Let’s Talk Nuclear

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Dr. Everett Redmond discusses the viability of data centers teaming up with nuclear power to provide carbon-free energy to data storage.

Announcer: Welcome to Not Your Father’s Data Center, a podcast brought to you by Compass Datacenters. We build for what’s next. Now, here’s your host, Raymond Hawkins.

Raymond Hawkins: Welcome to another edition of Not Your Father’s Data Center. I am your host of Raymond Hawkins, sitting in Dallas, Texas. And today, we are joined by the Nuclear Energy Institute’s, Senior Technical Advisor, Everett Redmond. Everett, I think, is joining us from the DC area. But, Everett, I’ll let you dial us in a little closer than that.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Oh yes. So I’m actually sitting here, working from home over in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of DC.

Raymond Hawkins: Well, thank you for joining us. We’re super grateful to have you. You are our second Nuclear Energy Institute guest. We got such a great response from having your teammate, Matt, on that we wanted to have you join us. So thank you for coming and talking with us about nuclear energy and certainly energy in the data center space might be the thing we talk about more than anything else. So glad to have you joining us.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Excellent. Well, I appreciate the invitation. Thank you.

Raymond Hawkins: So tell us a little bit about you before we get into the electrons and how we’re doing this thing and how we’re powering all of this digital infrastructure. Tell us a little bit about your background, Everett.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Sure thing. So I grew up in Tampa, Florida, and then went up to Boston to go to school, went to MIT, and studied nuclear engineering. And then after that… While I was at MIT, I actually worked at a couple of national laboratories. And then I’ve been working my way down the East Coast since then. Lived in Philadelphia, working for a company, Holtec International over in Marlton, New Jersey. And then moved down here to DC, working for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Dr. Everett Redmond: And in my spare time, along with my wife, we teach scuba diving and do a lot of that. So that’s really the two passions, nuclear energy and scuba diving. I’m not sure which is greater. Well, probably scuba.

Raymond Hawkins: I was going to say, we could do a whole show on scuba if you’d like, I mean [inaudible 00:02:06].

Dr. Everett Redmond: Oh, definitely.

Raymond Hawkins: I still don’t understand what the bends are. I mean, I understand it happens. I understand it has something to do with gas and pressure and all that, but I understand that’s an issue, but I don’t think I could explain it.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Well, have you tried scuba yet?

Raymond Hawkins: I’ve done lots of snorkeling. I’ve not done any scuba. And I got to say there’s a little bit of a fear factor there just of the getting… but I like being in the water. I love going to Hawaii. I love going to the Caribbean, but all I’ve ever done is snorkel. So well, let’s take a five-minute diverge and talk about scuba.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Sure thing. Just so you know, you can try it out, we call it a Discover Scuba class. You could do it at a resort or on a boat. You go off with an instructor. That’s actually how I got interested in it. And the instructor will be with you the whole time. You’ll dive no greater than 40 feet. And so it’ll be nice and confined and controlled and you’ll get that opportunity to experience it. You can also try it out in a pool. We do that when we have students because we don’t have ready access to the ocean here in DC for scuba diving. Not anything that people would really find exciting.

Raymond Hawkins: Not that you want to go see. Right, yeah?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Right. Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. So I got to ask just one scuba question. What I struggle with is the idea that, “Hey, I dive in a pool and I swim down to 10 or 15 feet, and I can already feel the pressure.” How does your body handle the pressure of 40 or 50 or 60 feet? That part… I know it works, it just bewilders me.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Oh, yeah. That’s a great question. So when you dive down in a pool, what you’re feeling is pressure in your ears. And so what we train people to do is just equalize, the same way you do on an airplane, you would equalize as you go down in depth.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Other than that, the body doesn’t feel anything else. So the pressures, you won’t feel any change in… Your physical body won’t feel anything different at 10 feet, 40 feet, or 130 feet, which by the way, is the maximum depth allowed for recreational diving. It’s just really the ears and they equalize the same way you do on the plane.

Raymond Hawkins: Everett, what are these people doing that I see, they go down on this cable and they go crazy deep and then they come back up. I mean, literally, we’re almost… They’re not scuba diving. What are those crazy people doing?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah, that’s called free diving. I’ve got some friends that do that. It’s basically breath-hold diving. So you take a breath at the surface and you’ve got a practice to do this. You take a breath at the surface, dive down, and then come back up. The ones on the line and things like that may be doing competitions and stuff. But I haven’t personally done it, but I’ve got friends that have.

