Bret Kugelmass is managing director of the Energy Impact Center and host of the Titans of Nuclear podcast. In this episode, Kugelmass discusses energy security in Europe, why “uranium is everywhere,” mining, enrichment, reactor technologies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and why the nuclear industry “has to succeed elsewhere” before it will see a resurgence in the United States. (Recorded April 5, 2022).
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And I’m pleased to welcome my guest, Brett Kugel, Mass. He is the host of the titans of nuclear podcast. He’s Managing Director of Energy Impact center, and the CEO of last energy. Brett, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Bret Kugelmass 0:23
Thanks for having me. Yeah, I was really excited when you came on my podcast. So it’s great to change the favorite here.
Robert Bryce 0:29
Yeah, happy to have you. So Brett, I didn’t warn you. But if you’ve seen or watched my podcast or listened, you know that guests introduce themselves. So now I’ve given you three different titles here. I don’t. Well, yeah. So if you don’t mind, imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone, you have less than 60 seconds standard. Use yourself, please go ahead.
Bret Kugelmass 0:49
Well, my background formerly is as a mechanical engineer, I got a master’s from Stanford and robotics and leverage that into a career of entrepreneurship, where my company was one of the first in the autonomous vehicle spaces, specifically drones. And then after pivoting my life journey, we sold that company in pivoted my life journey towards energy and climate issues, founded the Energy Impact Center, which over the years has led to the exploration of nuclear energy through the titans of nuclear podcast. And then as these last couple of years, our private development efforts through last energy.
Robert Bryce 1:28
And where are you based? You said you graduated from Stanford, what part of the country do you live in?
Bret Kugelmass 1:33
Yeah, I was out in the bay area for about 10 years. And then about five years ago, I moved to Washington, DC. But previous to COVID. I was on the road international travel every other week. And now that’s starting to pick back up again. So I’m a bit all over the place. I spend a lot of time in Europe, as well as the say,
Robert Bryce 1:53
well, so then let’s talk about you mentioned Europe there. I mean, there’s a ton to talk about. And in my view, especially after February 24. Right, the invasion of Ukraine, that this is should be seen and is likely will be seen as an inflection point in, in energy security, the future of nuclear hydrocarbons, etc. There’s a mad dash for hydrocarbons of all kinds, of course, now, as you well know, but tell me what’s happening in Europe, because I know that the Belgians that have announced that they’re extending the lives of their their nuclear plants, the Germans, inexplicably are still going to close their remaining reactors. But what do you see now, in particular, after the invasion of Ukraine, what is the what’s the future of rasa? Tom? I mean, there are a lot of issues we could discuss here. But give me the broad overview, if you don’t mind.
Bret Kugelmass 2:41
Okay, yeah, I mean, I’m not a European expert. But I do have some experience, both through my company and just through meeting other experts out there, but I like I cannot even begin to pretend to say, I’ve got a comprehensive understanding happening or what’s going to happen. But listen, I mean, for a long time, you know, for many years, we’ve been traveling out to Europe, Eastern Europe, and, and this topic of energy security has always been on their minds, like this isn’t a new thing, right? Just come to a head with when you with the invasion of Ukraine, and the new instability that this is presenting to energy access and energy resources, you know, directly to Europe, indirectly, it’s going to have ripple effects throughout the world. So I think, you know, I think we fundamentally entered a new era, there was obviously a lot of things like bumbling bubbling under the surface. But I think now it’s just become easier and more relevant for everyone to talk about energy security, as one of their top energy concerns, whereas before, historically, it was mostly about climate. was the number one energy related concern? I think energy security is, is probably now the number one.
Robert Bryce 3:50
Well, that’s, that’s interesting, because I think I agree with you, and that that energy security now has surpassed I wouldn’t say trumped. But I’m not going to have surpassed the issue of climate, that climate has necessarily been pushed to the back because simply because in partly because of cost, right, where Europeans are now paying, what seven times for, you know, the amount of for natural gases we heard here in the US, but also just that I think it’s about diversity of supply as well. And is that it that the broader understanding of the need for a variety of electric generation sources besides net gas and coal and renewables?
Bret Kugelmass 4:29
I think diversity of supply is an energy strategy that you see around the world. And you’ll see countries write it into their constitution and to their energy, you know, their 510 20 year energy planning documents, diversity of supply is key. I personally don’t think diversity of supply should be necessarily should be the end goal. I think it should be security of supply and just so happens that that overlaps pretty heavily oftentimes, but that is typically because supply have energy often needs to be transported in the form of fuel and and relies on a, you know, a global supply chain. I think nuclear energy actually bucks that trend a little bit I think nuclear energy is one of the one energy sources that you can have security of supply without having diversity of supply. Just because you can store so much energy in your country on site requires just so little material, most of the materials that are necessary to build a nuclear plant can be found indigenously, you know, maybe not the fuel, but certainly can stock up on you know, 100 years worth of fuel, you know, in any given country with not much additional cost. So,
Robert Bryce 5:41
sorry to interrupt, but I like that idea about the energy security. And that’s something that I’ve talked about a lot and people, particularly after the the blackouts here in Texas, that that energy security means on site fuel. Yeah, that is the key. And as you remember, you know, during the Trump administration, Secretary Perry pushed that at the Department of Energy, and
Bret Kugelmass 5:58
I remember Yeah, and people thought it was like a coal thing, I think, for the coal, and she actually didn’t think it was that dumb.
Robert Bryce 6:05
Yeah. Well, now, I mean, it’s looking, you know, like he was right, you know, it very clearly was right, because those plants that had on site fuel during the blackouts were the ones that did the best. So keep going on that part about having that on site. Well, I mean, I’m paraphrasing what you’re saying. But you’re talking about that on site fuel, meaning meaning energy security, and that ability to stockpile relatively small amounts of material fissile material that then you can put into your reactors, and then that gives you some, that gives you security is that, am I reading that back correctly?
Bret Kugelmass 6:37
I mean, I was thinking about it like, yeah, like on a country basis, not necessarily on a site basis. But I mean, as you’ve articulated, so many times so eloquently about how the grid works, you have this like instantaneous transfer of, you know, of the generation of energy and, and the distribution of energy or the reception of it from whoever consumes that energy. I guess what I’m saying is, there’s also this with fuel, and once again, it’s nothing new, you for one have articulated this so well. Fuel is part of this, like instantaneous system. Now, there are certain types of fuel, it doesn’t have to be so instantaneous, you can pile a bunch of coal up and a coal yard gas, it’s a little more instantaneous, right? When it comes to delivering parts for, you know, renewables. Yeah, sure, once you have the renewable up and running, you know, it can continue to produce energy, you know, they are though it has obviously, all of its other intermittency and other issues associated with it. But but you know, they rely on a global supply chain, you rely on the continuous flow of, of parts around the planet, right? Nuclear can disaggregate from that a little bit like nuclear, you can a country can say, Okay, we’re going to build, you know, just a few buildings that represent the total capacity or ever our country will ever need kind of like France, built right, just a few buildings for like a G seven country to give it all of its power. And then you what else do you need to do to secure that supply for your country? Well, you just have to buy moderate amount of uranium or enriched uranium, or whatever it is, but like, it is certainly reasonable, and definitely feasible for a country to totally secure its energy independence for all time, by building just a few buildings, and front loading on a little bit of fuel. That, but that’s nuclear, that’s what nuclear can do.
