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By: Chris Levesque, President and CEO

As COP27 comes to an end, I am encouraged by the unity I witnessed as nations joined together to honestly discuss our climate change progress and the long road we still must travel to net-zero. While a daunting task, I find myself hopeful that the pledges made and the ideas exchanged at this gathering lead to real-world solutions. I am also honored that so many were encouraged and challenged by the work we are doing at TerraPower.

Last weekend, I joined U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and other dignitaries as they announced Project Phoenix, which will promote the coal-to-nuclear transition across Europe. While there is widespread acknowledgment in scientific communities about the necessity of making the coal-to-nuclear transition, TerraPower is the first and only developer in the world to have a coal-to-nuclear project underway, with our Natrium demonstration plant.

I also had the privilege of participating in a fireside chat with U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. We discussed the role of nuclear in reaching our climate goals as well as the leadership position our country is taking in policy, incentives, energy justice and large-scale demonstrations as we commercialize new nuclear technologies domestically and internationally. The benefit, and necessity, of advanced nuclear energy is at the forefront of global conversations about reaching net-zero. Studies continue to show that we will not make our climate goals without nuclear energy in the mix.

Consistent with conversations across COP27 events, our discussion ended with Secretary Granholm offering a call to action to forge ahead on deployment of advanced nuclear and to count on the U.S. government and DOE’s full support.

Making the Transition

With the massive wave of planned fossil fuel plant retirements across the globe, and the increasing demand for energy, there is an opportunity for innovative nuclear designs to ease the global clean energy transition.

Making the transition from fossil fuel-reliant grids to carbon-free energy is a challenge that continues to warrant our full attention—and nuclear energy was front of mind at COP. The International Atomic Energy Agency had a large presence, for the first time in event history, with its #Atoms4Climate pavilion. And during the event, the Nuclear Energy Institute announced the 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy Compact, a global coalition with the goal of building a just and affordable energy transition, which TerraPower is proud to participate in.

Many studies, including one from the Department of Energy, continue to point out the many benefits for advanced nuclear deployment in historic energy-producing communities with retiring fossil-fuel infrastructure.

TerraPower’s Natrium reactor and integrated energy system is well-suited for co-location near retiring coal plants. Our technology utilizes existing coal plant infrastructure, including access to cooling water and electrical transmission, which allows TerraPower to reduce both construction costs and impact on communities. Additionally, operating in communities that understand energy production, are comfortable with large generation projects and have a highly skilled workforce are substantial benefits to developers.

Our Natrium demonstration plant will serve as the first major step toward the global availability of innovative nuclear technology, ushering in a new era of carbon-free dispatchable power. Upon completion, it will be a full-scale, operating commercial plant sending power to the grid this decade.

There is increased excitement in the deployment of Gen-IV reactors. A recently released Bank of America COP27 report talks about the potential for nuclear energy to not only meet climate targets but also to aid economies through this transition. TerraPower has experienced this enthusiasm firsthand; We closed a $830 million fundraise round this year with extensive interest from companies in joining our investor base, and we signed on to study the potential deployment of up to five additional Natrium reactors in the PacifiCorp territory, our utility partner on our Natrium demonstration.

Now Is the Time for Action

The challenges of energy poverty, energy security and climate change, three of the biggest problems facing humanity today, require us to find responsible ways to deploy advanced nuclear technologies.  Study after study shows that the optimum way to complete a carbon-free grid is with 20 to 30 percent nuclear energy, with the other 70 to 80 percent coming from renewables. 

To accelerate the energy transition, developers, regulators and politicians must work in tandem to support the global deployment of Gen-IV nuclear technologies. We need governments to invest and collaborate in large-scale deployment, which will promote private-sector investment in scalable clean energy innovation and adoption. Public-private partnerships, like the U.S. ARDP and France 2030, are essential for helping free world companies overcome first-of-a-kind costs and demonstrate new technologies. These partnerships invigorate labor markets, supply chains and technology innovators, all of which are vital to bringing new reactors to market.

The continual theme at COP has been that it is time to move beyond pledges and into implementation. It is evident that we can’t make substantial progress toward our clean energy goals without global effort to advance scalable, new technologies. At this point in time, given the finite and narrowing window we have to address climate change, there is no time like the present.