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Canada's Nuclear Future

Energizing Our Nuclear Future: Q&A with Matthew Mairinger, VP at NAYGN

Matthew Mairinger
Matthew Mairinger

Matthew Mairinger

Vice President, NAYGN and Business Analyst, OPG

Mediaplanet spoke with Matthew Mairinger, Vice President at NAYGN, to discuss how the non-profit organization inspires today’s nuclear enthusiasts to improve the future of nuclear.


What inspired you to pursue a career in nuclear engineering?

There’s never just one reason, so I’ll name a few:

  • I wanted a challenge and a stable career that I’d be proud of.
  • I was also amazed at how innovative, safe, clean, and efficient nuclear energy was.
  • Finally, I wanted to be part of an industry making a positive difference in combating climate change and reducing energy poverty.


Why is it important to inspire Canada’s youth to be climate activists?

Elected officials implement changes based on what the voters demand. Therefore, we need to educate and inform the young generation about the facts regarding climate change and what exactly we need in terms of policy and infrastructure to reach our net-zero targets. We face a monumental challenge, but as an engineer, I boil it down to a problem statement and then focus on the work the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientists have done to state what needs to change to reach our objective. Pathways to achieving net zero will require at least a doubling or tripling of worldwide nuclear, so we need to start that now.


Have you seen a shift in young Canadians’ perspectives on nuclear in recent years?

I’ve definitely seen young Canadians becoming more accepting of nuclear in recent years. There’s been an overall trend in recognizing that nuclear will play a significant role in reducing our GHG emissions and its role in combating climate change. Young Canadians want actual change and not just greenwashing. 

When Vermont, New York, California, and even Germany said they would replace nuclear with renewables, we saw more gas and coal replacing the retired nuclear, and climate activists became frustrated. However, I also believe that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown that nuclear is a stable baseload power that can provide energy independence, rather than relying on foreign energy such as those countries in Europe depending on Russian gas.

Another shift toward young Canadians becoming more pro-nuclear is a growing understanding of the other uses of nuclear such as medical isotopes and hydrogen production, in addition to the exciting innovations coming forward such as fusion, small modular reactors, and reusing spent fuel. 


How is North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) energizing our youth by promoting nuclear energy and its role in fighting climate change? 

We’re doing this in a few ways: we’ve created three children’s books — Marie’s Electric AdventureGeorge’s Energy Adventure, and Passing Gas, so we have our young professionals visit elementary schools and talk with children about climate change, energy, and nuclear power. We also have an annual drawing contest for elementary students and an annual essay contest for high school students, allowing them to do their own research and think independently about nuclear and climate change. 

We put on various webinars and workshops and even utilize social media channels like our @NA_YGN TikTok account to reach a diverse audience and hear from our young professional volunteers. In addition, we recently created a Clean Energy committee and are actively involved in climate change conferences such as the Clean Energy Ministerial and COP, which allow our environmentalists to be right in the heart of the action to influence change with the climate activators and politicians. 


What advice can you provide to leaders in Canada’s nuclear industry looking to offer more opportunities for our young generation of nuclear enthusiasts?

Utilize existing organizations such as NAYGN — we have the content and the network and are here to energize the future nuclear leaders! 

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