Raymond Hawkins: And so they’re not swimming around or anything. They’re just how deep can I get on one breath and still make it back up? That’s essentially the-

Dr. Everett Redmond: Some of them are. Yeah, yeah.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Some of them are doing it that way.

Raymond Hawkins: What’s the longest, number one, and what’s the deepest? And then what’s the coolest place you ever snorkeled?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Oh, so the deepest I’ve been is 130 feet, recreational limits. The longest dive was probably… It depends on the depth because the deeper you go, the quicker you use air. So it depends very much on the depth, but an hour and 40 minutes at about 25 feet or so.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Now the coolest… Oh, there’s a variety of things. So we dove Galapagos back a few years ago. Whale sharks, which are impressive. I mean, they don’t look like they’re moving until you try to keep up with them. And then it’s a bit of work. But we were just down in Bimini, Bahamas with Great Hammerheads. And then we’ve done the Philippines with tiny stuff and wrecks. I like wrecks a lot too. North Carolina’s great for that.

Raymond Hawkins: What’s wrecks? What’s that?

Dr. Everett Redmond: So ships that have gone down.

Raymond Hawkins: Oh, wrecks or wreckage. I gotcha. I gotcha. Okay.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Exactly. Yeah. So ships that have either been sunk as artificial reefs or casualty wrecks. There’s actually a U boat off of the coast of North Carolina within recreational limits from World War II.

Raymond Hawkins: Wow. And can you get in it or you just go and look at it?

Dr. Everett Redmond: No, you go look at it. I mean, you need special training to go into wrecks, anyways.

Raymond Hawkins: Gotcha.

Dr. Everett Redmond: It’s called a wreck certification, but that particular wreck is not one that I would recommend anybody try to penetrate.

Raymond Hawkins: Got it. Got it. But you’re still seeing a U boat on the bottom of the ocean?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Exactly. I mean, from a historical perspective it’s awesome.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. I’m going to take us to another road here in just one second on the whole diving and wrecks thing. But one of my questions was going to be sharks and you’ve already mentioned two different species of sharks, so that’s normal when you’re diving? You’re seeing sharks?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. You’ll see reef sharks and nurse sharks a lot in many different locations in the world. For the most part, sharks really don’t care about you. You don’t look like anything they eat and you got a big tank on you. So you’ve got some sort of a magnetic field around you and stuff, so you’re not of interest to them.

Raymond Hawkins: Interesting. So they’re not engaging with you unless you go engage with them.

Dr. Everett Redmond: No.

Raymond Hawkins: Gotcha.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Right.

Raymond Hawkins: Fascinating. All right. While we’re talking about wrecks… And I promise we’re going to get to nuclear energy in just a second. So Bitcoin mining, big data center topic for us. One of the things that fascinates me, not just Bitcoin but all digital currency, is how many lost Bitcoin there are in the world. I had a friend of mine from one of the Bitcoin miners on the podcast talking about that if you look at all of the gold and treasure that is in the bottom of the ocean that’s lost… And I’m not going to get the numbers right.

Raymond Hawkins: I’m just going to get directionally orders of magnitude right. It’s a few billion dollars worth of treasure that people spend money going and looking for. And that the amount of lost Bitcoin. So in a digital wallet on somebody’s hard drive that they’ve thrown away years ago, there’s over $17 billion worth of lost Bitcoin today. It’s-

Dr. Everett Redmond: Wow.

Raymond Hawkins: … Quadruple the amount of value of gold bars and things on the bottom of the ocean in wreckage. Staggering numbers. So I’m not going diving for lost hard drives, but I thought it was interesting.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. That is amazing, actually. I’d never heard that before. I’m sure I don’t have anything lying around digitally that would amount to that.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah, exactly. All right. Well, diving is cool. I tell you a couple more moves south and you’ll be in God’s country. You’re not far from Georgia. Just give it a little time. Another one or two moves south and you’ll be in Georgia. So-

Dr. Everett Redmond: I got family down there.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. Well, I grew up neighbors to your north. So just a little bit north of you in Atlanta… or just a little town south of Atlanta. So that’s home for me. All right. Well, let’s get into nuclear energy. I appreciate you telling us a little bit about you. I do want to clarify it because I hadn’t mentioned it yet.