Robert Bryce 8:28
Sure. Well, let’s talk about that a little bit, because it’s an area I really don’t know much about is that fuel supply chain. And I know during the when I think Hillary was running for president, there’s a lot of talk about Russian, uranium and so on. And now it’s clear Russia is a big supplier. But so are the Australians. Right? And what does it need yours a big uranium supplier? So walk me through if you could amuse you. I’m sure you know, these issues better than I do about that fuel. So the uranium fuel supply chain now, globally, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is that going to accrue to the benefits of the Australians? Who wins here?
Bret Kugelmass 9:04
Okay, once again, this is an area that I’m not like a deep expert in, but okay. Sure. So there’s uranium everywhere. Like there’s uranium in the US that we don’t mind. It’s a commodity. So whether or not you open up the mine or expand the mine, or even look for more, and by the way, uranium is everywhere. If I haven’t said it, again, uranium is everywhere. Whether or not you look for it all just depends on the economics. So it’s not like other types of minerals or even other technologies that you are, like, very reliant on a specific country or geography to get it from. It really is just a matter of like market forces driving, you know, the opening up of mines, because that’s like part one of the fuel supply is the uranium. There’s plenty of uranium. friendly countries have more than enough of it Canada, Australia. I mean, the US has plenty of it. It’s just a matter of it’s just a matter of have, you know mining it and purchasing the alar? Getting? Sure is the next stage now you’ve narrowed your supply chain in terms of enrichment. No, fortunately, in the US, you know, we are kind of like one of the world’s guarantors of nuclear security. So like, it’s cool if we build a bunch of enrichment facilities, and some of our allies also, so we’ll be okay. And I think our allies will be okay. When it comes to Richmond, though, even people who aren’t necessarily our allies also have enrichment capability. So they’ll probably be okay, too. And then you’ve got the production of fuel bundles. And, you know, here, yeah, once again, narrowed supply chain, I think maybe there’s like eight different companies out there that make this. But once again, you know, even though Russia is one of them, we do that here, we got a few factories here in the US that do that really well. So we’re at no risk of having an inability to produce fuel bundles once we have that enriched uranium supply. And yeah, so there’s really no problem with uranium fuel supply chain. Yeah, prices may go up here and there, but just, it doesn’t drastically affect the price of electricity either. Because the the fuel is such a small component of the final delivery cost of electricity, like 5%, like something negligible. So even if doubles, you’re talking about only increasing, you know, which would be drastic, you’re only talking about increasing your final output of electricity, maybe by like, 5%.
Robert Bryce 11:27
Sure. Whereas the price of gas for generation, I mean, we’re seeing this now, after the closure of Indian Point, the criminal closure of Indian Point in New York. inexcusable, the extra corporal closure of Indian maddening, the insane, the
Bret Kugelmass 11:43
Yeah, all the nuclear closures you could apply that could apply.
Robert Bryce 11:48
But now you’re seeing massive increases in electricity prices in New York, partly because of the the huge increase in natural gas prices. So I think that’s another part of the energy security equation, though, isn’t it? Right? That that you don’t have these big, big price spikes that are going to hurt the poor in the middle class? And that’s another aspect of that, shouldn’t that be included as well.
Bret Kugelmass 12:08
This is why we have rules and regulations. And and this is why the government gets involved in these types of things. Like I’m more of like a like government leave your hands off of a type of guy in general across the board. But like when it comes to energy security, listen, you have to define even if you’re like very laissez faire, you have to define some like market rules that speak to like the long term incentives of your society. Okay. And so if you design those markets correctly, if you design the rules correctly, and you can, and you can you incentivize thinking about stability of production, long term thinking when it comes to prices? Yeah, we make way different choices, we value nuclear way more highly like economic, like the short term economics would reflect its long term value, that our rules are just a little out of whack with respect to like, what’s good for us. But like, I can’t claim nuclear is unique to that we’ve got a lot of, you know, sure, silly market structures that don’t think long term necessarily?
Robert Bryce 13:11
Well, let me follow up on them. Because I think that’s a key point that we see it here in Texas, right with his energy only market, where you have the baseload plants that are absolutely critical for grid security, grid stability, they don’t get any more love in the market, then do the intermittent resources, the solar in the wind, etc. So, but you’re saying that’s bad market design? That’s just absolutely. And I’ve been arguing that for a long time, right? This is a government failure to understand this, right. But But what I’m hearing you say, or I’m paraphrasing back to what you said, you have to have, and I think this is the other part that I want to get into now is that, in my view, you got to have a more robust government backing for nuclear, if it’s going to win if it were going to deploy it at scale. So I heard what you said about more tending to be more laissez faire, but you’ve got to have for fuel for the security of the fuel supply chain for waste disposal from licensing, you’ve got to have a robust government backing, is that in my run,
Bret Kugelmass 14:14
I Be careful with word backing, because backing sometimes often implies subsidy, I’m actually not for subsidy, I don’t like the idea of government picking a winner. And I don’t like the idea really even a government like investing in technology. I would much rather than just design the market rules appropriately. And then let the market bring forth new technologies and bring when there’s I really don’t like when the government money gets involved, because oftentimes, I think it’s like very well intentioned, and historically, sometimes it has worked out like like the French nuclear bill that that has worked out. But like we are in a different time, we are in different we have different like countervailing private incentives that have matured over the years. So like one is like the graft that I see in the PC industry that didn’t exist back Back in like the US in the 1960s. But now like
Robert Bryce 15:02
our EPC, forgive me, sorry,
Bret Kugelmass 15:04
I’m sorry. Thank you. Thank you for correcting me. I’m so stupid I should have I’m the guy anachronism guy and I
Robert Bryce 15:09
know that’s fine. I’m gonna interrupt a lot. Go ahead. Now, please.
Bret Kugelmass 15:13
engineering, procurement and construction. So these are like the giant companies like the Bechtel is Jacobs key wits, floors, these runs a build big projects, everything from like bridges to tunnels to nuclear plants. The problem is their business model has evolved or matured to the point where they don’t think about like long term, lots of production of infrastructure, but they think about is how do I make as much out of any given project as I possibly can. And so even if you were to set up like a government incentive program that poured money into nuclear, there’s nothing saying that that would be successful, that might just be stolen by the engineering procurement and construction company is not like illegally stolen, but just stolen by their business model as it exists today, where that might not have been the case in 1970s, France, 1960s. Us, so on and so forth.
