Indigenous Leadership in the Clean Energy Transition of the North - Paving the Way for SMR Deployment

by Prodigy Clean Energy and Des Nëdhé

March 19, 2024

Prodigy and Des Nëdhé Partner to Bring Carbon-free and Sustainable Power to Remote Regions

In a historic move, Prodigy and Des Nëdhé have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to explore and develop opportunities to power remote regions of Canada utilizing Prodigy's microreactor Transportable Nuclear Power Plants (TNPPs). This collaboration represents a significant step forward in increasing opportunities for economic reconciliation, and expanding Indigenous leadership in Canada’s clean energy transition.

Sustainable Energy Will Drive A New Era in Northern Prosperity

Aurora borealis over Dawson City, Yukon, Canada.

The potential for innovation and growth in the North is limitless. Boasting nearly 40% of Canada’s land mass, thousands of kilometers of rugged coastline and meandering rivers, vast reserves of metals and minerals, rich Indigenous culture and traditions, and some of the best spots in the world to watch the Northern lights, remote regions of Canada and the North are ripe for economic development. 

Mining and resource extraction is cornerstone to Northern economies, employing the largest Indigenous workforce of any private sector in Canada. With a national focus to boost resilient supply of critical and rare earth minerals, the building blocks of cleantech used in solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries for electric vehicles, remote mining operations are positioned to expand to whole new levels. Growth in parallel is expected across several other regional sectors, including manufacturing, construction, forestry, agriculture, and aquafarming. New industry opportunities in IT are also quickly emerging in the North. 

The missing piece needed to actualize Northern industrial growth is abundant supply of clean and affordable energy. 
Image Source: Mining Industry Human Resources Council.

Northern Territories, as well as remote parts of multiple provinces, face significant challenges to access clean, reliable and affordable power. Unlike their southern counterparts, grid connection and alternative energy infrastructure in these areas are often infeasible due to requiring a disproportionate amount of capital for project execution and maintenance. The result has been a historic and almost exclusive reliance on diesel for electricity and heat. The environmental toll of diesel, coupled with the economic burden of high fuel and operational costs, have stunted the realization of the North’s full economic potential.

Image of a remote community in Canada.

The same is true for remote communities. Poor energy infrastructure and subsequent limited access to essential services and resources have created a cycle of disenfranchisement for generations – and more recently, climate-affected changes to the environment increasingly threaten Indigenous cultural traditions and opportunities for sustainable local economies. Arctic warming and longer periods of high temperatures are shrinking drinking water supply, decreasing food security, compromising safety of physical infrastructure, and limiting the growth potential of Indigenous-owned and run businesses. Additionally, increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather conditions are dramatically affecting hunting yields, necessitating larger requirements for year-round heating and cooling. With Northern residents facing astronomical costs of electricity, frequent power outages, and significant risks to human and animal health caused by damaging environmental effects of fuel spills, continuing to cope with the socioeconomic weight of diesel generation is no longer acceptable.

It is impossible to grow remote communities and businesses when steady supply of clean power is not guaranteed.

The time has come to remove the constraints of diesel generation, and embark on a journey to elevate Northern infrastructural development in a way that preserves the region’s unique ecosystems and Indigenous cultures.

As we look to transition remote Canada to sustainable power, a clean energy revolution emerges on the horizon, promising economic growth, environmental protection, and resiliency and sovereignty for the North. 

Deploying Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), a safe, carbon-free, affordable and reliable energy source, is a commitment to a prosperous North. It is a call to embrace a brighter future where the Northern expanse thrives on an abundance of clean energy, forging a path to greater socioeconomic opportunity and sustainable development for generations to come.

Economic Reconciliation through Clean Energy: TNPPs Will Be a Catalyst for Transformation

At the heart of the collaboration between Prodigy and Des Nëdhé lies a commitment to economic reconciliation, a fundamental pillar of the clean energy transition. Prodigy microreactor TNPPs will not only revolutionize the Northern energy landscape, but also catalyze economic reconciliation by supplanting historic reliance on diesel.

Conceptualization of Prodigy’s Microreactor Power Station™ TNPP. Variant is marine transported and coastally installed on land.