Raymond Hawkins: This is Dr. Everett Redmond. So everybody knows I don’t want to disrespect your education and your time, but you’ve graciously allowed us to go with Everett for today. But I do want to mention that you do hold a PhD in this stuff. So you know what you’re talking about. All right.

Raymond Hawkins: So first subject, what’s going on today and the new things that people are thinking about doing, I have to admit that I’m old enough that I remember some of the older nuclear stories and the challenges in our space. What are new things that people are doing with nuclear energy? What are new projects? What has got the nuclear energy business excited today?

Dr. Everett Redmond: There are a lot of things going on and the world continues to change over the last five years. I mean, it’s changed enormously. Let me just actually take the Bitcoin as an example. So last year, we saw a number of Bitcoin companies make agreements with reactor companies or utilities. In one case, make an agreement with a new reactor vendor. So they’re looking for that clean carbon-free energy to power their mining operations. And so you’re seeing those connections. I mean, two years ago that wasn’t happening. And so you’ve got that going on.

Dr. Everett Redmond: In terms of development and new projects, let me just hit a few. I mean, let me just start with what’s happening here in the United States. So we’ve got a company called New Scale, which is developing a new light water cooled reactor, small modular reactor. They are teamed up with a company called UAMPS, Utah Associated Municipal Power system, so a set of municipal utilities. They are planning to build an Idaho national laboratory and be operational around 2029. New Scale has already had their design reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, so that project is underway. They haven’t begun construction yet, but that’s going to come very shortly. And then you’ve got a couple of other companies, TerraPower and X-energy. And so your folks listening to this podcast may not have heard of any of these companies, but I’m pretty sure they’ve heard of one of the investors, Bill Gates, who has invested in TerraPower.

Raymond Hawkins: Now, what has he done before? I’m not familiar with him, Bill Gates.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. You know… Just not much actually.

Raymond Hawkins: He’s somewhere in the software business, I seem to think. I’m not sure.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah, that’s it. Exactly. And both of those companies were awarded projects from the Department of Energy. In 2020, the Department of Energy awarded projects under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration program, that’s something that Congress authorized. These two demonstrations are supposed to be up and running in around 27, 28 time period. TerraPower has announced that they are going to build in Kemmerer, Wyoming. What is fascinating about that… Well, Kemmerer, Wyoming is a small town. I think about 2,700 people. It is currently operating a coal fire generation facility and they’re going to retire that and they’re going to replace it with nuclear. So that’s awesome. That’s something that hasn’t been done before, and I think that’ll be a trend going forward. The other thing that’s interesting is Wyoming has no nuclear right now. They do mining, but they don’t operate nuclear. So the state will have nuclear power for the first time.

Dr. Everett Redmond: I should also have mentioned that UAMPS currently has no nuclear assets either, so they’re looking at doing nuclear. Why are they doing it? Well, the project name outlines it, carbon-free power project. They’re looking to replace coal generation in the future with nuclear. And then X-energy is building a reactor up at Washington state at the Energy Northwest side up there. While they have a site up there and they have a reactor already, this is to expand their carbon-free energy production there. Now TerraPower and X-energy are both… Well, New Scale is too, they’re all three advanced reactors. But TerraPower and X-energy are non-water cooled reactors. So TerraPower uses liquid sodium for a coolant and X-energy uses high temperature gas. And then following on projects, if we look north of the border for a second in Canada. Canada just announced end of last year, Ontario Power Generation picked GE H, GE Hitachi’s BWR X300.

Dr. Everett Redmond: They’re going to build that at the Darlington site and have it operational around 2028. And then their intent is to build a fleet of small modular reactors after that. And then also up in Canada, Ontario Power Generation has teamed up with a US company called Ultra Safe Nuclear and they’re going to build a micro reactor at the Chalk River site, Canadian Nuclear Labs. Micro reactors are typically less than five megawatt electric or so. And their intent there is to think about using micro reactors for say remote locations, think Northern Canada, think Alaska, where you may have communities that are generating electricity with diesel fuel that you can only bring in once or twice a year depending on weather. And then there’s a couple of other projects too going on. So I mean, really it’s blossomed in terms of what the activity that’s going on.

Raymond Hawkins: Everett, that’s a bunch. I got a bunch of questions. I was taking notes while you were talking. So you already defined one. I was going to ask what’s a micro reactor? You’ve you gave us that definition. So micro is considered smaller than five megawatts of usable electricity.