Robert Bryce 16:06
Well, so yeah, stolen, stolen is a strong word, but we’ll let that go. But of the so if I’m gonna read back to your reflect back, what I think you’re saying is, then that we need this model for production of reactors has to change that. I mean, this is what we’ve heard over and over again, about SMRs is we want a more constructive, more manufacturing based idea around stamping these out and stamping isn’t the right exact exact right word. But you think that we need a different model, not just on the regulatory side, but on how the plants are actually put together? Is that Is that Is that what you’re saying?
Bret Kugelmass 16:39
I happen to agree with that. But that wasn’t what I was saying. So the distinction? Sure, I actually think that it is perfectly fine to do your typical stick built construction for you know, gigawatt scale, or maybe ideally, like half gigawatt scale plants, like the way that it was done in the 60s, very successful here in the US or in the 70s and brands, or 80s, in Sweden and South Korea. So I actually think that’s actually thinking that that’s fine. But I don’t think is fine, is when the government creates a certain economic model to support these projects, that leads to the project failure, even though it looks like the government is subsidizing or helping such as like guarantees of money, like because if you don’t have like that private market, like pushed back, where there are a lot of bankers and insurance companies, and lawyers, and like engineering managers, like all properly incentivized to keep costs down, I promise you costs will increase and that has nothing to do with the construction methodology. Now I also happen to think that having this idea of more Matt smaller size more manufacturing based construction like prefab holds great promise for the nuclear industry, as it has been demonstrated in the oil and gas and chemical and now even datacenter industries, this idea of modular construction.
Robert Bryce 18:01
Well, so then we’ll let’s follow on that. So what what’s the sweet spot then? And I want to I want to come back to last energy in just a minute but what’s the sweet spot now? Um, you know, we’ve seen the Aqua Ludo plant come online. But that’s what that’s a gigawatt scale reactor, right and Oklo. And I want to talk about Oklo. Because I know you had Jake DeWitt on your on the titans of nuclear podcast just recently. You know, that’s one and a half megawatts. I mean, 111 1,000th, almost of the size of the gigawatt scale reactor. So you’ve spent a lot of time looking at the market and you’re now in with a company that’s looking to deploy reactors. What’s, what size? Are you trying? Are you What do you think is the one that offers the most promise? 100 megawatts? 200. What’s what’s your what’s your theory on that?
Bret Kugelmass 18:46
Yeah, I mean, I think eventually, when the industry gets its rhythm back, I think like, probably Yeah, like two to 500 is probably the sweet spot in terms of size, above 500. And I actually don’t think it really has much to do with the power output, but rather the total capital cost of the project itself. Yeah, I tend to find that when a project exceeds a billion dollars, that that number can very quickly climb to 2 billion, and very quickly climb to 5 billion. That has nothing to do with the technology itself, like that could happen on bridges or tunnels, not just nuclear projects. And so I think you so I think that 500 megawatt size is very easy to keep underneath the billion dollar threshold, and has historically been demonstrated to do so you just can’t have all of the like other like regulatory craziness that layers on cost after cost in a nuclear system.
Robert Bryce 19:40
So if you’re saying 500 megawatts at a billion quick math, it’s $2,000 a kilowatt right. I mean, that’s, that’s a pretty low number from what we’re seeing. But well,
Bret Kugelmass 19:51
that’s easily demonstrated in other comparable power facilities and even in the nuclear sector historically. So yes, that would that is an ambitious according to The last few nuclear plants that were built standards, but that is like a totally reasonable number if you just took out the word nuclear and said thermal power plant,
Robert Bryce 20:07
right? Because you can build gas for about $1,000 1000. Last
Bret Kugelmass 20:11
Yeah. It’s crazy.
Robert Bryce 20:13
Right? Well, so then why? Let me let me answer quick because I really don’t you know, I have some theories what so why is plant Vogel? Why why is it been so insanely expensive? It’s what 2x? The the original estimated cost is way over time, way over budget, why the cost overruns for these plants that are going to be owned by Southern Company, or Georgia Power? They’re way over budget ap 1000s. This is the cutting edge. Why? Why is it been so crazy expensive? And why is it taking so long?
Bret Kugelmass 20:41
Yeah, once again, not not an expert on this particular topic. Other people are a little bit better versed than I am. But I’ll give you a couple. I’ll give you my opinion and a culture that I’ve seen through talking to people over the years. I think it was a real confluence of errors. I mean, we’re only even talking about it right now. Because they actually have survived these errors, you know, some of their plan didn’t survive them. And so, right. Yeah, these errors are pretty bad. But I think there is a bit of, you know, a bit of Westinghouse at faults, you know, and then went bankrupt because of it, like how they structured like their model and their guarantees. So I’m not like criticizing Westinghouse, as a company, you know, now or the people there, I’m just saying, like, it’s pretty clear that there’s a business model problem, right. And so there, so there’s like some real structural structural problems there, there were some really crazy things that happen that made absolutely no sense when it comes to like, you know, regulatory scrutiny. Such as, you know, one store I heard is, like, the rebar spacing, you know, was only precise to within, you know, half an inch when they promised a quarter of an inch or something like that under the exact numbers. And it actually didn’t have any material impact on the structural integrity, but because that’s what they put in their application. They had to tear it all up and redo it, and that cost them a billion dollars. Like, there’s stuff like that. There’s stuff like that, yeah, hey, it’s a giant construction project so big, it’s over that billion dollar threshold that I talked about. So costs are just gonna pile on and pile on. I do think that there’s a lot of bad behavior amongst the engineering procurement construction firms, the general contractors, they like the change orders, they like when the regulator comes in and say, take out all that concrete, that’s another billion dollars for them of work, they love that. And they don’t see this as like a long term, viable business model, then produce them building a lot of nuclear power plants, so they don’t do the other things that companies would normally do to push back and keep costs under control. And then I also think that this whole thing, which, you know, you know, sometimes people call like regulated asset base across the world. But you know, in this case, the Georgia taxpayers were forced to put up money for the project before it was delivered. Some people herald that as, like a, like a good thing, I chose the value of nuclear. But I think just from like a pure, like market based incentive point of view, it really screws things up. Like if you tell people if you start paying people before they like deliver a good job, and you keep paying them, and they keep doing a bad job, what do you think they’re gonna do? So, like, I am personally very against this idea of the government’s pre paying for nuclear plants are the utilities, you know, charging the the rate payer ahead of the delivery of the project, like, if it’s a good project, investors will pay for it upfront, because they’re going to reap a lot of long term benefit. And if no investors are willing to put up for it, it’s probably a bad project. So like, you shouldn’t force that on the public. From an economics perspective, I think there are certain things like yes, that investors wouldn’t value that the public does value in terms of like long term value, clean air, all these kinds of things. And yes, we should consider those bridge
Robert Bryce 23:52
bridges or hospitals or libraries are things that yeah, if you’re gonna build it in the public can build pay for it ahead of time, because they’re gonna get the benefit. Yeah, so
Bret Kugelmass 24:00
I’m not against it overall, this idea, but I just think we should like if we have something that we want to incentivize, let’s design a market that incentivizes that and not not, you know, put a lot of money up front that might just get sucked down the drain. Sure.
