
With that I'm pleased to [00:04:00] kick off this morning's discussion. But before we can talk about our energy and environmental future, we have to talk about our past. This starts by acknowledging that Toronto is home to many diverse indigenous peoples. Though you could be watching from anywhere the board's offices are located on the traditional territory of many nations, including the, [foreign language 00:04:26] peoples. As we chart a path ahead for the land we now [00:04:30] all share. It's important to recognize its original and continued stewards. These type of land acknowledgements are becoming more common in settings like this one. Reconciliation is a priority for a new generation of energy leaders and advocates alongside issues, such as equity, justice, and climate action.
A survey done in the fall of 2020 found that younger Canadians were more concerned about the environment and climate change than older Canadians. Even amidst the global pandemic and major economic [00:05:00] downturns. In fact, younger Canadians were even more concerned about the environment because of the pandemic's impact, such as the more frequent use of disposable items and increased emissions with shipping and delivery services.
Our generation doesn't want climate action to wait until the pandemic is over. We have to act now. And energy assets are key part of the equation after building them. We expect them to run for at least 20 years. So if we're going to meet our goals of carbon [00:05:30] neutrality by 2050, we have to invest in zero carbon assets today. Assets like wind, solar and nuclear. Nuclear provides more than 60% of Ontario's electricity. That's a massive amount of zero emissions energy available around the clock. But the environmental movement is divided on whether nuclear power should be part of the solution.
How do we find a path forward for building a reliable low carbon electricity system? That's what today's conversation [00:06:00] is all about and I'm looking forward to learning from our expert panel. Supporting these efforts are partners like OPG today's presenting sponsor. To learn more about the work they're doing. We have a video from OGP. And following that we'll hear from their public affairs officer Alexandria Anderson. Alexandria is an experienced public affairs professional with a demonstrated history of success in the utilities industry. She's also a member of the board's young professionals network, helping early career workers endure this difficult time. [00:06:30] Let's cue the video and then welcome Alexandria.
Speaker 2: Some have the power to sound. The alarm many have the power to be heard. Others have the power to agree to solutions. Our power is our people. [00:07:00] Our power is experience, collaboration, ingenuity, grit. Our power allows us to set ambitious goals, a net zero company by 2040 and a catalyst for a net zero economy by 2050. [00:07:30] We're walking the walk to a post carbon economy. Starting here in Ontario, our power is changing the world. OPG where a brighter tomorrow begins
Alexandria Ande...: Good morning everyone and welcome back to the virtual powered breakfast series hosted by the Toronto [00:08:00] Region Board of Trade. I'm Alexandria Anderson a public affairs officer at Ontario Power Generation, the longstanding partner of the Powered Breakfast Series. As a millennial and a member of the Toronto Region Board of Trades and Professionals Committee, I am particularly excited about today's topic.
Young climate activists have been a powerful voice for climate action around the world. Pre pandemic, a survey conducted by the Yale program on climate change communication in 2019, found that millennials were more likely to say that global [00:08:30] warming was personally important to them and more willing to engage in political action than older Americans. A separate global poll by Amnesty International published in December, 2019, surveyed over 10,000 18 to 25 year olds across 22 countries, ranked global warming as the most important issue facing the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic currently facing us hasn't changed this. The data shows the planet remains a priority. So while millennials and gen Zs have been deeply [00:09:00] affected by the toll of the pandemic, their commitment to improve the world remains steady. In fact, young leaders are often the first to come to mind when discussing climate change, because they recognize that this problem needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
We know the actions we take now will have consequences throughout our lifetimes and we're willing to put in the work. The mainstream tide has seemed to shift in the climate change battle in recent years towards a position, more closely aligned with that of young people. Millennials and gen Zs will also be [00:09:30] the face of the rapidly changing energy industry. And they will create a significant impact when driving innovation and new technology to the space.
I'm excited about today's discussion and learning more about what our panelists have to say about the next generation changing the way we think about energy and how the energy industry can help us achieve our climate change objectives by meeting net zero by 2050. It is now my pleasure to introduce your moderator for today's session Osama Baig.
Osama is passionate about how the nuclear technologies [00:10:00] can create a positive impact on the world. Osama plays a crucial role in the innovation program at OPG center for Canadian nuclear sustainability and works as an assistant technical engineer officer at Pickering's decommissioning strategy. Osama is also a graduate of the nuclear engineering program at Ontario Tech University and in his spare time, he enjoys creating educational videos and keeping engaged with nuclear advocacy groups.