Dr. Everett Redmond: You know I use five megawatts. There was an infrastructure bill that was passed last year that President Biden signed. It has in at less than 50 megawatts electric. But what we’re seeing… The reason I use five is that’s what we’re typically seeing right now from the developers.

Raymond Hawkins: Gotcha. You mentioned another one in there. I didn’t catch the phrase exactly right. But small or mid-size reactor. What size? I think that was the Camer site, what is that one size-wise, megawatts?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Small modular reactors-

Raymond Hawkins: Small modular. That’s what you said.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Exactly. So small modular reactors are defined as less than 300 megawatt electric. As a reference point, our existing fleet right now operates reactors that are about a thousand megawatt electric or so on average. So this is about a third of the size, which means it’s going to be less capital cost. Smaller means easier to build. And the idea is to move some of this construction back into a factory so we can do more factory construction and then deploy at the site and bring it online much quicker. But small modular reactors are less than 300. The TerraPower design is 345 megawatt electric. Now, one thing that’s really unique about them is they’re attaching to it, a molten salt thermal storage system. So that’ll permit them to peak out at about 500 megawatt electric. So the way I think about it is the following: they’re going to work very well with renewables.

Dr. Everett Redmond: So if you think about solar for a second. During the daytime, when the sun is shining, solar is producing a lot of energy. The TerraPower reactor will be running at full power, but they’ll put less than 345 megawatts on the grid. They’ll heat up that salt system. At night when the sun goes down and the solar stops providing power, then the reactor puts a full 345 megawatts on the grid and they pull heat out of the thermal storage system to put more power on the grid, peeking out at 500. So that’s a simple way to think about it.

Raymond Hawkins: So they’ve got thermal storage for some of the electricity that they can generate during the day while nuclear… Well, excuse me, while solar is putting power in onto the grid, putting electrons on the grid. I got it. Fascinating.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. And they’re the first ones to do this automatically… Well automatically, I mean, from the beginning with the design. Thermal storage systems can be used in other situations. X-energy though, let me just touch on them real quick to kind of round this out. They’re 80 megawatt electric reactors, and they’re going to be four of those for a total of 320 megawatt electric at the Energy Northwest site. And actually, New Scale, that’s going to build with UAMPS, they’re 77 megawatt electric, each reactor. And they plan to build them in either a four-pack, six-pack, or a 12-pack depending on what the customer wants.

Raymond Hawkins: Oh, what was the number [inaudible 00:17:39] that one?

Dr. Everett Redmond: That’s New Scale.

Raymond Hawkins: Wonder what was the size of each one?

Dr. Everett Redmond: 77 megawatts electric.

Raymond Hawkins: 77. And they’ll do a number of packs, six, 12, or what’d you say six, 12, or 18?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Four, six, or 12.

Raymond Hawkins: Four, six, or 12. Got it. Depending on what the customer ends up needing.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. Well, and so thinking about the business you’re in with data centers and everything. I mean, just taking a quick look at some of the information. You guys, I gather, build data centers of different size and different energy demands. So there may be some unique opportunities here.

Raymond Hawkins: Well, so it’s the… You’re leading a little bit to where we’re going with this. This is one of the conversations in our space is, “Hey, how legitimate is it? Could you build? Could data center providers like ourselves partner with nuclear energy providers and have an entire campus or footprint that is entirely nuclear?” And these numbers are certainly big enough. The answer is this is one of those conversations where it just jumps off the page. For us, a normal campus for us is about 300 megawatts of IT load, so we need about four 50 or 500 total. And that would fit in some of the larger ends of this if we wanted to power an entire campus off of a nuclear facility. You mentioned earlier, Everett, you were talking about… You mentioned a long acronym, but Utah was in it and you said they were building in Idaho, and then you mentioned Energy Northwest in the state of Washington and Wyoming. So there’s certainly a Pacific Northwest vent. Is there a why behind that?

Dr. Everett Redmond: So I think it just happens to be where the power is needed. So energy… So Washington state, for example, passed a law back a couple of years ago that they need to be carbon-free in electricity generation by 2045. So that’s part of what’s driving the conversation up there. And then UAMPS needs to have some new power generation coming online as they begin to retire coal, so they have a demand. And the same is true for Pacific Corp, but we have other companies that are looking at the longer term deployment of new nuclear as well. And we’re in the process of finishing up two large AP 1000 reactors down in Georgia at the Vogtle site. So those will come online next year. And so that’ll be 2220… Yeah, 2200 megawatts of electricity put on the grid, 24/7, 365, clean nuclear.