Robert Bryce 24:14
Well, so then, you know, we’ve talked now for a good bit about what you’re seeing that isn’t working or you know, the things that you think are wrong, the structures are incorrect or the the incentives are in the wrong place. Like what Charlie Munger said famously, show me the incentives I’ll show you the outcome. So we’ll walk me through what’s the better model here and then introduce last energy what is this company because I was just looking at a headline about oh, that that Yeah, in fact, it was a story was just published a couple of days ago. UK government say could build hundreds of SMRs and mentions last energy supposedly backed by by Elon Musk. What is what’s the way forward and what his last energy? Yeah, well,
Bret Kugelmass 24:57
first of all, just just real quick correction. We’re not backed by Elon Musk. were backed by Giga fund which also in their very select portfolio includes three of Elon Musk’s companies. Okay. Just make that pretty clear up front. So
Robert Bryce 25:09
yes, and who is Giga fund? I’ve not heard of that. Giga fund.
Bret Kugelmass 25:14
Looking Steve are the partners over there. It’s a venture capital fund really ambitious. Couple of guys. UC Park Founders Fund a really well known Investment Company. Okay. Luke was one of the founders, early founders of PayPal. Steve is also an incredible entrepreneurs own right. So, yeah, they just have a very select investment portfolio. Were part of that. So is SpaceX and boring company and few other of Elon endeavors. Sure. Okay. That’s how that parallel was drawn. So where was I?
Robert Bryce 25:51
So follow on that, then we’ll come back to So what tell me about last energy, what is it? What’s the what’s the chemistry of the technology?
Bret Kugelmass 25:57
Yes. So basically, you know, we spent a long time through the Titans nuclear podcast, getting to know the nuclear industry, meeting all the stakeholders, both in the US and abroad. And we were really trying to figure out how can nuclear be used to solve our climate and energy challenges. One of the things that we heard over and over again, from the, from the state from key stakeholders, governments and utilities, like the same thing over and over again, everywhere we went, they’re like, We don’t want a new technology. We do want it to be privately funded. And we do want it to be smaller and more manageable projects and size. And then, you know, we met with all of the startups trying to convince them to do that, like Hey, cut it with a new technology that the customer doesn’t want this and make your project smaller, and privately fund them stop asking the government for money. And nobody would do it. Despite us meeting with like 50 different startups. And so eventually, we spun out a development company that is not a nuclear reactor designer, it is a development company that just integrates standard PW our components and privately funds these efforts and deploys fleets of 20 megawatt size Pete up standard PW Rs No integral physics. No new technology, nothing crazy.
Robert Bryce 27:17
P WR Pressurized Water Reactors.
Bret Kugelmass 27:20
Yeah. Sorry. Once again, yes. god you’re
Robert Bryce 27:22
so this is the this is the new scale model, right? New Scale has
Bret Kugelmass 27:26
not the new scale model. Okay, that’s and I would try to be super clear. Okay. So can you scale out this to like, they have this like, you’ve got it’s an integral reactor, they’ve got new convection physics they’re touting it’s a new model for how PW Rs are operated, new configuration of the core different fuel heights, even though it is standard fuel pellets, different fuel height, different vessel configurations, different types of steam generators that have never been used before. That is a fundamentally new reactor. Now, granted, I’m a big supporter of the scale. I hope they do well, I hope they tell a million other units all over the country. But that’s not what customers were telling us they wanted. And we do customers want Period End of story. No new technology
Robert Bryce 28:14
was so then walked me through them because they’re you’re saying 20 megawatt reactor with a pressurized water reactor design using components that are familiar in the industry of steam generators, the turbine is the other, you know, Balance of System stuff. But where is that? I mean, who’s making those reactors? What? Because that’s the other thing you need, right? You need that reactor vessel, you need that system in place where from where will that come? There are
Bret Kugelmass 28:40
hundreds of hundreds of suppliers for this, let’s let’s look back to the old nuclear industry, okay. And the 1960s because we just in many ways, we just adopted that model. And the utilities designed their own nuclear power plants back then Westinghouse, GE, they come in with the fuel. But the utilities did the design work as is common across the world today, where every power plant is in some sense, like a boutique one off yeah, sometimes a few of them are clustered together. But essentially what you do is either utility or back this EPC word engineering procurement construction firm. You give them design requirements, they design them for you, you pay them money, that is literally as simple as that. Now what we do last energy as an organization is bit more complicated than hiring the EPC portion is just one small part of what we do. We also line up the financing we do the permits, we do the licensing, we manage all of the subcontractors, we manage teams of EPC is engineering procurement construction firms, we manage general contractors. So we are like a almost like a real estate development company. Where like yes, we don’t necessarily like need to have a structural engineers after we do. What we do is we organize the project and we deliver it just Like is done very commonly today throughout the entire power industry, both for thermal power and renewables. There’s this role of a developer. That’s what we saw missing. That’s the role that we stepped in to fill.
Robert Bryce 30:11
Gotcha. Okay, so I’m with you so far, but but I’m coming back to the hardware, because that seems to me to be the continuing sticking point, I want to come back to the NRC as well in the regulatory part of this, but you’re saying that as a project manager, developer, that last energy will be able to then go to a potential customer in Britain or somewhere around the world, they will will will develop it and we’ll give you a 20 megawatt or 50 megawatt reactor, but where does it come from? Where does the reactor come? Who makes that part of it? Because that chemistry that that, that vessel? That thing is the is the hardest part of the
Bret Kugelmass 30:48
thing? That’s not the hardest part, that might even be the easiest part.
Robert Bryce 30:52
Oh, really? Okay, well, then correct me. I’ve thought that the NRC regulatory thicket was the one that’s the most difficult part of this.
Bret Kugelmass 31:00
Ah, okay, now you’re seeing something different. Okay.
Robert Bryce 31:03
I’m jumping, I’m jumping over.