I will say the first time that I met Osama he blew me away with his passion for changing the narrative around nuclear. If you haven't seen his YouTube [00:10:30] channel, I do urge everyone to go and check them out. They're very informative, creative and great conversation starters about energy. Thank you so much for being here with us today Osama, I'll hand it over to you.
Osama Baig: Thank you so much, Alexandria for that wonderful introduction. And I'm super excited to moderate this power breakfast series. I hope everyone in the audience has a little bit of a healthy meal, a cup of coffee next to them to get kick [00:11:00] started or at least some snacks. Fresh air, clean energy, millennial voices for nuclear. I think millennials are, were, and still are the coolest generation to hit the face of this planet.
For many of us early in our childhood, it became clear that climate change presents a real threat to our planet. Today I'm joined by two young leaders that are creating a real impact [00:11:30] on our energy industry. The real question for this power breakfast is why is nuclear power so important in creating a sustainable and clean energy future? But before I jump into any questions, I'm going to introduce the two speakers that have joined us this morning.
To start off, we have Jessica Lovering. Jessica is the co-founder of Good Energy Collective, a new organization working on progressive nuclear [00:12:00] policy. She recently completed her PhD in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Her dissertation focuses on how commercial nuclear trade affects international security standards and how very small nuclear reactors or SMRs can be deployed at the community level. She is a fellow with the energy for growth hub, looking at how advanced nuclear can be developed, [00:12:30] and deployed in sub Saharan Africa. Thank you for joining us, Jessica.
And next is Eric Meyer. Eric Meyer is the founder and executive director of Generation Atomic, a nuclear advocacy nonprofit group. He started out pursuing a career in professional singing, but after hearing about the promise of advanced nuclear reactors, he decided to devote his life [00:13:00] to saving and expanding the use of atomic energy. He's worked as an organizer on several political union and issue campaigns while in graduate school for applied public policy, taking time off to attend climate talks in Paris and sing opera about nuclear power. So thank you so much to both speakers for joining us.
Eric Meyer: Thanks Osama great to be here.
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah. A pleasure to be here.
Osama Baig: [00:13:30] Great. So just to kick off, I'll start by just kicking off. I know we're a bit early in the schedule with the questions. I want to start off by starting off by many believe that nuclear power is not an option for the future, but rather an absolute necessity. The global threats of climate change and lethal air pollution kill millions each year and [00:14:00] make it clear that nuclear and renewable energies must work closely together as non-carbon sources of energy. So the question I have for you is do you think nuclear power is an absolute necessity? So why don't we start off with Jessica?
Jessica Loverin...: Well, I think necessity is a hard word. I think it's physically possible to fully decarbonize without nuclear. It's just much harder and probably will take longer [00:14:30] and be a lot more expensive. So it's already going to be a big challenge to fully decarbonize by 2050, it's already going to take sort of everything we have, huge government investments and including nuclear makes it a little more possible. And I think it would be really difficult without nuclear.
So I think it's a really important player, in a lot of places, nuclear is the largest source of clean energy. In the US it's about 50% [00:15:00] of our low carbon electricity. That's really hard to go to a hundred percent low carbon electricity with replacing nuclear. So I think I would say it's a necessity in terms of political economics.
Osama Baig: Yeah. I [inaudible 00:15:21] thoughts Eric.
Eric Meyer: Yeah. I totally agree. I think if we care about cutting carbon and air pollution as fast as we possibly [00:15:30] can, if we care about giving the bottom billion access to electricity at the same level as most of the world has, if we care about exploring space at a greater degree or making more medical isotopes, then nuclear is a necessity for all of those things.
Osama Baig: Awesome. No, that's great. [00:16:00] It's good to hear that other renewable sources also have a role to play and no that's great input. The second question that I have is I don't want to sound like the weatherman, I know Canada here is facing a cold ice storm and there's a lot of just temperatures just going up and down. But what is the forecast when it comes to the President of United States, Biden's [00:16:30] administration on energy policy? Is the conversation in the states shifting around nuclear? And I think it's a good question because in Canada, we are the states neighbors and sometimes policies in the United States may have an impact on Canada. So Jessica, why don't we start off with you?
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah, we've very pleasantly surprised by what president Biden has done so far. He started out [00:17:00] maybe a year ago being more on the moderate side with respect to climate change, although he was always quite supportive of nuclear amongst the other candidates, but once he became the nominee, he pushed a really aggressive climate change agenda, lots of really innovative policies pulling from a lot of these young, progressive climate groups. And since he's come into office, he's said that climate change is one of his top four priorities along with [00:17:30] coronavirus, economic stimulus and racial justice.
