SMR development, finance and advocacy: an interview with Canon Bryan

“When these plants start being built, and when they start proving economic claims, the capital that's going to come into the sector is going to be on the order of trillions per year.”


Canon Bryan is co-founder and CFO for Terrestrial Energy, one of Canada’s leading developers of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). Terrestrial’s Integrated Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) was the first design submitted to the CNSC’s pre-licensing vendor design review, and is one of three reactors under consideration for deployment this decade at OPG’s Darlington site.


As well as being a nuclear executive and a financial expert, Canon is also a passionate advocate for the role of nuclear energy. He serves as a board member for Generation Atomic, NAYGN, and as the Editor in Chief for the 4th Generation blog.


I recently sat down with Canon to talk about SMR development in Canada, the process of raising capital as a nuclear company, and what the nuclear industry can do to improve its advocacy. Watch the highlights in the video below or continue reading for our full conversation.

DC: When it comes to that SMR development and deployment in Canada, what are the challenges that are still facing it in getting to the next stage?


CB: It's a big project. We've grown the team now to over a hundred personnel in our Oakville headquarters on this project. Of course, being a finance guy, I will always refer to the financing aspect of the project. It's challenging to raise capital for this type of technology today. I think that's going to change.


DC: There's a big decision coming up where OPG is planning to deploy some of the first commercial SMRs at their Darlington site. These will be the first in Canada, and some of the first in the world. They're making an announcement this fall about which SMR design they've decided to pursue, and Terrestrial’s IMSR design is one of those being considered.


DC: Could you talk a bit about the importance of that decision to SMR development and the industry in Canada?

CB: Yes, it is a very important project that OPG has engaged in. There's no question about that.

It's important for the entire nuclear energy industry. And we believe that the rest of the world will take notice of this. They already are taking notice.

Because it will signal to not just the global nuclear energy industry, but the global energy industry, that this is a technology that is receiving a commitment from a major utility company, the largest utility company in Canada which has tremendous expertise in nuclear energy already.


Terrestrial Energy is very proud and happy to be one of the three final technologies which are being considered.


DC: You mentioned the fact that the financing for the next generation of technologies is going to be different than it was for the previous one.


DC: Is Canada on the right track with that? Do we have the right mix of public and private financing needed to support a healthy innovation space?


CB: I believe we do. The government of Canada has made commitments to nuclear technologies in Canada. I'm pleased to say Terrestrial Energy is the beneficiary of some of that. We're tremendously thankful to the Government of Canada for supporting our technology development.

If I were to ask for something, it’s that the Canadian government take a more coordinated approach across different departments, so there’s inter-departmental support for nuclear technology.

You'll see coordinated, cohesive funding strategies for hydrogen, for example. For the hydrogen economy, the Government of Canada's really stepped up to become a leader. And other types of clean technologies, there seems to be absolutely no question about where the Government of Canada stands. They're very supportive and it's across the board. It's inter-departmental.


For nuclear, while it's being supported, I wish that it would be more coordinated and that the support would be absolutely unequivocal and that the government recognized this technology for what it truly is.


And that is that it’s absolutely fundamental to meeting climate targets. And also a brilliant export technology for energy systems around the world that really badly need clean energy.


DC: Well look, I can't let you go without asking you about nuclear advocacy. I know in addition to your day job you're a very passionate advocate, and you do a lot of work advocating for the industry.


DC: Why do you view this advocacy as so important for the nuclear industry?


CB: We have a technology here which could be so tremendously helpful in some of the biggest problems we have as a civilization.

My value system is about trying to be a good humanist, trying to be a good environmentalist, and trying to be a good capitalist all at the same time. And you know, in my view, the best way of doing all of those things is by being part of the nuclear energy industry.

David Campbell is the Director of the Bruce Power Centre for Next Generation Nuclear.