Chris Keefer is a Toronto-based medical doctor, Director of Doctors for Nuclear Energy, and host of the Decouple podcast. In this episode, Robert talks to Keefer about the importance of radiation in medicine, decarbonization, why Ontario is “the France of North America,” and why in his view, Canada’s 60,000 nuclear workers are “climate, clean air, and medical heroes.”
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. on this show we talk about energy, politics, innovation and energy, power, innovation and politics. in any order that you want to choose it, my guest is my friend Chris Kieffer, who’s the Director of doctors for nuclear energy. Chris, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Chris Keefer 0:25
Robert, it’s a pleasure to be here. It was great having you on on my podcast to do a couple podcasts. And it’s always a pleasure to chat. Well, great. So
Robert Bryce 0:32
you have many hats, but we’re going to get to those in a minute. But I warned you, I’m gonna ask you to introduce yourself. So if you don’t mind, I’ve given the your title, but they assume you just arrived at a dinner party, you have 45 or 60 seconds to introduce yourself. Tell us who you are, please.
Chris Keefer 0:53
Sure, yeah. So I mean, I’m a Canadian emergency physician, been practicing medicine for about 10 years, I’ve always had a, an advocate or activist bent to me, and I spent a lot of time working on issues around refugee health care and indigenous health in Canada. I have a beautiful two year old son who was kind of most of my world. But you know, in my spare time, what I’m not doctoring, become quite involved in this issue of advocacy around energy and climate and environment. And that’s led me toward as being a strong promoter of nuclear energy. Gotcha.
Robert Bryce 1:27
So what is doctors for nuclear energy? I think this is a new, it’s a fairly new organization, is it not?
Chris Keefer 1:34
Yeah, it was founded by myself, and English physician and under murie. Not sure if I’m pronouncing that right. It’s a South African name in November of 2018. And basically, the the impetus behind it was that there’s a number of physician groups, which have a very strong anti nuclear bent to them, I’m sure most of your your viewers will be familiar with Helen caldicott, who is probably the most famous anti nuclear physician, but also organizations, you know, that she’s helped revive or found physicians for social responsibility, international physicians for the prevention of nuclear war, which really morphed from a concern with, you know, the abolition of nuclear weapons and a successful fight against atmospheric weapons testing towards, you know, opposition and fear mongering, especially around around nuclear energy. And, in my read of the scenario, if you look at the literature, especially surrounding nuclear accidents, the the harm again, these are from the highest highest quality studies put out by the UN and national governments large consensus based high quality evidence, the harms have to do with, with the psychological reactions to these accidents, rushed evacuations and stigma and things like that. And so these physicians, you know, in my mind, to a degree have blood on their hands in terms of the sort of fearmongering they engage with. And so I really wanted to create an organization that could demonstrate and there are a number of pronuclear physicians, we have members from around the world, basically every every continent on Earth. But as with many things on this sort of pronuclear side of the the opinion, spectrum, we fail to be organized and create a voice. And I think that’s sort of what I brought to the table with doctors vinegar energy, but also some of the other work that I do is similarly titled Canadians for nuclear energy, but what we’ll get into that, I’m sure.
Robert Bryce 3:33
So right, so your doctors for nuclear energy, which is doctors for nuclear energy.org. There’s Canadians for nuclear energy, which is C for M. e.ca. If memory serves, and you have the deep decouple podcast and you’re a medical doctor and do emergency so it sounds like you don’t have a lot of spare time.
Chris Keefer 3:56
But yeah, I mean, it’s, uh, I was joking about this on another podcast recently, but emergency medicine is, is known as the hobbyist specialty, maybe kind of jokingly amongst some of my other colleagues, but, you know, it’s, it’s a job where you show up at work. And you’re, you know, they’ve done some productivity studies where a guy follows you around with a chalkboard, you know, a checklist and looks at, you know, the time that you spent on task versus talking around the water cooler or something like that. And murdochs tend to be kind of, on their feet, giant task oriented, something like 96% of the time, anyway, you do your work, and you’re really able to kind of leave it at work though. And that does give you the opportunity to, to pursue some things outside of work I’ve noticed with my colleagues and and I’ve just kind of taken it in my own direction.
