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Net Zero Needs Nuclear

Published January 5 2022
Tony Zettel, Engagement Director
Tony Zettel
Engagement Director
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Alithya’s energy sector business is helping prepare the Canadian Net Zero landscape

As environmental concerns continue to surge to the forefront, global forums are shining the spotlight on the most practical solutions to the direst circumstances. At the COP26 summit held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021, which focused on advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries including Japan and France rang the bell on either expanding or launching new nuclear-based programs in a concerted effort to achieve their zero-emission goals.

Nuclear power is becoming increasingly important in the fight against climate change, and can offer timely and cost-effective solutions in the race to reduce emissions. Net Zero refers to the complete elimination of human-generated greenhouse gases through reductions in emissions and the absorption of existing carbon dioxide. On an international level, nuclear power is becoming a hot topic of conversation, and a critical component of many Net Zero plans.

As the 10th largest emitter of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases in the world, Canada is embracing the nuclear option as a priority on its pathway to Net Zero. That position is supported by a recent Royal Bank of Canada report suggesting that nuclear power is essential for Canada to achieve Net Zero, and that the economic return on new technologies, products, and related industries can continue to position Canada as a global leader in the sector.

Alithya: Providing technology for the nuclear industry

Alithya is well entrenched on the front lines of Canada’s nuclear industry, with more than 40 years of experience, and hundreds of projects delivered successfully. Alithya is currently involved in 50 nuclear projects, across both the Engineering and Digital Technologies departments, and nuclear power generators are among Alithya's top customers worldwide.

In Ontario, more than 60% of all electricity is generated by 18 nuclear units. Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power have successfully refurbished three units and, collectively, will be refurbishing 9 additional units over the next 10-15 years. These units will provide clean, emissions-free electricity into the 2060s.

Nuclear refurbishments have enabled the Ontario government to close five coal-powered generating stations in the past decade, resulting in the single largest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in history. To understand the implications of that, consider that a 1000MW coal plant, running at 80% capacity, produces about three hundred thousand tons of ash, and over six million tons of CO2 annually. A similar-sized nuclear unit, with zero emissions, would produce just three cubic metres of radioactive waste each year – about the size of three refrigerators.

As a trusted engineering and digital transformation partner, Alithya is certified to the rigorous standards required by the nuclear industry, and our expertise across engineering and IT enable us to design and deliver integrated systems from the control room to the board room. Those solutions include control systems, software design, integration, regulatory and cybersecurity compliance, and much more. Alithya is also helping to advance the state-of-the-art through innovative solutions in areas such as Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Peace of mind for secure nuclear expansion

As Canada moves towards Net Zero, the role of nuclear will be pivotal, and public awareness is essential. Advocacy groups continue to work to inform the public of the tremendous benefits of nuclear power, and to address concerns about its potential negative effects. In rectifying mistakes of the past, the nuclear power industry has adopted significant safety improvements across the industry.

Alithya is deeply engaged in ensuring customer compliance with new cybersecurity protocols for Canadian nuclear power plants that exceed military standards in some cases. Alithya’s work is helping to ensure that nuclear facilities are secure, and that technology is in place to protect citizens and the environment.

Alithya currently has the largest cyber security practice in the Canadian nuclear industry, and offers a line of Nuclear Grade Computers and Smart Lockers that further contribute to the defence strategies of critical plant equipment.

In respect to nuclear power generation’s role on the global stage, Canada is on the leading edge, and Alithya is playing a key role. While supplying services to all three nuclear generation utilities in Canada, we are helping to bring Small Modular Reactors into commercial use through consulting and digital technology strategy.

As a Canadian leader in nuclear quality assurance and cybersecurity, and with tremendous growth on the horizon, Alithya is helping to prepare its clients, and Canada’s energy landscape, for the mission at hand.