Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Advancing Canada’s low-carbon transition

Bridging the gaps between science and research in Canada’s policy landscape to determine the next generation of nuclear energy facilities

Hands holding two pieces of a puzzle
The Canadian Science Policy Conference brings together leaders in research, industry, and government. (Unsplash/Vardan Papikyan)

How will innovations in science help Canadians, and the world at large, better face the problems of today and overcome the challenges of tomorrow? These questions were top of mind for the more than 2,000 delegates who participated in the 13th annual Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC). The most recent event, themed Build Forward Better, brought together leaders in research, industry, and government from across the country to discuss and promote the importance of science and innovation in building productive social and economic policy.

For the third year, Queen’s was a proud co-sponsor of the event, carried out in November 2021, and helped to facilitate conversations around science and energy policy, areas of research strength for the university. Warren Mabee, Director of Queen’s School of Policy Studies and Canada Research Chair in Renewable Energy Development, served as moderator for the conference’s panel on the role of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Canada’s energy transition, hosting team leads from New Brunswick Power and Natural Resources Canada. 

“Attending the CSPC is particularly special for Queen’s researchers because it allows us to engage directly with both the science and policy communities and help to ensure that decisions around important topics are being made with the latest and most up-to-date knowledge available,” says Dr. Mabee.

Warren Mabee
Dr. Warren Mabee, Director of Queen’s School of Policy Studies and Canada Research Chair in Renewable Energy Development.

For Dr. Mabee and many research experts, SMRs are the next generation of nuclear plants: small, more easily deployed, safer, and potentially able make use of nuclear waste. Many believe SMRs can be key to a transition towards clean energy, particularly within the context of an expanded electricity grid to by energy for transportation, heating/cooling, appliances, and other conventional uses.  Research on the development of SMRs is ongoing, including work conducted by Mark Daymond and Suraj Persaud at the Queen’s Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory

Dr. Mabee led a thought-provoking discussion on the integral role of SMR technology in Canada’s journey towards a net-zero economy. The panelists related their own experiences with the benefits SMRs have brought to clean energy production and considered the best strategies for moving integration policy forward, as well as the added advantage SMRs have in addressing many of the concerns surrounding nuclear power today, including waste management and nuclear proliferation. 

Queen’s is also a proud supporter of “Science Meets Parliament,” an initiative aims to help scientists become familiar with policy making at the political level, and for parliamentarians to explore using scientific evidence in policy making, by providing training and opportunities for engagement. Queen’s researchers and Canada Research Chairs Jacqueline Monaghan (Biology) and Andy Take (Civil Engineering) are past program participants.

“Technology has now advanced to the point that we need to take a new look at nuclear. For a long time, we’ve been focused on the challenges with old-school nuclear design,” says Dr. Mabee. “New SMR technology addresses many of these problems and offers a way forward that needs to be considered in future energy planning.”

Through such dialogue, Dr. Mabee hopes that policymakers walk away with a better understanding of the role that SMRs, and science backed policy in general, play in achieving a healthier planet. 

“Queen’s work on SMRs is just one piece of a larger picture, which is focused on energy transition. We hope that innovative new technologies such as this will carry us further in achieving United National Sustainable Development Goal Seven for clean energy and help us create a more sustainable and prosperous global community,” he says.

For more information on the Canadian Science Policy Conference, visit the website.