Bret Kugelmass 31:06
A sign of a car is extremely straightforward. If you stick to the conventional technologies that have been in the public arena for the last 70 years since the since the US government essentially released those. And once again, back in the 60s, they were like 18, different, like reactor vendors, reactor OEMs. In addition to Westinghouse and GE, the reactor part is the easiest part, the technical design of
Robert Bryce 31:32
it, if you stick I’m interrupting it, if you stick with the the what the
Bret Kugelmass 31:37
exact PW architect ratio, the light not messing around with any chemistry or materials or anything exact. So
Robert Bryce 31:43
as long as you stay with the light water reactor, and that design, that is virtually all of the reactors that are had been deployed in the US, as long as you stay in that narrow lane, you’re saying that the regulatory hurdles are fairly straightforward.
Bret Kugelmass 31:57
What well, no, in the US. I’m saying the technical hurdles are extremely straightforward. The regulatory hurdles are still a night. But that is something that we specialize.
Robert Bryce 32:07
Okay. All right. So I’m with you so far. Well, so then let’s jump to the NRC then because this is the part where, and I’ve talked with a bunch of people in fact, I’ve done it did an interview that you know, last night and another one this morning, I’m talking to people about this that after the cancellation of Okhla, which came just to or the the rejection of their application by the NRC, which happened just a few weeks after the Chinese announced the the the production of commercial power from a helium cooled gas reactor in Shandong Province. Then a few weeks after the Oklo thing, the NRC, Reno rescinds, the license extensions for two nuclear reactors in the US two plants, Peach Bottom and Turkey. Turkey thicket. I’m just thinking are Turkey, peach, bottom and Turkey point. I’m thinking, Well, what is going on here? I mean, it makes me think that the NRC is and I’m gonna say it hopeless when it comes to the deployment of new nuclear in America and am I am I too negative on this?
Bret Kugelmass 33:02
But first off, let me start by saying I think the people that work at the NRC, like I’ve met a lot of them great people smart, nice, well intentioned, like Okay, so the people there like this. I’m not I’m not going to cast any aspersions.
Robert Bryce 33:15
So you go, okay.
Bret Kugelmass 33:17
I think the institution itself has a challenge. Yeah, it also like I mean, when the Oh close application was rejected, and the turkey point thing, I think those are like, two of the times I was like, most like frustrated or, like actually visibly upset, like in my adult life.
Robert Bryce 33:36
You took it personally. Yeah.
Bret Kugelmass 33:37
Well, it’s just now it’s just I was sad. I was just sad. Because here’s some opportunities, like for some, like nuclear successes that are well deserved, and it just didn’t happen. So here’s the problem. Like, I’ve been playing this idea around and I would like someone to correct me if I’m wrong, but I am pretty sure that the NRC in its entire existence since it was formed in 1973, has never licensed a new design and seen it through operation. Not once, not for research reactor and offer power reactor ever. Yes. There have been some ones that were started prior to 1973 that got their operating license after. Yes, there have been four or five that have gotten a license from the NRC but have never actually operated. Vogel might be the first but its entire history. It has never licensed a new design, not a research reactor, not a power reactor. Not ever. Right. I
Robert Bryce 34:36
knew I knew design that’s actually been built. New Design has been built. Right. Yeah. And I think that’s from everything that I’ve heard. That’s exactly that’s, that’s correct. And we’ve they’ve approved the lightwater design and that’s it and there’s nothing new and that this idea of a new chemistry is just simply an if I’m going to bounce ahead and saying that’s a non starter because that’s not what the they haven’t done in 50 years. Well, I
Bret Kugelmass 34:56
think it’s not just even light water reactor designs, all of the ones Those that have received their operating license from them were started based on a design that was already approved by the Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor to the NRC. So those were grandfathered in. There have been like four or five new lightwater designs, including your two from GE so far, the a DWR and the SP WR, that they’ve spent a billion dollars, getting their license got their license, but then they couldn’t build it like they couldn’t operate either. Because like the licensing itself adds so much cost. Both to both to like now the fixed upfront costs that you have to pay off or amortize over different units that might make it unaffordable, or to the actual things that systems that you need to add to the power plants. I when I see a $10 billion nuclear power plant, I can tell you right now, there are $9 billion worth of unnecessary my opinion, regulatory imposed additions, every $10 billion new nuclear plant could be $1 billion. Because you know what, that’s how we did it in the 60s. And as it’s still the operators that are safe enough to operate today, like that safe enough, shut them down, but you can’t like have a double standard. Those Yeah, a lot of our operating reactors were today like 2022, super cheap. Today’s dollars $730 million for 1100 megawatts. That’s real cheap. And that’s in today’s dollars. Right. And those are operating today when you’re trying to
Robert Bryce 36:24
well, so then. Okay, well, I’m a little flummoxed here, because I’m hearing you say that it’s possible to get the the approval for the reactors that but only if you keep in that narrow lane of what’s already been approved
Bret Kugelmass 36:40
as possible, get approval for a new reactor, but in doing so it makes the actual implementation of that reactor cost prohibitive, and maybe even impossible to actually get your operating license. Vogel will be the first to disprove that.
Robert Bryce 36:54
Okay, so then so then walk me through then what I mean, what’s the way forward then, given what we’ve just discussed with the NRC as a kind of against this intractable kind of regulatory body? What, how do we get reactors built at scale, because I was looking at the Energy Impact center in your, in your description of what you’re doing, you’re aiming for nothing short of bringing nuclear energy to never before realized heights to enable rapid decarbonisation and energy access for all i love this idea. I love the idea. I’m adamantly pro nuclear. But I just keep you know, the more I see, you know, the more I’m skeptical that we will be able to break this regulatory logjam. So tell me how it happens, please? Yeah, well, I’ll say that. And I say that, you know, all due respect, but I’m just like, I’m just, you know, looking at this landscape and thinking especially now with rasa Tom, effectively out of the game, right, with the Russians with a, so the biggest commercial supplier in the world, for reactors to other, you know, foreign countries outside of Russia. It seems like a great commercial opportunity if we had a reactor design that we could deploy, but I’ve interrupted myself here. So what’s the way forward? How does this work?
Bret Kugelmass 38:04
Yeah, okay, let me start high level. So on a global scale, in order to address our carbon and energy problems, we actually don’t need nuclear evenly distributed around the globe, you could even have just maybe a few points where you put 10s of 1000s of gigawatts of nuclear energy, and then use that to both draw down co2 from the air and either sequester it or turn it into carbon neutral fuels, where you ship it around the planet, like a synthetic Saudi Arabia, one might say. So you actually don’t need nuclear everywhere, you just need to find a few jurisdictions that are that are open, friendly and interested in I don’t know, capturing the entire world’s energy production value chain. So
Robert Bryce 38:43
So you’re saying air capture, then doing air capture? You know, I think we’re to run air capture,
Bret Kugelmass 38:47
I think that is or or co2 capture from the water, I think that is the right model to achieve our global decarbonisation goals. Okay. In the interim, you can still build, you know, 1000s of nuclear plants, across the world, in jurisdictions, where the where the regular where the regulator doesn’t impose a $1 billion licensing fee and a $9 billion cap x your project, okay. And there are many places around the world that do that. I mean, we’ve got, you know, operating reactors in like 30 plus countries, they’ve got they’ve got very competent regulators. Some of those regulators are more interested and able to evaluate new types of technology and design, but certainly, almost all of them are capable of, of licensing a light water reactor.