The significance of this shift cannot be overstated, as the impact will extend far beyond energy provision. As an environmentally sustainable, reliable and cost-effective alternative to diesel, Prodigy microreactor TNPPs will unlock new possibilities for Northern communities and industry – stable energy will springboard development of critical infrastructure needed by residents, e.g., upgraded roads and ports, water treatment and desalination facilities, and year round greenhouses; and businesses can expand operations, increasing and diversifying revenue sources, generating long-term, high-paying jobs for Indigenous Peoples. Economic dividends will be felt immediately and reverberate across generations, fostering long-term prosperity in these traditionally underserved regions.

With a microreactor TNPP fleet envisioned, Prodigy is dedicated to working integrally with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis across Canada, recognizing each group’s unique traditional knowledge. Indigenous perspectives will be cultivated on many levels, including on how to integrate TNPPs naturally into Northern environments; how to maximize Indigenous ownership and benefits as part of energy delivery models; and how Indigenous capabilities and a local workforce could support the power plant throughout its lifetime.

Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and know-how will be foundational to Prodigy’s approach to TNPP design, deployment and commercialization.

This inclusive approach is first of its kind in many respects, demonstrating true commitment to addressing historical disparities, and charting a course toward economic equity. Through genuine partnership, Indigenous Peoples will become part of the very fabric of TNPPs, steering the course of the clean energy transition on generational lands.

TNPPs as Key Enabling Technologies: A Giant Leap Towards Northern Energy Security

Prodigy's microreactor TNPPs are pivotal enabling technologies to deliver safe, affordable, carbon-free and reliable power to locations all across the Northern expanse. 

Conceptualization of Prodigy’s Microreactor Power Station™ TNPP. Variant is marine transported and shoreline installed within a protected harbor.

Distinguishing features of Prodigy TNPPs lie in the ability to customize the plant by microreactor (i.e., very small SMR) type and size, prefabrication and transportability of the entire facility, flexibility for land or marine (shoreside) installation, an impressively small footprint, and rapid readiness for commissioning. Traditional SMR projects proposed for construction at remote sites will face significant logistical challenges and complex site preparations. In contrast, TNPPs streamline this process, enabling remote mines and communities to get an SMR online faster, at lower cost, and with reduced impact on the surrounding environment. At the end of project life, Prodigy TNPPs will be fully removed from their locations and decommissioned off site, eliminating concerns associated with legacy waste and stranded assets.

By overcoming limitations faced by traditional SMR projects, Prodigy TNPPs will become a frontline technology for the energy security of the North. Using TNPPs, the Northern transition from conventional energy sources to a fleet of microreactors becomes technically and economically feasible for the first time in history.

Indigenous Culture and Leadership: A Guiding Force in the Clean Energy Transition

Embedded at the core of the clean energy transition is a profound acknowledgment of the invaluable role played by Indigenous culture, traditional knowledge, and leadership. This recognition goes beyond mere symbolism; it is a commitment to weaving the fabric of Indigenous wisdom into the very foundation of the transition itself, ensuring that the clean energy landscape is shaped by the collective experience of Indigenous Peoples across Canada.

The partnership between Prodigy and Des Nëdhé is not just a business venture, but a journey of engagement that seeks to honor and incorporate Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous economic aspirations into an innovative SMR deployment technology positioned to bring sustainable clean energy into all parts of remote Canada.  

Together, and in collaboration with other Indigenous groups, Prodigy and Des Nëdhé will ensure that TNPPs are culturally resonant, reflecting the interconnectedness between energy solutions and the rich tapestry of Indigenous heritage.

Looking Ahead

Prodigy microreactor TNPPs will create unprecedented opportunities for Northern energy independence. TNPP emergence will symbolize progress, Indigenous leadership, and the beginning of a new legacy of sustainability and resiliency for Canada’s remote regions. 

Through meaningful partnership with Indigenous Peoples on TNPP development and commercialization, the North will not just be a consumer, but also a category leader in innovative clean energy solutions. 

Prodigy and Des Nëdhé have a shared vision of a cleaner Canada built on pillars of Indigenous inclusivity and Indigenous economic empowerment. 

As we look to the future, we invite you to join us on this transformative journey.