Robert Bryce 4:42
Gotcha. So and you and you’re working in a hospital in Toronto, then that’s right. Yeah. And what do we do I mentioned the hospital or
Chris Keefer 4:50
No, you know what I mean as as a physician the hospital’s they hate it when we see where we work. So no, I’ll plead the fifth on that. Okay, no, no problem. Well,
Robert Bryce 4:58
so the one of the things it’s very interesting to me. And you mentioned, what is it called accounts organization and she’s been as garnered a lot of attention and written a lot of things that are fear mongering around nuclear and and she’s a physician, but the part that we’ve talked before about this is the importance of radiation and medicine. So you’re a doctor, how often when you’re on a typical shift on in the emergency room, many times during that shift, or how many of your patients or give me an a metric about how often you’re using radiation as part of your, your, your medical practice?
Chris Keefer 5:34
Yes, was an emergency physician, you know, I’m dealing with undifferentiated energy. I’m making diagnoses and patients that are coming in and haven’t been assessed yet. And so, you know, radiation in the form of medical diagnostics is a vital tool for me. So absolutely every shift, I’m ordering x rays or CT scans, it’s hard to say maybe one in four patients is getting some kind of either an X ray or a CT scan. I’m not an oncologist. So I’m not administering radiotherapy in that regard. But in terms of investigations, that’s huge. And it was talking about this because, you know, there’s a real fear that people have around radiation. In North America, for instance, most of us get about 2.7 millisieverts of radiation. And what’s interesting about that is
Robert Bryce 6:18
just, I want to stop you there. 2.7 millisieverts, we used to talk Rams millisieverts, right?
Chris Keefer 6:23
It’s very confusing, but millisieverts is an attempt to weight the different kinds of radiation, both based on the type of radiation. So, you know, gamma versus alpha versus beta, whether that radiation is from an internal exposure and external exposure, that it’s passing through. So there’s sort of tissue weighting factor. So it’s a, rather than just an absorbed dose, it’s trying to look at the biological effect of that dose. But the very interesting point here is that of the amount of radiation that is kind of artificial, there’s a lot of it, this is natural background rate from cosmic rays from radon gas, kind of escaping from granite, rock formations, things like that. But the component that’s artificial is about 15% of that pie chart and 95% of that, that artificial component is medical.
Robert Bryce 7:11
Again, we’re referring here to these 2.7 millisieverts. Yeah, and that’s over what time period, Chris,
Chris Keefer 7:16
that’s a yearly dose. Okay. So
Robert Bryce 7:18
2.7 millisieverts per year for the average American or average Canadian. Yeah. And you’re saying that the, that the background radiation, or the background portion of that is how much again,
Chris Keefer 7:30
so of the of the overall background dose, that 2.7 is just your, the dose that everyone is exposed to, on average, of that 15% is our official, and 14% is medical. So you know, if you’re, if you’re worried about nuclear accidents are followed from weapons, and we’re down into 0.1 0.01. amounts that are that are as a result of the things that we really fear. And, you know, it’s very interesting on a number of technologies, if you look at genetic engineering, if you look at nuclear, when the benefits accrue to an individual, we don’t have fear of radiation or genetic engineering, if you’re a diabetic, I mean, we have amazing processes by with biotechnology to create insulins which are very pure, right, we used to get insulin by ground grinding up, you know, pork pancreas is and trying to extract it. And there’s all kinds of contaminants and problems of that now, diabetics get amazing pure insulin, as a result of genetically engineered yeast, right? You don’t hear protests against that, because the benefit is individual. And similarly, you know, when I’m on shift, and you know, if I have a little child that’s had a bad fall and hit their head, I have to make the decision about whether to get a CT scan of their brain, right. And I’ll have parents begging me to do that right to give basically a to millisievert dose to their child, when that’s the entire yearly backward radiation. So there’s no fear of radiation there. But when we start talking about technologies that have a collective benefits, so if we look at nuclear energy, which produces essentially zero emissions, energy, with no air pollution, which is just huge, right, because we know about 7 million people die every year from as a consequence of air pollution. All of a sudden, those fears of of radiation become really something that is something that really holds back to technology. And so I just think it’s interesting. And maybe this kind of plays into ideas around sort of a sense of collective good or civic duty, which are very appealing to me. It’s just a very interesting phenomena that I find