And so it's great to see climate change given such priority. But the other thing that gives us a lot of optimism is that Biden is looking at the problem differently. So it's not about just get a carbon tax through or some simple solutions. He's very focused on addressing climate [00:18:00] change as a jobs opportunity and clean energy as a jobs opportunity. His slogan in the campaign was built back better but we're seeing that in probably the first big piece of legislation that he's going to push is this huge infrastructure bill.
And that's something that's really been lacking with addressing climate change is just the acknowledgement that we need to build a lot. It's not about cutting back or moderating our energy consumption. It's really about replacing the whole [00:18:30] energy infrastructure that we have. So a focus on spending a lot of government money while financing is pretty cheap right now. I think it's a really exciting opportunity for nuclear and we are right now looking for ways to get nuclear included into broader climate change agenda and also into this bigger infrastructure bill. So I think we're going to see a lot happen in the next two years, and I think there's lots of [00:19:00] progress we made on nuclear as well.
Osama Baig: Wonderful. Eric, what are your thoughts?
Eric Meyer: Yeah, well, Jessica described it really well. I'll just add a couple things onto that. One we've seen the Democratic Party really evolve on this issue and democratic voters as well. There's some polling from November that showed just in the last two years since 2018, support for [00:19:30] nuclear among Democrats shot up almost 20 percentage points, 19% up to 57% last year. So it does show that the opinion about nuclear in the face of climate change is helping push that popular opinion.
I will say there's one somewhat worrying aspect of maybe a Democratic Administration, and that is we will have some more Democratic appointees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and [00:20:00] they might be that the ones that are there currently have been a little more hesitant about the aspect of giving US new existing nuclear plants, a second license extension up to 80 years. It might make it slightly more difficult for some of these plants to continue operating, which I believe they should. And until we're ready to replace them with the next generation. So that's the one thing we're like, I don't know, but fingers cross that we see the [00:20:30] value. I know President Biden has expressed that there's a, a lot of value that should be leveraged in extending the existing plants. So yeah, I'm cautiously optimistic.
Osama Baig: That's wonderful. I would love to see plants with their life extension up to 80 years. I think that would be like mind boggling if that does come to fruition. Jessica you-
Eric Meyer: A lot of them have already been approved. So it [00:21:00] just-
Osama Baig: Oh, wow. Wow. That's a wonderful news.
Eric Meyer: Bottom Turkey Point. There's a few others. So yeah, it's good news and hopefully just the beginning of a trend.
Osama Baig: Absolutely. No, that's great. That's great. Eric. Jessica I've read some of your articles online on good energy collective, highly recommend you guys check that out this incredible material there. You say that the Biden's administration, you give the suggestion that they should quadruple spending [00:21:30] on nuclear energy commercialization. Do you think that's feasible and do you think that that might be a possibility in the future?
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah, definitely. We just saw the secretary of energy nominee go through Senate questioning before her final vote on confirmation. And she was asked a lot of questions around nuclear and we saw really positive responses. But specifically we're asking for quadrupling of R&D, but [00:22:00] R&D can mean a lot of things in general, increasing funding for R&D is really popular across both part. But what we'd like to see is a shift from basic R&D to more commercialization. So our R&D on actual deployment, the manufacturing stuff more towards the end and the big thing we'd like to see, that's actually going to take more money and why we need to quadruple the funding is [00:22:30] we really want to see stuff get built. And so there needs to be R&D to kind of get rid of some of the technological uncertainty, some of the risk in the technology, not safety risk to prove these technologies.
So it's kind of a critical point right now where increasing funding can do a lot of good. It's not just going to be in a slash fund. And a lot of these technologies will [00:23:00] be ready to be demonstrated in the next five years. So I think it's definitely feasible. I think it's something that the secretary of energy will need to push for and ask for but I think she's on board with that. And because we're seeing these movements with the administration for these big spending packages, particularly around infrastructure, clean energy. I think there's a real opportunity and there's going to be broad bipartisan support for increasing funding for all kinds [00:23:30] of clean energy including nuclear.
Osama Baig: Wow. That's some really good input, Jessica. So thank you for that. Next question I want to get into is we are living in the age of social media. And I think just the dynamics of influence that's changed so much throughout the years where 10, 20, or 30 years back, you needed a whole studio but now you can pretty much have influence just in your own home in your room. And you [00:24:00] we're seeing Mumble Rap, Instagram, TikTok, all these interesting kind of social media platforms coming about.