Raymond Hawkins: Come on, Georgia. I like hearing that. All right, so another question, as I listen to you describe these projects that jumped out at me. You said scheduled to come online, I think the earliest is 2027. Some of them are 2028, 2029. I think one might have even been 2030 as I was writing as fast as I could while you were talking. That to me as a construction guy is we build buildings. A long lead build for us is 18 months. That’s really long. These are multiple years. What’s behind… First, is that normal in the nuclear space? And if it is what’s behind that? What part, for those of us… Because a lot of the folks who listen to us are in the same construction delivery business that we’re in. What’s different about building a nuclear plant that’s got that kind of lead time?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah, that’s a really great question. So what’s different is there’s a regulatory approval process that you’ve got to go through. In every country that has nuclear, there’s a regulatory agency. In the United States, it’s the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal independent agency that oversees all nuclear plants throughout the country. And they are… That process to go in and license something with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can take a few years.

Dr. Everett Redmond: So for example, what we’re going to see here is that these companies will go in, they’ll get a permit from the NRC for construction. Then as they’re building, they’ll submit an application to operate the reactor and get a license to operate it. We expect that permit to get approval for construction to take about two years, two or a little bit more. And then it’s going to take you a couple of years… We’re hoping a couple of years to build the reactor. And then at the same time as you’re building it, they’re going to work on getting that operating license. So right there between those you’re looking at about five years or so. These companies… When you decide to build nuclear, there’s a little bit of planning that’s got to go into it and you’ve got to take the time to develop that license application and stuff.

Dr. Everett Redmond: So that’s at least another year before you get anything submitted. The timeframe tends to be longer than what you’re used to simply because you… And one thing I’d say is what your company is doing, what your industry’s doing, you do this all the time. We haven’t been doing this all the time. We hope to get to the point of where we’re doing this all the time and building one right after the other. I believe that’ll come. I mentioned that OPG, Ontario Power Generation wants to build a fleet of small modular reactors, but we’re not quite there yet. The first ones are going to be first of a kind and then we’ll take lessons from that, learn, and we expect to reduce costs and reduce time to construction. But the reality is you’re going to have to go through a regulatory process, then you do the construction, and bring the reactor online.

Raymond Hawkins: Gotcha. For those of us in our business, we call it entitlement and permitting it. That is a process, but you’re right. We’re doing it all day, every day. We’re doing it with AHJs repeatedly over and over. We’re dealing with generally local municipalities, not the federal government. And so I’m certainly sure there’s some layer of complexity there as well. And we’re building buildings, not nuclear reactors, so I get it. That’s super helpful. But hearing you talk about six and seven, eight-year timelines made me go, “Whoa, that’s a lot of work.”

Dr. Everett Redmond: Well, I know it can be a bit of a drawback, but at the end of the day, the benefits are really huge. I mean, so thinking about the data center, as an example. You get the reactor up and running, then you’ve got your own guaranteed source of power. These reactors… I mean the fleet right now that we operate here in the US, 93 reactors, they go 18 to 24 months without refueling. And they typically operate 24/7, 365. Some of the newer designs have the potential to operate much longer than that between refuelings. One of the designs actually is going to do a little bit more of online refueling. So they’re going to take it a little bit of a different approach, but you’re really looking at some innovative projects here and some really good opportunities for your industry as well as others.

Raymond Hawkins: Well, I’m going to back up a little because you gave me a good thought there. 93 reactors, that’s a US number today?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yes. Correct.

Raymond Hawkins: And what are the megawatts, those 93 reactors are producing today?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Oh, I’d have to go look at the total number, but let’s just assume for a second, they average out to about a thousand megawatts each.

Raymond Hawkins: Okay. Gotcha. So that’s a bunch. All right. But in comparison to the total grid, where are we, 6, 7%?

Dr. Everett Redmond: No. Nuclear is 20% of the total electricity generation in the US.

Raymond Hawkins: Is it really? I know idea it was that high. All right.

Dr. Everett Redmond: We are 20% of the total electricity generation and we are 50% of the carbon-free generation in the US right now.

Raymond Hawkins: Gotcha. And so in carbon-free, we’re adding solar, wind, geothermal, anybody else on that list?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Hydro as well.

Raymond Hawkins: Hyrdo as well. Okay. Yeah. I know there’s some good bit of hydro in Canada. How much hydro do we have here?