Robert Bryce 9:31
Well, that is actually I hadn’t thought about that before. But this idea that there’s no collective harm that might happen, but there’s an individual good if you’re going to help me diagnose my son to just fall fell off his bike so that the radiation in that case, we’ll not really worried about that. And you know, I don’t know anybody that is ever said, Oh, I’m worried about the radiation I’m going to get from my X ray or CT scan. But if there’s an accident at Fukushima, I mean, I had a friend of mine who was saying, Oh, well, you know, we get the iodine pills immediately, and he lives you You’re in Texas. And I thought, right, what are you talking about? But But I want to return to that idea about that, because it’s closely related to what you mentioned earlier. But the studies that have been done the epidemic epidemiological studies, after Fukushima found that the the health problems were caused by the evacuation, not the accident. So it’s the the point that I’m getting here is, or maybe I’ll ask it in the form of a question. So is the fear of radiation more dangerous than the radiation?
Chris Keefer 10:30
Absolutely. And I mean, and,
Robert Bryce 10:32
you know, when we look at how crazy is that, I mean, the fear is more destructive than the thing you fear. I mean, where else does that happen? We I mean, I can’t think of anything at the moment.
Chris Keefer 10:42
Yeah, I think there’s an example there, not that not at my fingertips right now. But again, this is, you know, that might sound strange to people, because people will watch, you know, the Chernobyl HBO drama series, and they get a certain impression. And at the end, what’s quoted is, you know, there’s controversy about how many people died as well as accident. And the estimates range from, you know, right, a quarter million to very few. But what you have to look at
Robert Bryce 11:04
that total, which is total cop out, right, right, right. Well, you know, doctors may, you know, one set says this, yeah, but I mean, there has as
Chris Keefer 11:12
physicians, and I think this is a real paradigm shift, and what gives me hope that newer physicians are going to look at the evidence and arrive at New conclusions, right, we used to the basis of medical evidence used to be what was called a mechanistic, right? So okay, I’ve got this enzyme which performs this function, if I block it with a drug, this should be the result. Therefore, this is the evidence that works. And about 15 or 20 years ago, we moved into what we call an evidence based medicine paradigm where that mechanism wasn’t sufficient. And we required epidemiologic data. So we need to do big, you know, double blinded, randomized control trials, trying to eliminate all of the other variables, test, a very specific intervention. And that was the new standard of evidence. And so physicians have become much better trained at what we call critical appraisal of literature, right, looking at the quality of a study. And so when you look at the studies that have been done on Chernobyl, you have the UN Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation, right? The UN, the Chernobyl forum, this is an eight UN agencies collaborating with the three affected countries, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, hundreds of experts, consensus statements, right. And then, and then you have these other reports, which are quoted by the HBO series, things like the torture report, the other report on Chernobyl or the Diablo con report, both of these, the torture report was actually funded by the European Green Party. Right? I believe there’s three authors on it. And there, they base their conclusions purely on this concept of the linear no threshold approach and just kind of doing some fancy math and Okay, well, if it’s this dose of radiation applied to this many people, we’re gonna get this many cancers. Right. Right. So it’s very low quality evidence, and the bias is just built into it. There is certainly you know, if you’re being if you’re being funded by the European Green Party to do a report on Chernobyl, which scientists do you think they’re gonna they’re gonna they’re gonna choose for this study? And what outcomes are they looking for?