And some of them are being used for nuclear advocacy as well. Like you're seeing Isabelle with the new TikTok isotope. And I think that's been super influential. What was once perceived cool for us millennials is changing very quickly. What is the most effective means to influence the younger generation and how can the next generation [00:24:30] create a real impact in combating climate change? So I'm going to give this question to Eric to start with. What are your thoughts?
Eric Meyer: Sure. Thank you. Yeah, it's a fun question. I think the first step is to find people where they're at. So if it's TikTok and it often is then TikTok, if it's maybe in their classrooms in school, that should be also pursued. And I feel like [00:25:00] there's still a lower level of energy curricula that then there should be in school. I certainly didn't learn about nuclear energy in school and hopefully that's improving.
I think above all the best thing we can do when we find people where they're at, pique their interest with really memorable, persuasive content through social media is to give them opportunities [00:25:30] to be a part of this, to empower them. So I'm thinking about one of our volunteers, Charlie, who just saw a video, then started digging a little bit deeper and pretty soon he has created his own presentation and is presenting to his high school class over their lunch hour like 36 other kids, and then presenting to his synagogue that weekend.
And now he's like the authority [00:26:00] on energy and nuclear specific and in his community. And I think that's something we try to do is give people the tools and the encouragement to do that kind of thing and bring that message to their circles and their communities around them.
Osama Baig: Awesome. No, that's great. That's great, Eric. And how about you, Jessica? What are your thoughts?
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah, I think something that's kind of important and this echoes what Eric said, it's [00:26:30] maybe not so much about influencing young people, but actually letting them influence you. So listening to where young people are, I think there is such a bigger focus on climate change among the younger generation right now. There's been some incredible movement around climate action, these school strikes that really motivated a lot of people to get involved.
And I think it doesn't really [00:27:00] work if we kind of find those people and go in and be like, "Okay, now you need to think about nuclear," by recognizing that they are actually very powerful voices and trying to engage with them more genuinely and just see what you can learn from them because I think we can learn a lot from them. And then if they have questions about nuclear, if they're interested you can be a resource, but it needs to sort of flow organically from them, between you.
[00:27:30] Yeah, but I think everything Eric said, I think there's a lot of different medium. I think there's a lot of different creative ways that young people are communicating now. And I think we want to be able to foster that and encourage that. So being more of a resource for these young advocates that are already doing their own thing.
Eric Meyer: I could add something. Jessica just reminded me that, so this past year looking to get a little [00:28:00] more involved in the elections in the US so I decided you know what, I'm going to volunteer with the Sunrise Movement. So I'm helping facilitate food banks with these folks and attending some various meetings and they had one about their endorsement process and they're kind of asking people, "All right, what do you think about this? What do you think about this form?" So I take a look at it and one of the questions on there is how do you plan to achieve a hundred percent [00:28:30] renewable future?
And I just brought up like, how do we feel about this word renewable here guys because that includes things like biomass, which is literally setting trees on fire, but it doesn't include thing like nuclear, which is the largest source of carbon free electricity in North America and Europe. And the policy advisor who was in charge of endorsement process was like that's a really good point. That's an easy fix. I'll change that. [00:29:00] So the fact that we're there as a genuine participants in the community lends so much credibility to our thoughts and opinions and feelings about nuclear and energy in general.
Osama Baig: That's some really good input, Eric and Jessica. Yeah. I think absolutely like bringing home those organic conversations and just being active in the community just has such an such a [00:29:30] big impact. It's bigger than we think. No, there's some great examples that you guys brought up. Jessica, I'm quite fascinated by the intersection between social sciences and nuclear engineering. Someone with a nuclear engineering background, I think it's really fascinating and really unique. Can you tell us a bit about how innovation, the fields of social science can be paired with [00:30:00] technical innovation when it comes to advanced nuclear technologies or even society as a whole?
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah, I think this is something that really motivated the founding of Good Energy Collective is that we've seen all this amazing innovation and advanced nuclear, all these companies and startups and they're moving through the licensing and it's really exciting, but it's all very technical and people in charge of these companies tend to come from engineering [00:30:30] backgrounds and they're not really thinking about the social implications. How do you get social license? What are the environmental justice implications of your technology?
And what we wanted to see is more innovation on the social sciences side to go along with the technical innovation. And there's all these questions in nuclear that need to be answered for new nuclear to be successful and for deployment [00:31:00] to expand. People to don't oppose nuclear because they have a problem with pipe number 40, they oppose it for a lot of really complicated social reasons around risk perception, around historic injustices, around authoritarian regimes in some places and inequality.
