Small modular reactors a game-changing technology, says North Shore Mi’kmaq GM

Thursday, May 9th, 2024 10:27am


Image Caption

Jim Ward, general manager, North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council


“It’s not going to happen twice. So, we demand to be a part of the small modular reactors opportunity. We see tremendous opportunity and growth with this new technology.” —Jim Ward, general manager, North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Jim Ward is quite conscious of the need to build a sustainable world.

Ward, the general manager of the North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council in New Brunswick, is a big advocate of the nuclear technology of small modular reactors (SMRs).

SMRs are advanced nuclear reactors that are considerably smaller in size than traditional nuclear power reactors. They produce a large amount of low-carbon electricity and are deemed by some as a key part of the energy transition to decarbonized electricity.

Ward was in Toronto recently for the First Nations Major Projects Coalition conference. He was a panelist for a session called Small Modular Reactors.

Ward provided information on how the North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council, comprised of seven Mi’kmaq First Nations, is being viewed as an Indigenous leader when it comes to its involvement in SMRs projects.

Ward believes Indigenous communities across Canada should not only pay attention to but get involved with initiatives involving SMRs.

“As technology grows, this technology in nuclear is evolving as well,” Ward said. “There’s going to be tremendous opportunities for First Nations communities to be involved. A number of provinces now have decided to look at SMRs.

“This can be a game-changing technology for communities. I think there are tremendous opportunities, but we need all the partners to understand we need support in capacity development so we can make these informed decisions, saying ‘yes we want to be involved or we don’t want to be involved’.”

Ward said the North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council is believed to be the first Indigenous organization in the world that has acquired equity stakes in nuclear technology.

Last fall the tribal council signed separate equity agreements with Moltex Energy Canada Inc. and ARC Clean Technology Canada, Inc.

“We don’t plan to sit on the sidelines and see energy projects pass us by,” Ward said. “That happened in big nuclear. SMRs are a new opportunity.”

Last year’s historic agreements will enable the First Nations that the tribal council represents to share in the successes of SMRs technology that will be developed in New Brunswick.

“Our First Nations are very involved in the clean energy space, so we see the SMRs as one of the core planks for staying involved in development and also part of getting towards net zero,” Ward said.

“Our communities are involved in wind, solar, hydrogen, battery storage, and nuclear is one of the key planks like SMR. We are supportive of SMRs.”

Ward said it only makes sense that First Nations communities would want to have a stake in projects on their lands.

“I think it’s very important we understand (that) all of us are depending on energy and electricity for our daily lives,” he said. “And our First Nations communities are no different. We’re looking at these opportunities in our territories and if they’re going to be in our territories, we really should have a stake in these projects.”

That stake involves getting a piece of the action.

“We need to talk equity in the SMR space because in the whole larger space, Indigenous people are being left out,” Ward said.

“It’s not going to happen twice. So, we demand to be a part of the small modular reactors opportunity. We see tremendous opportunity and growth with this new technology.”

Ward said that North Shore Mi’kmaq Tribal Council officials are still interested in being involved in the supply chains for varying projects. But they also want equity now in order for projects to go forward.

“What’s so important is that we need the federal government, the provincial governments, utilities, the companies to understand the situation we’re in… (First Nations) don’t have a lot of knowledge,” he said. “So, we need a lot of support in capacity development. And again, when we have that support, we can make informed decisions.”

Ward said plenty of discussions still must be held.

“We need to engage our kids,” he said. “We have to have that outlook of is it going to be safe, will opportunities still be there or are we leaving the world in a worse place than we have it now…

“The more consent and information we can have to really take part in this kind of opportunity, it’s going to be incredible. Technology is a big part of our lives now.”

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.