Robert Bryce 13:05
Right? Well, and it’s interesting, you know, I had a guest on my podcast, and you may have spoken to her as well, Joe, Geraldine Thomas. Yeah, it was, it was just really compelling in her discussions of Chernobyl, and she runs the Chernobyl tissue bank, at Imperial College London. And she made some of the same points that it was the fear of radiation, not the radiation that was so deadly. And but I think it’s just it to me, it brings a different quality to the discussion when you when you approach it from a medical standpoint, and saying, No, these these radiation is ABS is essential for diagnostics. It’s essential for treatment. And this is something that we should be embracing instead of pushing away or fearing and but let me follow up on that, because you made another good point. And it was on your March 26, Twitter feed at what you were talking about the the pro nuclear petition that was written or read on the floor of the Parliament in Canada, but you made a reference there to the the this this idea about radiation, and we have to move past it, that there’s a there this that we need to embrace that. So you seem to be getting some traction with that, though, is it? How do you feel? How did that how mixing two two questions here? How successful Do you think that petition was? And did it really move the ball in terms of where your your campaign is involved now?
Chris Keefer 14:31
Sure. Yeah. I mean, so just to introduce that petition, it’s coming out of this, this new group of Canadians for nuclear energy. And that group grows out of frustration, I think, with looking at the anti nuclear groups, and how large how loud their bark is, I mean, they represent a tiny fraction of the population, but because they their arguments are based on an emotive appeal, and also because they’ve been very well funded. And historically, we can see a lot of that funding coming from the fossil fuel industry. Interestingly, No, they have a great ground game. They’ve they’re experienced campaigners, right. And so Canadians for nuclear energy is, you know, this grassroots effort by phone, honestly, without a lot of bad because the experience that are, you know, exploring ways in which to organize the pro nuclear side of the spectrum, simply so that we can have a balanced debate and hopefully shift the Overton Window towards more of a science and evidence based approach and, you know, embrace things like let me interrupt because
Robert Bryce 15:25
the Overton window is something that another guest on the podcast, what is the Overton window?
Chris Keefer 15:32
So the Overton window is basically what acceptable political discourse is, right. So if you want to look at the Overton window in the US, we can say that, you know, since the 1950s, it’s really moved a lot to the right, right. So, you know, even progressive Democrats now are, you know, if you look at the politics of say, you know, Eisenhower, you know, this was a, this was a guy who favored fairly high tax rates, for instance, right, as a way to incentivize corporations to spend their money so that wouldn’t get taxed and invest in the economy, etc, right, that would now be a Bernie Sanders idea. So the Overton window has has shifted far to the right in the US,
Robert Bryce 16:09
I see. So that would be an example of the idea of what is acceptable discourse. And so exactly, the canceled culture is trying to move things out of the Overton window is that or just
Chris Keefer 16:19
or just shift the Overton window again, what’s what’s acceptable to be spoken about or the discourse?
Robert Bryce 16:24
Right, so I’m interrupting here again, I’m sorry here, but I remembered what the part that you said in your in the in the Twitter presentation you made, it was about the importance of radiation and and and radio isotopes coming from nuclear reactors in Canada being used sterilized PP, which I hadn’t heard of before. Well, this
Chris Keefer 16:44
is an incredible story. And I mean, tell
Robert Bryce 16:46
me about that, because that was something that else that came out of that wrote me a great opportunity for you, but I never heard that. So tell me what it was a cobalt, what what is the what?