And so it's hard for engineers to address those questions and we haven't had [00:31:30] a lot of social scientists working on energy at all but especially nuclear. And so we'd like to see specific funding coming from like Department of Energy or energy agencies in countries. So it's not this separate thing, but it's actually integrated into a broader research agenda.
And so something we're looking at is citing. Nuclear has had trouble citing in the past but now we're seeing with [00:32:00] this big renewables expansion, you're starting to see more opposition to renewables projects. And it's very similar reasons, a lot of the times. And so there needs to be a lot more work in figuring out how do you do good community engagement so you're not just pushing projects on communities but finding communities that really want to host projects. And there are places that are really interested in hosting some of these first advanced new clear projects.
But you want to make sure that the process is really fair that they [00:32:30] understand the risk but also are interested in the benefits they would get, jobs and investment in their local community. And I think it's very possible, but we haven't really done that level of community engagement for new projects. And so that's the sort of thing where there could be a lot more work in learning from other industries and learning from history and social scientists are a better fit for doing that work.
Osama Baig: Absolutely. I think you have to play to your strengths, right? And [00:33:00] just some of the details that you shared about how even renewable projects still have some of the challenges that nuclear projects face in communities. And I think having that social science agenda and that expertise will help not only the nuclear side of things, but also renewable. So that's super interesting and an aspect, which I didn't learn in my nuclear engineering program, which I wish I had a little bit more taste of, but what are your thoughts Eric?
Eric Meyer: [00:33:30] Yeah, Jessica's absolutely right. And there are a lot of kind of I guess breakthroughs and issue campaigning over the last two decades that I think we could learn a lot from in the nuclear community. I'm thinking in particular of the vote no campaign in Minnesota which was the first to successfully deny a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in a State in the US. [00:34:00] And they had a different approach in that and that where they designed their door-to-door canvassing to first start with some questions and some listening to show that there's a human connection there and there is a values alignment that, "Oh, you love your husband or wife?" "Yeah." That's the same thing that I want to do.
[00:34:30] So they switched the messaging from being about equal rights which wasn't as persuasive to being about, "Hey, we care about the same things." And I think there's a lot of lessons to learn from that type of approach in the nuclear sector. I think our first instinct is to pull out a bulleted list of all of the positive attributes and say, "Well, what don't you understand? It's clear right here." But simply showing that you have some [00:35:00] contrasting in information from what their preconceptions were is not a persuasive argument. But yeah, Jessica is absolutely right.
Osama Baig: That's a great analogy, Eric. I think that's a really good analogy and that's some really good insight into that topic. Eric, I think we met a few years back, first met at the CNA conference in Ottawa and immediately I was really like impressed. And from your background, [00:35:30] you've taken your creative passion that you have, you're a very talented opera singer and my dream is one day to actually see an audition, like a full out show, when COVID ends. And you've paired this with, so you've paired your creativity with your efforts and your belief for nuclear advocacy. I think it's such a powerful combination. Can you draw a comparison between opera and nuclear energy?
Eric Meyer: Oh man.
Osama Baig: [00:36:00] And also when you get the chance also maybe inspire us with a short performance, a promise for the viewers there's no extra charge for you guys.
Eric Meyer: Oh man. Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up. That's I remember that in inner interaction too, because I think you had business cards that said something like prospective employee on it. And that was amazing. And I was like, "Man, I wish I had a job for him." But that was great meeting you at CNA back in the day.
[00:36:30] Yeah. I love the question too. How are opera and nuclear energy alike? Well, other than the obvious that both of them aren't that popular right now, I do think there are some fun comparisons. One I would maybe compare the power grid in general to an orchestra that has to crescendo and day crescendo with the demands of the music and all the different parts of it [00:37:00] are needed to make it sound beautiful.
And of course in my little analogy, I'll call the opera singer, the nuclear plant in this example and for one reason. So if you sing professionally, there's one somewhat elusive technique you have to master. And that's the kind of... You perfectly align all the parts of your singing instrument to produce this kind of bringing this brilliantly ringing sound [00:37:30] that has harmonic overtones up in like the 2000 to 4,000 Hertz range and the Italian word for this is [foreign language 00:37:37].
And once you hear it, if you've gone to an opera, you'll recognize it because somehow you can hear this like cutting tone over an entire hundred piece orchestra. It's kind of incredible. And in the same way, nuclear plants cannot operate in perpetuity at a subcritical [00:38:00] or super critical level. It has to be critical. It's got to be a steady state where everything's in perfect alignment and you're having a steady chain reaction where you're visioning atoms and it's got to be like the perfect conditions. And it's not hard for power plants to maintain this because we're smart humans and we figured it out. But I think just in the same way, everything's got to be just right to be making the music.