Dr. Everett Redmond: You know it’s not a great deal. And most of that’s sitting up in the Pacific Northwest, I believe. So the utilities in Washington state certainly have hydro, but hydro is one of those things that doesn’t necessarily… It fluctuates over the course of the year based on snow pack and things like that.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. Right. Right. It’s not as… Oh, I would say none of the carbon-free is as reliable as nuclear. I think that is safe to say. Is it okay to make that statement?

Dr. Everett Redmond:

Yeah. No, that’s true. I mean, our capacity factor is 90% plus. So what does that mean? The percentage of time basically that you’re up and running. As a fleet, we have been operating with capacity factors greater than 90% for the last two decades. There’s no other generation source that comes close to that level of capacity factor. So we are really what is referred to as base load. We’re there. We’re running all the time. And then over the course of a day, the electricity demand from the consumers goes up and down.

Dr. Everett Redmond: So think about it down in Georgia. In the summertime, during the daytime, your electricity is going to peak because of air conditioning. During the summer and the wintertime too, actually. It goes up quite a bit because you guys use a lot of heat pumps, so electricity demand will go up, but then it may trail off at night or something like that. So that peaking is typically filled out with other energy sources, which is why at the end of the day for the electricity system, we need a mix. Nuclear is part of it. Wind and solar will be part of a carbon-free generation source as will hydro. Right now, you’ve got other sources like natural gases and coal.

Raymond Hawkins: Well, I don’t want to put you on the spot, but if you had to say how long it would take our grid to transition from coal fire power generation, how long would it take us to transition completely off of coal? And was it half the grid today?

Dr. Everett Redmond: No, coal is actually less than that. Coal has been dropping off quite a bit. So natural gas is probably the dominant supplier at the moment, but it’s hard. I’m not able to give you a real prediction, but let me answer your question this way. So what we’re seeing is, and what we have seen over the last few years, is a lot of utilities in the United States make commitments to be carbon-free and to be carbon-free, say by 2050. So 2050 is kind of a target date. So you’re seeing utilities make that commitment. Now, they’re going to have to figure out how they do that. I personally think new nuclear is going to be a big part of it. Wind and solar will obviously be a big part of it too, but I think you’re going to have new nuclear to get carbon-free for the grid.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Now, they’re not the only ones making these commitments. You’re seeing other companies in other sectors. So you’re seeing oil companies up in Canada, for example. They have oil sands. Canada is the fourth largest oil producer in the world and they have the third largest set of reserves. The oils sands companies up there have made commitments to be carbon-free by 2050 as well. So they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to do that. Carbon sequestrations going to be a big part of that for them and maybe nuclear will be too. You’re seeing other oil companies and other industrial companies make commitments to be carbon-free as well. While I can’t give you a date as to when we’re going to get there, the writing is on the wall and that’s where we’re heading.

Raymond Hawkins: Gotcha. Well, if you don’t mind, this is awesome stuff and I love hearing about the new projects and what’s coming, and how the world is changing. Certainly, on the world stage today, Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, is that impacting your industry at all from a supply chain perspective and from a fuel perspective? What are your thoughts on what’s going on there? And certainly from a… What you are comfortable commenting about.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah, thank you. I mean, first off it’s such a horrible situation. And I feel for all of the folks in Ukraine. Ukraine has 15 reactors there. They are currently… I think all but about six of them are currently operating. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the director general actually just visited the south Ukraine at one of their nuclear plants to meet with some of their senior Ukrainian officials, as well as staff. The IAEA is trying to provide as much assistance as they can. These reactors are continuing to operate safely, but the whole situation with Russia has created some challenges in supply chain and it’s reverberated throughout multiple areas.

Dr. Everett Redmond: So our industry is looking at supply chain issues there too, and dealing with them right now. I don’t anticipate any major problems, but the whole issue behind Russia and the invasion with Ukraine is making many people rethink what your reliance might want to be on foreign entities. And so we’re trying to do a lot of domestic fuel supply here in the United States and build that up so that we can also be an exporter of more stuff. And we ultimately want to export the reactors that we’re designing. In fact, a couple of the projects I mentioned are already being exported outside to Canada. So we fully expect that the world is going to build a lot new nuclear and we want to be the provider of it.

