Berkeley Students Energy Conference looks to a nuclear future

Berkeley students have been organizing an annual Energy Summit, through the student group, Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC) which “connects, educates and motivates students, alumni, faculty and industry professionals to address the world’s energy and resource challenges.”  Under the inspiration of co-president Dinara Ermakova, a UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate, this year’s summit included a session on the future of nuclear.

The panel, held on April 11, 2022 was moderated by Lou Martinez Sancho, VP of Strategy and Innovation at Kairos power and covered a broad set of questions, reflecting the starting point widely acknowledged and understood by Berkeley’s graduate-level students, namely that nuclear energy is clean, safe and reliable and that, as the grid becomes more decentralized, nuclear power will play a critical role in balancing the grid while complementing renewables and energy storage technologies to create a truly clean energy system.

Valerie Gardner, managing partner of Nucleation Capital, was on the panel put together by the student team, which included Wendy Simon-Pearson, an attorney at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Canon Bryan, CFO at advanced nuclear venture, Terrestrial Energy, and Leslie Dewan, co-founder and CEO at RadiantNano. Together this panel tackled the complex and thoughtful questions posed by the organizers. Under discussion during the session were the following:

1. Given that large conventional Gen III nuclear power has seen rising costs and a certain amount of PR damage for delays in construction, how are Gen IV ventures addressing these issues and continued public concern with cost, safety, and waste management?

2. How does the geopolitical conflict in Ukraine and Europe provide a potential opportunity for renewed interest in and receptiveness towards nuclear energy and will Gen IV be able to reassert itself and help countries that wish to ween themselves of Russian oil and gas achieve energy self-sufficiency?

3. What does the future of nuclear technology look like and what are the most significant barriers to deployment at scale?

4. In light of the growing consensus that, even if we maximize wind and solar development, renewables alone will not deliver the level of decarbonization needed to meet climate goals on time, how does nuclear overcome barriers to obtain entry into conversations about “sustainable” strategies? 

5. Longer term, what are the optimistic prospects for nuclear energy and what changes and initiatives are needed to promote the innovations necessary to keep a seat at the table?


Needless to say, these are the right questions but an hour-long panel does not nearly provide sufficient time to fully cover all of these questions. Nucleation Capital will be publishing a white paper on the answers. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please contact us.

Learn more about The Berkeley Energy Summit 2022 here and see the Agenda for their panels on April 11, 2022 here.