Osama Baig: [00:38:30] No, that's a great analogy. Wow. That's a really deep insight into how the dynamics of opera pair with how nuclear power is produced. So yeah, if you want to enlighten us with a performance we'd love to hear.
Eric Meyer: Sure, sure. Let me take a little sip of water.
Osama Baig: Yeah.
Eric Meyer: Yeah. So this song is originally an Italian from the 18th century called [foreign language 00:38:57]. And then Elvis ripped [00:39:00] it off like he ripped off a lot of music and then I ripped it off. And so it's called the clean power forever. And I'll sing a little bit of it for you after I share my audio just a second here and there it is. Okay. Right here we go.
There you [00:41:00] go.
Osama Baig: Wow, that was beautiful. No, I love that. That's incredible.
Eric Meyer: Thanks. Yeah.
Osama Baig: I think that's a really good treat. That's a really nice treat for the viewers. Thank you so much for that performance Eric.
Eric Meyer: Hey, you're welcome. And there is a music video of that song that was shot at the breeder reactor, the EBR 1 [00:41:30] which side note Walters Zane was the head of that project, the famous Canadian Walters Zane in and first head of the American Nuclear Society Walters Zane so there's a fun bit of history for you there.
Osama Baig: That's great. That's great. Oh, thanks for sharing that fact. That's actually super interesting.
Eric Meyer: Yeah.
Osama Baig: So I want to transition now into some of the questions from the audience that have come in before. So for those that registered, [00:42:00] there was an option to submit your questions. So for the next future Power Breakfast, I think it's a really great way to participate in this dialogue as well. So I'll ask some of the questions that came from the audience members. And the first question is that how much does the overall public awareness and perception of nuclear energy impact a transition to a more nuclear future and what can be done to improve this? [00:42:30] So Jessica, do you want to start off with this question?
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah, I'll start but I think Eric has a lot to say on this as well. I think one thing that people don't realize maybe in the advocacy or wonky spaces is that a lot of people don't have strong opinions on nuclear. When you do polling, you see a lot of don't knows, unsure. So I think there's really fertile ground there. I think where it impacts or where sort of the rubber meets the road is when you actually have a project somewhere [00:43:00] and locals are now realizing they want to learn more, they want to form opinions about it.
And then the other place is really at the decision maker level. So our politicians and that's where we see their perceptions having much more of a impact because they can be gate gatekeepers on funding, on legislation and so in the US there's been some good bipartisan [00:43:30] legislation around nuclear in the last five years but to do something really big on nucleare is going to take a lot more support and particularly from the left and there are some kind of staunch anti-nuclear politicians at least in the US federal legislature.
So how to change their minds. I think climate change has been a really good door opener. We've seen a lot of people particularly this conversation around the green new deal, which is a big framework [00:44:00] for thinking about addressing climate change. People have said they're open to including nuclear but they're not really sure how. And so there's a lot of kind of room right now to get nuclear into the discussion as these pieces of legislation are forming.
So I think it can be an obstacle, particularly politicians on the older side that have sort of long standing anti-nuclear beliefs [00:44:30] and don't want to invest in the technology, but on the younger side, these newer sort of progressive politicians that have a lot more energy around addressing climate change, I think they are more motivated on the goal of reducing emissions and are more open to more technology. So I think it's the perfect time to engage with these groups. And it's not out of the question to make some changes.
Osama Baig: [00:45:00] Yeah. Some really good insight, Jessica. I think as to the public policy perspective and also gauging the political landscape. Where in the government is there more support and how that can change. So that's really cool. And Eric, I really want to hear your perspective as well. You're more on the ground type, engaging and interacting with the general public a lot of the time. What's your overall consensus? Like how [00:45:30] much does the overall public care about nuclear and what is the perception amongst the general public?
Eric Meyer: Yeah. We always like to refer to the general public and I'm always thinking like does the general public matter in this situation? And I think there's two moments that they do. One is like Jessica said, if there's an actual project and they're looking for community buy-in or two, if they proactively [00:46:00] contact their elected officials, let them know I'm one of your constituents that cares passionately about the environment, about climate change, about jobs, what have you, and I see nuclear as a solution for reason X, Y, Z, and I want to be a resource for you for that.
And there as many pro-nuclear people as there are in the US and in Canada, there aren't enough that feel the need or [00:46:30] feel empowered, feel like they have the ability to make that argument persuasively to their elected officials.