Robert Bryce 39:37
Okay. So now bring me back to the US then. So this is your vision you gave me your global,
Bret Kugelmass 39:43
I’m not sure the US can have nuclear. I’m not sure the US can have any more nuclear in last week, like fundamentally change our licensing paradigm.
Robert Bryce 39:51
Okay, well, there so now there we’re back to something that again, rhymes with what I’m thinking that there’s, you know, as several people have told me, We need to burn down the NRC form a new agent So I’ll start with start it with a new a clean sheet of paper that would allow that regulatory break the regulatory logjam. Is that too harsh would have
Bret Kugelmass 40:10
the words burned down the NRC because like, once again, I think that people Yeah, well, retention is an institutional problem. Okay. I don’t think making enemies out of the NRC is going to serve your goals of more nuclear because then you’re going to have like 3000 Like really angry nuclear experts with like government credential titles like working against you in the press for and by the way, that’s on top of the entire renewable industry and the and the rest of the energy industry all working, its nuclear. Now you’re going to have the nuclear regulators also working against nuclear publicly that is asked, okay.
Robert Bryce 40:39
Okay. Fair enough. So, Brett, I take back and by the way, just as quick station break, I’m talking to Brett Kugel, Mass. He’s the host of the titans of nuclear podcast, you can find him at Energy Impact center.org. Okay. So, reform, the NRC created a parallel agency to the NRC create some do some regulatory reform some what’s the way to break the regulatory logjam?
Bret Kugelmass 41:05
Well, I think you have to first see nuclear success elsewhere in order to garner the political support domestically to take any, like serious action. So I
Robert Bryce 41:14
work in Canada, so that would be like Terrestrial Energy has to get licensed in Canada to like,
Bret Kugelmass 41:18
I’m not sure. I’m not sure Canada’s much better. I met with regulators there. Once again, I think they’re great people, you know, and very intelligent and well intentioned, but I actually think that Canadian regulator has the exact same institutional challenges that the NRC does. So I don’t think Canada is the right way to go. There are other places around the world, though.
Robert Bryce 41:42
So, okay, then where?
Bret Kugelmass 41:46
Well, I think there’s some, like very independent nuclear cultures, you know, such as Brazil, that, you know, their nuclear regulator essentially is a function of their navy. And so they just, you know, they’re not kind of beholden to the same like institutional hangups that other nuclear regulators might be. So I think that can be a real you know, that can that can be an area that’s really poised for leadership in nuclear regulations, but there are many others around the world there’s, there’s a ton of like, really esteemed esteemed regulators, you know, throughout Eastern Europe, you know, Europe as a whole. UK is one that we’re spending a lot of time and attention into. I have nothing but great things to say about the UK regulator so far through some of our experiences with them.
Robert Bryce 42:29
Well, let me follow up on that because Rolls Royce has announced that they’re going to be building SMRs right and that they want to deploy them and the one of the other headlines that’s been in the
Bret Kugelmass 42:38
SMR you made you made me forgot acronym. What does that say? Marcin? Bosch
Robert Bryce 42:41
small modular reactor? Yeah. And I’d be a little
Bret Kugelmass 42:45
careful calling Rolls Royce small, or even modular? But yeah, but if you call it like, small medium, sometimes you’ll call them small medium reactors? And I’d say yeah, they’re medium reactor.
Robert Bryce 42:55
Okay. So tell me about Rolls Royce and what their path to licensing or regular regulatory approval would be? What’s the what’s the size of their reactor? What’s the chemistry and what’s their? What’s their potential for because i It’s interesting you say this, because I think maybe that’s an end run around the regulatory logjam, and I’m thinking about it, I really start to liking this idea that you think it can’t work in Canada can’t work in the US, but maybe in the UK, that they have the well established regulatory framework and that some other vendor, you know, some other country will, you know, I don’t know us, somewhere in Africa, those Well, if the Brits approve it, well, then that it’s, we can, you know, that must be good. But because it’s going to need some kind of imprimatur of some kind of an authority right before it’s gonna be accepted.
Bret Kugelmass 43:37
I think that’s what you’re gonna see happen. Yeah, someone like the UK, but trust me there plenty of other regulators that are like very common to I mean, even South Africa’s regulators competent, they’ve got a PWC down there, they were some of the leaders and looking at pebble bed technology. So it can be South Africa, does it and then, you know, other countries follow UK, does it other countries follow? And I think, yeah, you’re gonna see, like a very confident, interested, you know, like risk informed regulator. Risk rated regulator should say, maybe it uses pra, probabilistic risk analysis, or some, you know, something like something like framework that’s a little bit more pliable, or a little bit more reasonable, let’s say to the smaller type reactors, especially, I think you’re gonna see them pioneer and you’re gonna see another set of regulators follow, you’re gonna see this, you know, nuclear plants going up all around the world, probably not in the US US is just gonna be a laggard. And then eventually enough people in Congress are gonna be upset that they say, How is it possible that your Bulgaria is able to like, you know, build your four new power, nuclear power plants in two years, but like, you know, here in the US, the greatest country on planet Earth, like, we can’t do this, like what’s wrong with us? And I think then there’s going to be some accountability and some, like institutional reform at that point, that could be 10 years from now that can be 15. That can be never,
Robert Bryce 44:53
right. So the the political strategy, the regulatory strategy is to embarrass the guilty I save it as I say that I say that. But you know, Jennifer, no Jessica Mitford was a famous muckraking journalist, she read the American way of death. And I interviewed her a long, long time ago about the funeral industry. But she said, you may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty. So you’re saying, but this is a strategy, a regulatory strategy around that if the if the Brits come up with a regulatory framework, and they they they deploy new reactors at scale that that would light a fire under policymakers in the US to get their act together.
Bret Kugelmass 45:35
I don’t think the Brits do it a light a fire under the US. I think that if like 10 or 20, like mid tier countries do it, then it’ll then it’ll be forced to light a fire under the US. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 45:45
But you’re as pessimistic if I’m here, what you say the US is, will be a laggard, I mean, you’re not optimistic about the regulatory framework here.