Chris Keefer 16:55
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, Canada’s got a pretty extraordinary history in terms of nuclear research. You know, after the Second World War, we were the second largest research center in the world. I mean, think about this little country probably have at that point, I’m not sure 15 20 million connects up here, running, you know, this, this breakthrough technology and making a lot of important discoveries. And so we developed this heavy water moderated reactor that uses natural uranium doesn’t require any enrichment because we weren’t interested in weapons. And that could use rather than needing a heavy forging industry, which is only, we’re only sort of capable of that, and a few countries around the world could create a design that didn’t require that. And basically, because of it being heavy water moderated, it’s it lends itself very well to I guess, kind of like cooking isotopes. So we can take cobalt, naturally current cobalt, and park it in our reactor for a little while and let it absorb some neutrons and we can pull out cobalt 60, which is a really strong gamma emitter. And that is used and and because again, of this unique reactor design, we are one of the world’s top producers, even though we’re such a small country of cobalt 60. And indeed, we produce enough cobalt 60 to sterilize 20 billion pieces of PBE every year. And that
Robert Bryce 18:12
was, that was the number that I was after. And so when these billion This is the
Chris Keefer 18:16
40% of the world’s surge of single use surgical instruments are sterilized with Canadian cobalt 60.
Robert Bryce 18:22
Say that again, because that’s a really interesting, I have
Chris Keefer 18:25
a 40% of the world’s single use surgical instruments are sterilized with Canadian cobalt 60. So I have the saying, Rob, Robert, or it’s, I like my climate cool, my air clean, and my surgical instruments sterile. And those those are my big arguments for nuclear.
Robert Bryce 18:44
The air clean, say it again, the air clean,
Chris Keefer 18:45
my climate cool, my air clean, and my surgical instruments sterile.
Robert Bryce 18:50
Chris Keefer 18:52
So you’re asking early, go ahead. You’re asking really, if this if this petition didn’t have a big impact, yes or no. And I mean, these are early days, there’s really not been any grassroots led nuclear advocacy, I think people are very surprised by the very existence of that or that there are there are citizens that would put their energies into this. So it’s, it’s early days. And I mean, really, in terms of my tactical and strategic thinking, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we can look at the campaign’s that are being run by the anti nuclear groups, and lift the best things. And so it was just I saw that they put an anti nuclear petition and I didn’t know this there was this mechanism that existed, but in Commonwealth countries, you can find a sponsoring MP, and as long as you get a requisite number of signatures, that petition will get read on the floor of the House of Commons, which would be the equivalent, I guess, of your house representatives. Right. Right. So it’s an incredible opportunity for citizens to participate in the democratic process. And I mean, I wasn’t sure I was going to find a sponsor for this petition because the language is bold. I mean, one of the one of the lines is that nuclear energy is the most environmentally friendly form of energy generation, requiring a tiny fraction of the mining processing and infrastructure for instance, right. Yeah. And you know, Having a politician read that in our current con text, which is, you know, politicians are very, very nervous about engaging with nuclear energy, certainly existing nuclear energy as well, right, we can talk about the advanced kind of imaginary stuff that doesn’t yet exist. And, you know, as part of a branding exercise that can sort of maybe help politicians distanced themselves from this, you know, this political football, but, you know, I think it was relevant that the petition got 6000 signatures, we really are trying to mobilize a base and a big part of that base are people that work in the sector, Canada has 60,000 nuclear workers. You know, throughout our supply chain, we are one of the largest uranium producers in the world, we have around 20 reactors in the countries and reactors around the world. And, you know, these are workers in the sector, they understand radiation, they have a more realistic sense of it, they understand the collective benefits of nuclear energy. But they haven’t been mobilized a lot of, you know, workers in the sector, in fact, have been very much stigmatized for doing what they do. And to me, that’s just bizarre, because for me, nuclear energy workers are climate and clean air. And let’s, let’s even say medical heroes, you can’t have a modern functioning medical system without sterile equipment. Right. And you can’t put everything in an autoclave.
Robert Bryce 21:15
Yeah, I like that idea of climate clean air and and medical heroes of it. It’s, but those are parts of what the other part that seems to me the big difference that I see. And what’s your thoughts on this is that the Canadian nuclear sector is much more cohesive than the American one. And that’s in part due to the fact that some of the Canadian Well, you have the Canadian pension funds that are invested in a lot of the nuclear industry in in, in candidate. Can you explain that for me?