So I think that's part of the role we try to fill is helping people feel the confidence to do that in a good way and build a relationship with their elected official. I think if we do that, we can really have an outsized influence in ensuring that [00:47:00] utilities even have the option to... They have products to buy that are being commercialized. Right now it's the AP 1000 in the US which is politically fraught for reasons. And the advanced nuclear isn't really going to be an option unless we get some additional legislation passed to bring these things from the lab into commercialization.
And we saw last year, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act [00:47:30] passed as part of a larger omnibus package and a larger energy bill. And I don't think that would've happened with thousands of people making phone calls and sending emails, letting the politicians who are thinking about voting on this bill know that there was some public support for it. And then they're not going out on a limb against their constituents wishes. So [00:48:00] having that piece in combination with the astute policy making the kind of wonkiness to actually make the sausage in Washington DC is super important. I think you need to have both pieces and hopefully we can help provide that with some of our work.
Osama Baig: Absolutely. I think you guys are doing a great, like a wonderful job like actually being on the grounds and these petitions and really motivating and encouraging the community to take action. [00:48:30] And just want to ask another question on top is, do you have any examples of like success stories where there was momentum that was built on certain projects and yeah.
Eric Meyer: Yeah. I wish I had more honestly, but it's been a hard fight for nuclear and we're a nascent movement still. We haven't had [00:49:00] a 40 year head start like anti-nukes. One that comes to mind now and it's a little bit harder to point to the end result yet, because I think it's still a little early in the game, but right there in Canada you got the Canadians for Nuclear Energy. It's a group that's less than a year old and they did a tremendous job garnering petition signatures for more nuclear to help Canada meet [00:49:30] its Paris targets. I think their petition is scheduled to be read this week or next week and it's had close to 6,000 signatures while a competing anti-nuclear petition had a little over a thousand. So we can learn from these other grassroots movements and use that knowledge to effectively build support for this technology that's so important at [00:50:00] this juncture in history.
Osama Baig: Absolutely. I think that's a really good example. And I do see organizations here in Canada on the ground developing like Doctors for Nuclear which is really interesting. I heard podcast BBC and connected with time afterward and just really interesting to see these grass root movements starting to shoot up and start making real change on the ground. Another question from the audience is, do you believe youth are [00:50:30] aware of nuclear energy? Do you believe they are supportive? What must industry and government do to help move negative and neutral youth to being more positive about the use of nuclear energy? Your thoughts guys.
Jessica Loverin...: I think we've seen a little more support from younger generations for nuclear than older generations, but as I said, it's mostly pretty unknown. [00:51:00] Outside of Georgia in the US there haven't been nuclear plants being built for the last 30 years. Nuclear has a really small footprint, so even though 20% of our electricity comes from nuclear it's at 67 sites and if you don't live next to one, you probably don't know that nuclear is really generating that much electricity.
So I think it's hard. I think I will take [inaudible 00:51:25] with the framing of the question and that I don't really think it should be the government trying to convince [00:51:30] young people. I think it's better coming from advocacy organizations, particularly climate and clean energy organizations. And I think we've seen a lot of growth there. And again, this like genuine engagement that Eric mentioned. So people getting involved in climate movement, in more action oriented groups and then talking about nuclear in [00:52:00] those spaces, I think is the best way to kind of get people on board with nuclear and just inform people even if they support nuclear, just giving them better information or any information when they don't know much about it.
Eric Meyer: Yeah. I'd agree with that. I think if there's any role for the federal governments to play in this it's ensuring that in schools kids are taught where [00:52:30] electricity comes from and what the various pros and cons of different sources are, the trade offs that we make and gain an understanding of that. I would guess I haven't seen any polling on it or any kind of nationwide literature, but I'd just intuitively would guess that that kind of takes a backseat and it seems like a perfect applied stem opportunity to [00:53:00] learn a little bit more about the world rather than all the mini abstract concepts we're often dealing with in math and physics.
Osama Baig: Oh, for sure. I think those are some really good thoughts guys. And I guess there is time for one more question, which I have is if you look across the world, there are some countries that are embracing nuclear and start implementing these new advanced reactor [00:53:30] technologies like you were seeing in the UAE with Barakah. So Barakah is actually in Arabic, where the Barakah plant is four units 1,400 megawatts each. Can supply around 30% UAE energy demands and has Iran expected lifetime of 60 years. So what are your thoughts on the future of other countries embracing these new advanced [00:54:00] reactor technologies? Are there any other countries that are kind of on the list of thinking about going nuclear?