Bret Kugelmass 45:55
I mean, I also see a scenario where if enough money just gets like, you know, set on fire that like, yeah, the AP 1000 will get finished, and we’ll go, they’ll have like, and then you’ll pay a billion dollar fee for each new place. You want to put it and you’ll be able to pay it back. Because these are, you know, $10 billion projects. i Yeah, maybe there’s a scenario in which 20 ap 1000s or EP RS or something gets built, but it’s those aren’t great businesses for like rapid global expansion. They, they can do something. I’m never gonna say no to a gigawatt of new nuclear power. Right. But I don’t see that as like, you know, revolutionising the system in a way that we can actually meet our clean energy goals in a timely manner.
Robert Bryce 46:38
Well, I agree. I mean, I think, you know, I’ve said if you’re anti nuclear and anti carbon dioxide, you’re pro blackout and I’m anti blackout. I’m very seriously long and
Bret Kugelmass 46:47
all sorts of other issues.
Robert Bryce 46:48
Well, right, of course, but But let’s go back to Rolls Royce. What is the promise there? What is their? What’s their technology? And what’s their hope for getting regulatory approval? And then and then deployment at commercial scale?
Bret Kugelmass 47:01
Yeah, listen, I like Rolls Royce. I think their idea is like, pretty straightforward and pretty simple. Hey, let’s build a medium scale. PW er, and Rolls Royce has some, you know, credentials coming from deploying nuclear subs for the British Navy. I don’t know how much you know, mixing and matching there are between those two divisions of the company, but certainly, like Rolls Royces defense contractor, you know, they can engage. They know how to engage the UK government there. Their design and approach seems like simple enough. It’s like, Yeah, let’s build a bunch of medium bunch of medium PW ours. I think that’s a good idea. I don’t know how quick or how fast or if they’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit to really revitalize the industry. But like, Yeah, I’m pretty pro what they’re doing overall.
Robert Bryce 47:44
Well, it’s so good. Well, I’m glad because I, you know, I think that there’s there has to be some progress in the French now, and McCrone has said that they’re going to, you know, push forward in SMRs. But, so, we talked around this is the is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Is this an inflection point for the nuclear sector?
Bret Kugelmass 48:01
I think it was already happening. I think even before the invasion, like there was definitely enough concern about energy security. The UK was already kind of pumping money into Rolls Royces program I think before the Ukraine invasion, they’d already allocated another couple 100 million dollars to them. People no energy security financial, I just think it’s like the public now is caught up and that actually gives politicians more air cover to do things I already wanted to do. So yeah, so maybe it is an inflection point from that perspective.
Robert Bryce 48:30
So then, you’re you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve been in this you know, in this sector for a while so handicap and handicap the, you’re clearly I’m not using this word in a pejorative way biased toward the pressurized water reactor, the DWR that you think that that’s the technology or the chemistry that can scale because it’s well known that the there aren’t many variables, it’s not a new chemistry, it’s familiar to regulators. So which countries are going to be the ones that lead the lead the charge and start deploying nuclear at scale? Where do you see the most the most headway the most? Most traction?
Bret Kugelmass 49:08
Yeah, I mean, I’m not biased towards particular technology, I am biased towards giving customers what they want and like the people actually operate power plants say that they are unwilling to take the risk of downtime that is inherent to messing around with new materials supply chain, you know, chemistry is that kind of stuff. And so I just follow what the customer says there’s other ways to do it. Yes, you can come up with a breakthrough technology maybe changes everything and you get customers then to come on board i That’s not my approach. My approach is do what the customer is asked for.
Robert Bryce 49:45
So you think the molten salt path then you just don’t You don’t believe that that that’s a viable pathway to commercial success?
Bret Kugelmass 49:55
You know, any of these technologies I’m sure the reactors going to work, I’m sure Have it. Like he’s a really smart people designing these reactors and like, nuclear physics has been tried out in a whole, like 50 different types of configurations, and they all kind of work. Like, it’s just not that crazy the reactor part. I think what where these other technologies are going to struggle is with power plant operations issues and downtime in their facility over the first, you know, 10 to 20 years of them, like working out a lot of this operational kinks. And then, you know, you tell me if there’s going to be investors and customers that are willing to ride that through when we have a, like, a perfectly good enough technology that can be deployed really cost effectively. And really quickly, as demonstrated by history, embodied in the light water reactor, specifically, the Pressurized Water Reactor seems to be the one with the least operational issues over its lifetime. And that’s why the industry and utilities have gravitated there over time, even when they’ve had a lot of experience, like the UK industry, with like gas cooled reactors or graphite, you know, in the corner, that kind of stuff. Right? So that’s, you know, that’s what I think, though, I do think like, listen, I think like, you know, let’s say that we get the next, you know, Google, out of the nuclear industry, and they’ve got a Google X, and they want to put like a billion dollars worth of r&d into new reactor cores, year over year and work out this operational series. I’m all for it. Like, I actually think that that’s an awesome thing to do. And they should do that. I just think that the faster path to deployment, both from a business model perspective, and also technology risk perspective, is, you know, they’ll say the customers are telling you to build and that’s a
Robert Bryce 51:35
stick with the tried and true. Yeah. Well, so then let me jump back because I mentioned Jake DeWitt earlier in Oklahoma. And we talked about this and I didn’t want to spend much time on it. But just a quick reaction on how important was it to you when you mentioned the the license the NRCS, pulling back the the license extensions for the two nuclear plants and one in Pennsylvania, one in Florida? How important or How significant was the Oklo rejection
Bret Kugelmass 52:03
emotionally impacted me I was rooting for Jacob known Jake for a while. I think he’s awesome. I love what he’s doing with his company. And so I was really sad when that application got rejected. And so, you know, but they’re, they’re he’s a smart guy, they’re savvy team. I’m sure they’ll figure it out one way or another.
Robert Bryce 52:20
But how important is that design technology? I mean, it’s just a one and a half megawatt reactor. I mean, you can go to Caterpillar, Cummins anywhere in the world and you know, get a one and a half megawatt Recep engine that will do will provide electricity, right, it’s, uh, you know, you got to use hydrocarbons and make it to fuel it. But were they it was that the right size? I mean, I’m not asking you to critique them necessarily. But is that is this just another example of this intransigence of the NRC or they’re, they’re trying this chemistry? That is not they’re not familiar with?
Bret Kugelmass 52:53
I don’t know. I just don’t know. I mean, I think what they were trying to do, and once again, I this is not from them telling me there’s just for me like surmising, but if they were they’re trying to do is probably build something really small show, you could get it through the licensing body and then build a bigger version once you’ve kind of like got something up and running. Right. And I thought that was a very reasonable strategy, and it just didn’t work.
Robert Bryce 53:21
And so now it’s back to the drawing board and maybe two or three years before they before they can can get back into the game.
Bret Kugelmass 53:28
I don’t know. I don’t know.
Robert Bryce 53:31
So how do you you founded Energy Impact center and its energy impact? center.org? How many how many people are working there now?
