Nuclear Tech Company Sees Big Potential, Expansion Opportunities In Alberta
After being active in Alberta remotely for more than a year, it was abundantly clear to Terrestrial Energy Inc. that it needed a full-time presence in the province.
The advanced nuclear technology company, with offices in Ontario, the U.S., and England, opened an office in Calgary earlier in March. Presently, Terrestrial conducts business in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Many discussions with major industrials including the oil and gas sector led the company to set up shop in the city.
Canon Bryan, Terrestrial’s chief financial officer, in conversation with the DOB, called Calgary a “natural” place for its beachhead.
“Calgary is the energy capital of Canada,” he added.
“There is a great concentration of energy business in Calgary, and we are seeking to deploy our energy technology in Alberta. There is a massive opportunity to do that.”
This is a proprietary Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) fission technology in a small and modular plant design. It is described by the company as a non-light water reactor of the Generation IV class. It operates at the high temperature required for industrial application.
Terrestrial’s current Calgary location will incorporate, primarily, business development activities with some technology development and engineering work.
“Our real goal is to open a much bigger facility,” said Bryan, adding this may occur in Alberta.
“We are looking, sort of, near the University of Calgary campus, where there is bigger industrial-type space where we can have more industrial-type technology development happening.”
Expansion in Alberta will depend on the success of the company’s business development activity in the area, he noted.
“If we had the opportunity to build a power facility … in Alberta, then the development activities will ramp up very significantly,” Bryan said.
Company-wide, Terrestrial has more than 100 people on staff, with more than 80 per cent considered technical personnel.
This number would ramp up in the lead-up to the construction of the power facility, said Bryan.
“We would envision that activity happening in Alberta. It is early days now, we are just starting and trying to build our business. But if we are successful at doing that, then you are going to see some pretty significant growth.”
The oil and gas sector has expressed interest in small modular reactors (SMRs), as a path to help decarbonize the industry.
“We have a lot of discussions going on with energy companies and industrial companies in Alberta,” said Bryan.
SMRs are considered a catchall phrase that can be divided into two major categories: one that reflects nuclear energy used for the past 65 years, but smaller; and those that Bryan calls advanced technologies that have the ability to deliver high temperature industrial heat power.
“Some people might view oil and gas and nuclear as kind of like oil and water, but we view it as the opposite,” he said.
“Oil and gas have enriched the province of Alberta over the years and decades — we view that as a very positive thing,” he added. “Calgary is, I would say now, a premier destination within Canada and within North America and the world, and the energy industry has enabled that.”
Nuclear to be integral
With that said, Bryan noted that perspectives on the environment are changing, and the oil and gas industry recognizes that modifications are needed.
“Our proposition is … nuclear SMRs are going to play a big role in that,” he added. “Nuclear technologies like ours that provide high temperature have a lot of the critically-essential energy characteristics that you need for a global energy system.
“It is the only thing that’s, in our view, really capable of being deployed on a massive global industrial scale that’s needed to transition oil and gas from an emissions-intensive energy technology, which is what it is today, to an emission-free energy technology, which is what it needs to be tomorrow.”
This underscores, said Bryan, a major opportunity.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We need some heavy-lifting from scalable technologies that are clean. It comes down to, nuclear SMRs are really one of the only viable alternatives that is going to be able to do that.”
IMSR technology was developed to provide a low-cost energy solution, said the CFO, providing the type of energy that is useful for industrial heat power in addition to electric power generation.
“Low cost is a critical element of the whole calculus,” he added.
Massive step for nuclear
In a news release, Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism, called Terrestrial’s investment into a Calgary office welcome news.
“Our government has worked hard to ensure Alberta provides a corporate climate that allows organizations like Terrestrial Energy to come to our province and thrive,” she said. “This investment is another tip of the hat towards that investment climate.
“This move is also a massive step for Alberta’s nuclear energy future that will help many communities around Alberta.”
- New Energy