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah. There's a lot of countries that are on that list. There's about 30 that are pursuing commercial nuclear power programs. I think kind of the big regions of interest right now are definitely the Middle East, which seems kind of counterintuitive because they have so much oil, but oil is not great for making electricity. It is used for making electricity in a lot of these places, but they could make a lot more money [00:54:30] if they exported that oil.
And they also tend to have the financial capabilities to finance or invest in big plants. The Middle East, Southeast Asia is another big area. There's a plant under construction in Bangladesh two one gigawatt, Russian reactors, but there's also interest from Vietnam and other countries around neighboring countries there. There's [00:55:00] interest in some North African and Sub-Saharan African countries. It's going to take a little bit more to start those programs because they have less ability to finance and a little farther behind on the governance.
But I think this is where really good partnerships could accelerate it. So there's a ton of advanced nuclear being developed in the US but we know that most of the growth in electricity demand [00:55:30] going forward is coming from emerging economies. I think 90% of growth in electricity demand to 2050 comes outside of high income countries. So that's where the market is. And so finding ways to make it easier to build nuclear or deploy nuclear in these countries and that's where things like small modules of reactors come in, where maybe they could be manufactured in the US, fueled in the US and then shipped in a secure way, sort of plug and play in these host countries. [00:56:00] Maybe a much faster way to get them a lot of clean electricity.
Osama Baig: Absolutely. And I think when you bring up SMRs OPG is launched it's one SMR initiative. And I think Canada with the SMR action plan is really relieving the forefront in this new technology. What are your thoughts, Eric?
Eric Meyer: Yeah. I hope you guys can continue to do that and maybe make us down in the states a little bit jealous [00:56:30] of your progress. It might be our competitive nature that finally gets us to accelerate our nuclear development in the way that it needs to be. And it's becoming more and more known that this is also a national security issue. We saw with Iran, we worked for years to get that Iran nuclear deal to slow proliferation. [00:57:00] Trump threw it out. So what is Iran doing? They just announced, they're working with the Chinese to build a enrichment facility there.
So it's like if we're not going to show up and be partners and help people develop nuclear energy programs, somebody else will. And then we're out in the cold. And this ally in the region that we've had for years and years, all of a sudden is in, in bed with our [00:57:30] geopolitical adversary and I'm a peace maker and I'm hoping that we'll have a peaceful world going forth, but you always think about what are we doing with our... We're just throwing away these alliances that really have helped keep the world stable for decades, just because we're not comfortable with the idea of a Middle Eastern country having nuclear energy because maybe they could make a bomb out of it someday.
[00:58:00] To me that's not a good enough reason to throw away of those alliances. We need to be a part of the process in these different countries and help them with this technology.
Jessica Loverin...: Yeah. And if I could just add onto that a little historical contest, we hear a lot about US Adams for peace and US was building these reactors all over the world in the 1950s, but Canada also had a huge impact in the global market, especially for the population of the country and the size of the nuclear industry [00:58:30] Canada reactors were a really popular export, especially to lower income countries. And I think there's room here as Eric said sort of battling or competing with other countries, there's good room for partner it between the US, Canada, UK, maybe South Korea in collaborating on projects in sort of that peaceful use of nuclear in terms of economic development.
Osama Baig: Absolutely. Those are some really great thoughts. And [00:59:00] I think what we'll do is we'll... I just want to thank you Jessica and Eric for this great conversation and I'm going to pass it off to Craig for closing remarks. Thank you.
Craig Ruttan: Thank you so much Osama. A fantastic job leading this conversation. I really enjoyed the last hour. Thank you so much, Jessica and Eric for sharing your expert perspectives and taking questions from the audience. Some of the key things I'm taking away are really this understanding of the need for genuine engagement [00:59:30] and meeting people where they're at in terms of helping to build the movement and shape where we're going. That there's a lot of opportunity in the US and around the world right now for new nuclear power and it sounds like you have a lot of insights on the right approaches to take, to help grow that movement and take this opportunity for climate action and making sure nuclear is part of that equation and the power of social science and helping to persuade people.
And as a social scientist myself, I really appreciated those points and [01:00:00] I guess we'll stay tuned for the first full length nuclear opera that hopefully won't take too much longer. Before people sign off. I'd like to quickly tell you about another virtual event we have scheduled one week from today on Thursday, February 25th, the board is hosting a day long virtual summit called Reimagining Our Workforce. It's the third and final installment in our summit series and we'll dive into issues that will likely be of interest to this audience like upskilling, diversity, workforce development and employment trends. You can register [01:00:30] for that at recoverysummits.tr bot.ca. Thank you again for watching and have a great day.