Bret Kugelmass 53:38
Yeah, 30 and growing. And, you know, we employ a lot of subcontractors, big engineering firms, to June’s in many, many millions dollars, and also to kind of leverage their staff as well. And then also, you know, all sorts of subcontracted support, like even for like licensing applications. You know, we work with like giant firms that no nuclear licensing, we subcontract a lot of work to them. So we leverage our team mostly here, once again, it’s like a development company. It’s like the management, the hub and spoke model, and then leverage, you know, experts around the world and other organizations for more fine tuned expertise. So yeah,
Robert Bryce 54:19
so So last Energy and Energy Impact Center are working. Sorry.
Bret Kugelmass 54:24
Yeah, well, yes. Well, energy back center was the origin story. And we’ve transitioned our work mostly to last energy at this point, and we spun out last energy as a as a, you know, the development company arm of what we’re doing. We don’t do too much like raw research anymore, which was like the origin as
Robert Bryce 54:42
well. So and then how do you how do you define success then in that in that field, what are what are your milestones where you’re know you’re on the right track for what you’re doing? How do you measure that?
Bret Kugelmass 54:56
Well, the ultimate success is going to be total decarbonisation of Planet Earth and Energy Access for absolutely everybody and relieving all energy poverty period and the story, like that’s the goal. So we’re working towards that we think we can do it in a few decades, or it’s probably never going to happen. But I think it’d be done a few decades, things tend to shift pretty quickly, once you’ve kind of demonstrated that a new model works. And our model, you know, is to start deploying fleets of small PW RS that are standard technology. And that’s it, and then build up from there.
Robert Bryce 55:30
And and build them somewhere besides the United States and Canada. Correct? Correct. And so in. So there are a lot of countries that are looking at this, and a lot of different companies. I’ve talked to people from Thor Khan, I’ve had Carolyn Cochran from from Oklo on the podcast, and I’ve talked to a lot of them as well. So that that potential would be in the Middle East and Africa, in Asia, those countries that need more infrastructure, but can can stand to build the can would have the labor force and the capability of deploying multiple reactors and doing so in relatively short have the regulatory framework to be able to support them. Is that Is that Is that what you’re looking at?
Bret Kugelmass 56:08
on there? A lot of interesting parts of the world. I mean, historically, you know, whether or not even like water reactors were built everywhere, there certainly are a whole host of nuclear regulators that have been stood up because the country has shown some interest. I even think like, you know, like the Philippines, something’s like kind of built there. And then recently, there’s some new resurgence and interest. So yeah, all over the world. There are opportunities. We don’t gravitate towards the poorest countries. First, we tend to spend most of our time in Europe, just because it’s easier to do business there overall. But yes, eventually, everywhere that you know, is open to nuclear energy and everywhere. That’s not that’s okay. You don’t have to have it. You can buy chemical fuels that come from nuclear power plants that are carbon neutral. Just that’s cool, too,
Robert Bryce 56:51
huh? Well, it’s a bold vision. And I’m glad to have you kind of explain how you see it. Because I mean, we have a lot of inertia behind the systems that are in place, and I want to see nuclear succeed. I’ve just lately become, you know, fairly discouraged, honestly.
Bret Kugelmass 57:06
Oh, don’t be discouraged.
Robert Bryce 57:10
Okay, well, how do you explain the Germans closing after the invasion? They’re going to close their nuclear reactor? And how do you explain that? I mean, just admins have
Bret Kugelmass 57:18
a history of really idiotic, big moves. Not gonna hang my hat on with it.
Robert Bryce 57:25
Okay, that’s fair enough. Well, so we’ve been talking for about an hour, Brett, so I want to keep you you’re you all day. Want to keep this at about an hour. So what are you reading? Now? You’re busy guy. Obviously, you’re juggling a lot of different different projects? What? When you’re when you’re not working? Or even when you are working? Reading certain kind of books? Are you reading what’s on your list?
Bret Kugelmass 57:47
Yeah, I realized textbooks, I read a lot of white papers. You know, I want to relax, I’ll watch like Netflix or something. But yeah, when I read, it’s usually energy related or, you know, technology related or business related.
Robert Bryce 58:02
Textbook. So what give me an example on a textbook that you’re you’re cracking lately?
Bret Kugelmass 58:08
I mean, there’s, I mean, there are textbooks on everything, including construction management, I spent a lot of time thinking about construction management right now. Like, how do you keep keep things on your cost and schedule control? And how do you ensure efficient project delivery? That’s obviously a big concern of what we do. And so I spend a lot of time looking into that as well.
Robert Bryce 58:30
Yeah, it’s one area I have no expertise in at all. But it’s a it’s a incredibly coordinated effort, right, with all the timing and supply chains and everything else that figures into that. Well, so then, you know, you we’ve talked, you’ve got some bold ideas and you know, completely decarbonized world, I’m all about it, electricity for everyone. That’s my goal, air conditioning and cold beer for everyone. That’s my, that’s, that’s my goal. So what gives you hope? What makes you optimistic?
Bret Kugelmass 59:02
Listen, I think that, sorry, I’m just getting alerted that we’re running out of time here. But that’s no profit notes. Perfect note to end on. What gives me hope it gives an optimistic listen, I mean, I think that overall, you know, technology does move like pretty fast and enables fundamental shifts in society. So even if you were, you know, part of my thesis is actually you don’t need to advance nuclear technology that much. But that doesn’t mean that, you know, the resurgence of nuclear isn’t going to be benefited from advances and cultural and societal shifts and other technologies that are happening to so I just don’t think that we think that the like, the world isn’t as stable as we would like to think it to be. So a lot of these things that seem like you know, intractable problems might actually get shifted, just because like the tides of culture, the tides of issues across our planet, shift, like, you know, I don’t know like looking back our people going to be able to point to, like the Ukraine war and say, oh, there’s actually some origin and how social media and communication, like changed people’s perceptions and enabled or, or made, you know, Putin think this way or or is this a result of its paranoia coming out of COVID, which was really, you know, bioengineering and alive and move on, like that changed, like, things change, things change across the planet really fast. And I do think that there are a lot of ambitious and well intentioned entrepreneurial people they’re like ready to adapt to those changes and reform the world into a very positive place for all humans to coexist, you know, from now until eternity, hopefully. And so I’m just I’m on that train.
Robert Bryce 1:00:45
I dig it. It’s a great way a great, great place to stop. Thanks to Brett GoogleMaps. He’s at the Energy Impact center.org. He’s the CEO of last energy, the host of the titans of energy podcast. Brett, thanks a million for being on the power hungry podcasts. been fun.
Bret Kugelmass 1:01:00
Awesome. Thanks for having me. This is a blast. Yeah,
Robert Bryce 1:01:02
thanks for all you in podcast land, give us a good rating on your podcast, whatever platform you’re on, and until then, we’ll see the next episode of power hungry podcast. Thanks