Chris Keefer 21:43
Yeah, I mean, so absolutely. And it’s very interesting. I mean, there’s a little example, maybe of American exceptionalism here, although I’m probably misusing the term, but I think it is exceptional that a nuclear industry is as privately owned and run as it is in the States, right? I mean, that’s had certain implications. That was a struggle, right. I mean, under Eisenhower, there were a number of thinkers who were saying, Listen, we want we don’t want an atomic TV, this is a battleground, we’ve been in the New Deal. Now we’ve had 20 years of democratically controlled government, it’s time for the private sector to take something over. And, you know, maybe in generous terms, take some of the budgetary, you know, the debt off of the government balance your budget by making this a privately funded thing, but that had consequences. And I think, you know, I’m not an expert at this. But in looking at it, you know, there’s this funny saying that America has 100 different types of reactors and three kinds of cheese. Whereas France has three kinds of reactors and 100 types, which is probably 500. Who knows? Right? Yeah, but I think that’s, that’s, that’s a result of this. And you have a lot of reactor sites that are single or double reactor sites in the States. And something that’s very different about Ontario in particular, is that, you know, we had the atomic energy of Canada limited, which collaborated with Ontario hydro, a public utilities, so federally, you know, publicly owned entity and a provincial one, a little bit of cooperation from General Electric, Canada, and some on some certain parts. And we ended up building these enormous multi unit plants, right, which are take advantage of economies of scale and economy, multiples even. So we have, you know, two nuclear plants, one of which, until I think China built a largest collection of reactors on one site was the largest nuclear plant in the world here in Ontario.
Robert Bryce 23:27
And that was like, that was Bruce power. Is there is.
Chris Keefer 23:29
It still is Yeah, 6.3. I think they’re gonna try and push seven gigawatts of production from one site. Right. In Canada units. Yes,
Robert Bryce 23:38
yeah. Seven gigawatts. 7000 megawatts. I mean, this is just it’s an enormous plant. And our
Chris Keefer 23:43
other two plants are, you know, they were built as a foreign gigawatt plant, Pickering, it’s now running at about 3.2. And then Darlington is a four unit plant that’s around 3.5. So these are large plants, they were publicly financed. And as a result, we were thinking about how do we do this efficiently and cheaply? Well, we build a whole bunch of reactors in series on the same site. Right, we learn from the one we just build on the next one. And we can localize our transmission infrastructure, you know, so it’s, it’s just a model that I think would not lend itself well to the American model, per se, where there’s I think less, there’s, you know, there’s more competition, which is maybe a good thing in certain market sectors. But I think you’ve started to explore this as well with energy. You know, there’s not a true market, there’s a lot of distortion, subsidies, etc. And if you have something strategic, like nuclear energy, which, you know, I really like into, you know, what I’m thinking about renewables and nuclear I my latest kind of analogy, and I’m borrowing part of it for Mary to think one but I think developing your lips a little bit further is that, you know, nuclear is like this enormous freight train, right? And what we care about is we’re trying to move this, you know, low air pollution, carbon free payload of energy, you know, down the line, and it takes a long time to build this freight train. It takes a lot of momentum to get a nuclear program going to get the supply chain greased, so that we get cost down but once that train starts moving There’s nothing like it, right. And then you have the renewables, which are, you know, to me like little bikes with pennies on them, you can build a lot of them really fast, they’re easy to finance privately, right? You have a quick return on investment. There’s lots of subsidies for them. But you know, the rider gets tired has to get off has to sleep at night. Some days doesn’t really feel like riding, right. So
Robert Bryce 25:19
it’s funny. Like it’s reactors, or freight trains, and wind and celery are tandem bicycles. I kind of like that idea. But I think that the your point here about the government involvement is really a key one as well as this idea of the and and we talked some months ago, and since we talked, you know, I think in February, I’ve been blacked out here in Austin. Yeah. And it changed my I mean, I don’t want to say, well, I’ve used this word radicalized, and I think it has radicalized me and that, what is the fundamental problem? And it goes back to your point about the government involvement, which is this, the politicians who set up this market for electricity in Texas, thought that they’re selling a commodity like hamburgers or tortillas? No, no, no dumb ass. This is. This is not a commodity, this is an essential service. It was a misunderstanding of what electricity is and what it means for the society. And that that’s kind of a long intro introduction to the point of no, the electric grid is the single most important network in our society. So yes, you should it is right that the government is involved in takes a central role. And the Canadians have taken that central role and focus that on the nuclear sector, which I think is really key, because in the United States, there’s that there’s no, there’s no center of gravity for the nuclear sector in the United States. And it’s one reason why it’s failing so badly now.