Raymond Hawkins: Can you give us a little bit of an understanding of NEI’s role versus, and not versus as in opposed to each other, but the difference between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Institute, how do you guys play in the same sandbox together?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. Yeah, let me actually take a moment and talk about the US and then I’ll kind of move into the international for a second. So NEI, the Nuclear Energy Institute, we’re a trade association. We represent the commercial nuclear industry here in the United States. The majority of utilities that generate electricity with nuclear are members of NEI, as well as developers, designers, the entire fuel supply chain from miners and ritchers, converters, back end of the fuel cycle, and various suppliers. We have over 300 members in 17 countries, but our predominant focus is on the US. We are the policy organization for the industry in the United States. We represent the industry on generic regulatory issues. There are two other entities in the US, the Electric Power Research Institute, which focuses more on R and D sort of stuff for electricity in general, as well as nuclear.

Dr. Everett Redmond: And then there’s the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, which is a member organization as well and it focuses on excellence in operations. So that’s above and beyond the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Now, the International Atomic Energy Agency is somewhat similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It’s not quite an international regulator per se, but they do have influence over the world and various countries. They do safeguards reviews in various countries. So they are involved in a regulatory fashion in a multitude of countries. Any country that wants to build nuclear that doesn’t currently have nuclear will be interacting with the International Atomic Energy Agency. And then there’s also, similar to the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, at the world level, there’s an organization called WANO, World Association of Nuclear Operators. One thing the nuclear industry does is share information amongst itself and worldwide share that knowledge. We are always taking issues, learning from them continuing to advance and continuing to improve. It’s just part of our culture, part of the safety culture, continual improvement, and continual advancement.

Raymond Hawkins: So for you and I both a little bit older than some of the folks who listen to us, pretty darn good safety record in the space for a long time now hasn’t it been?

Dr. Everett Redmond: Excellent actually.

Raymond Hawkins: Yeah, I don’t know the official statistics, but I think I’ve heard someone say no major loss of life or any of those issues in the nuclear space in American in decades.

Dr. Everett Redmond: That’s correct. In fact, there’s no nuclear accident in the United States, commercial nuclear accident that has resulted in any fatalities or any injuries.

Raymond Hawkins: Ever. Yeah. That’s pretty solid. A lot of other industries would like to be able to say that. Good stuff. All right, well, Everett, we certainly do appreciate you educating us a little bit more on the nuclear energy space. Love that there are smart guys like you doing this for us because we are… I liked your talk about the 2050 goal, right? That’s where we’re headed. All of us want to see the planet do well and thrive and survive. And if we can help by reducing greenhouse gases and still power everybody’s iPhones, because that to me is always the interesting part, “Hey, we want to carbon-free environment, but we also all want to watch our TVs and air condition our houses, and carry our phones around.” So we got to get energy somewhere and you guys are helping to solve that problem.

Dr. Everett Redmond: We do indeed. And we want to… As we’re moving forward, we’re going to electrify the auto industry and all of this other stuff and decarbonize everything. But you’re absolutely right. We continue to want the conveniences we’ve gotten used to. We got to have them. Got to have a carbon-free power.

Raymond Hawkins: Nothing to crystallize how important electricity is to Americans than having a few days of your power go out. I live in Texas and I lived through what we call down here, Snowmageddon. Eight days without electricity and it crystallizes pretty quickly for you how dependent you are on it. I mean, things you just don’t even think of. Much less, my friends with electric cars who couldn’t go anywhere either because the batteries couldn’t function because of the cold or they were just nowhere to charge the car. But I mean, your freezer goes out, your refrigerator goes out, all the food goes bad, your heating of… Most people’s homes are heated by electricity. You just can’t see it. I mean, just quickly cascades where you realize how incredibly dependent we are on electricity. We want to see the planet thrive, but we also are pretty energy dependent as a society that is for sure.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah, definitely. And the Texas situation was a really good example of that challenge. I mean, it was an unfortunate situation, but yes, we have to have that reliable electricity. We have to have a very stable grid to be able to provide that power. Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins: I liked the way you referred to it. I think you said you view nuclear as the baseline. Hey, we’re always on and we’re always there and we can provide that solid, reliable base footprint, and then we can handle the spikes with some other solutions in the marketplace.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Yeah. We need everything. It has to work together and we’re trying to make sure that happens.

Raymond Hawkins: Awesome. Awesome. Everett, thank you so much for joining us. We really, really appreciate it. And this is another one in the can for us and we appreciate our friends at the Nuclear Energy Institute. Thank you so much.

Dr. Everett Redmond: Thank you, Raymond. I appreciate the opportunity.