Matthew Meyer is a serial entrepreneur, most recently selling his crossfit gym to come to work with his younger brother Eric at Generation Atomic. He became interested in nuclear power after assisting in a march for the Diablo Canyon power plant in 2016. As a passionate outdoors enthusiast, he became a strong nuclear supporter after understanding its small land footprint and lack of carbon emissions. He has extensive experience in coaching and member management, making him a perfect fit to spearhead Generation Atomic’s Idaho National Lab-funded initiative to train STEM professionals to talk more confidently about what they do and then enable them to attend conferences and events in the broader clean energy space.
Certrec Sentinel: As climate change becomes an ever-growing concern, there’s a pressing need for cleaner energy solutions. One of Generation Atomic’s strong points is highlighting the environmental efficiency of nuclear power, especially when compared to other renewables.
Could you elaborate on how nuclear land and carbon footprints provide an edge over other energy sources?
Matthew Meyer: We have a finite amount of land and raw materials and with a projected growth in world population, they will only appear to be more finite over time. To successfully pull off an energy transition, we need to make the best choices available to us. Thus, we should consider technologies that are going to give us the greatest amount of benefit with the least amount of environmental impact.
No other clean energy source comes close to nuclear when comparing land use and raw materials needed to produce energy. To provide some context, a nuclear plant sits on a footprint of about one square mile. The same amount of electricity with wind would require 330 miles² or 63 miles² with solar panels. These numbers will more than double if you factor in the additional miles of transmission lines to deliver the electricity, and the additional materials and land needed to firm up the variable sources.
Land is an ever-increasingly valuable asset. Our modern societies depend on it to deliver food, energy, and housing; however, we need to balance that against maintaining natural spaces for wildlife and nature. So, let’s ask ourselves: how much land are we willing to give up in pursuit of clean energy? If the answer is “as little as possible,” then nuclear should be on top of the list.
Certrec Sentinel: Considering the advancements in nuclear technology, how does Generation Atomic see the evolution of nuclear energy, particularly with emerging concepts like small modular reactors (SMRs)?
Matthew Meyer: SMRs will provide an important role that allows us to decarbonize our energy sector beyond electricity; specifically, the designs that can provide high-temperature heat for industrial applications. Cement, steel, and fertilizer production are highly carbon-intensive industries relying on heat provided by natural gas combustion. Molten salt and high-temperature gas reactors can provide this kind of heat and have great potential in decarbonizing these processes.
Additionally, SMRs and microreactors are nimbler and can fit into areas where it would not make sense to build a large reactor—such as remote communities that rely on diesel generators or even in mining operations bringing clean energy full circle back to the source.
Deep decarbonization is going to require a LOT of clean energy for synthetic fuel production, water desalination, and industrial and residential heat. Energy efficiency will do little to help us decarbonize. We need abundant energy, and that is something that nuclear can do whether using SMRs or large nuclear.
Certrec Sentinel: In your view, what role do policy and regulation play in advancing nuclear energy’s potential? Are there specific policies that Generation Atomic supports or believes should be introduced?
Matthew Meyer: The Inflation Reduction Act has been the most influential piece of legislation for nuclear in decades. It allows nuclear to receive many of the tax benefits as other clean energy technologies. As a result, gone are the days of premature nuclear plant closures in favor of “cheaper” natural gas. The IRA has also contributed to us now witnessing for the first time a closed nuclear plant in the process of being brought back online with that of the Palisades plant in Michigan.
There is still a lot of work to do as there are 12 states that currently have moratoriums on new nuclear, yet many of those same states have aggressive goals for decarbonizing. Take my home state of Minnesota for example: They passed a recent bill to transition to 100-percent carbon-free electricity production by 2040, replacing existing coal and gas with wind and solar. I believe new nuclear should be an option and certainly one to help maintain reliability.
Nuclear is among the few topics that enjoy bipartisan government support. This support is mirrored by the general public based on the latest polling. People are beginning to understand that an investment in nuclear is an investment in an asset that will provide long-term energy security and reliability.
Certrec Sentinel: Is there an opportunity for the general public to actively participate in the volunteer programs spearheaded by Generation Atomic? If so, how can they contribute and make a meaningful impact through these initiatives?
Matthew Meyer: Of course. We have ways to get involved on our website that include donating, volunteering in various ways, or if you’re not quite ready for either of those simply keeping in touch with our email updates. Visit https://www.generationatomic.org/ for more information.
Certrec Sentinel: For individuals passionate about contributing to a cleaner energy future through nuclear, what insights or “pro tip” would you offer based on Generation Atomic’s journey and vision?
Matthew Meyer: We’re seeing a clear, rapid growth in the pro-nuclear movement, and we now have reached a point where most people can say “I support nuclear” with confidence and not give a second thought about what the response might be. This is because the world is eager to learn more about nuclear, and the doors are wide open for any of you who want to become educators in this space.
Don’t shy away from engaging with your lawmakers either. This might sound intimidating, but they’re people too, and expressing your support for nuclear gives them the confidence to take a more open stance.
If you are unsure of how specifically to contribute, the “pro tip” is to start by getting involved in a pro-nuclear organization to give you some direction, there are many of them.
Want a little inspiration? Consider attending a screening of Atomic Hope (or hosting your own). This film follows the nuclear advocacy movement in its early stages through the eyes of notable founding figures and organizations, including Generation Atomic.