Chris Keefer 26:43
Yeah, I mean, I’ll correct you on that. In Ontario, we have, which is the most populous province right now I kind of lovingly referred to Ontario was the French North America. You know, we’re about 63%, nuclear France and 75, we were sort of government led initiative, we built kind of one reactor type and sort of three different sizes. So very much kind of mirroring the French, the rest of the country in terms of the clean provinces, like British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, are, we have amazing hydro resources, right? So sure, they’re doing great on that regard. But if you are a province is not blessed with enormous hydro reservoirs. And we have several of those that are dependent heavily on coal and on on gas and other fossil fuels. Nuclear, as we’ve shown in Ontario was is the way to get through that. And, you know, unfortunately, things aren’t quite as rosy as you’re painting, because that’s all that threat of eroding away. Because Ontario, again, the France of North America, in around 2008 2009, embarked on an effort to become the Germany of North America, and very much imported a lot of ideas from the German energy vendor. And this idea that we could, you know, create a renewables industry that would create 50,000 jobs. And you know, what,
Robert Bryce 27:54
yes, yes. Jobs, we’re gonna create jobs by getting Yeah, right. Yeah.
Chris Keefer 27:57
This is saying that was struck down by a WTO decision, which said, No, you can’t have this kind of protectionist legislation. So of course, you know, we’re importing Chinese solar panels and German wind turbines and things like that. I mean, the whole thing’s been a real, real disaster. And it’s, it’s done, you know, this enormous investment. And I think it’s around at this point, you know, we gave out these 20 year juicy contracts. The government, again, this is this, this thing where we used to finance big infrastructure projects. And the government’s very shy to do that now, because of concerns around debt, even though interest rates are at historic lows, but rather than actually footing the bill, and the the government or the, you know, the public paying for these wind and solar installations, says we’re gonna subsidize private industry to do it, we won’t go on the government books, we’ll just offload that on the ratepayer. So these 20 year contracts were put in place, you know, for solar to get 44 cents per kilowatt hour, right for wind to get something on the average something around 21 says locked in for 20 years and getting paid for all the power you put on the grid regardless of if it’s useful. Right, right. So for instance, you know, we have the lake effect here in Ontario, our wind resources are very productive in the spring in the fall, that’s actually when our demand is lowest, because you don’t have a ton of heating and cooling to do at that time. And it blows more at night. So it’s completely out of phase with demand. And what we used to do is we, you know, in the very early days of the Green Energy Act, we used to say, okay, you know, these renewables are great, they’re virtuous, we’re going to give them first access to the grid. And so they’ve knocked the nuclear plant offline. And nuclear, again, that freight train, you shut it down, it takes about three days to get it going again. And in the meantime, wind and sun would die off. And what do you need to do? You need to firm that with gas, so we’d burn a whole bunch of gas. So in the early days before we said none on a non nuclear and hydro get first on the grid. We were actually emissions were going up and we were spending a lot more money on on natural gas. We ended up saving about $200 million a year on natural gas when we said no, no, no, no wind, you know, you’re a marginal source, you can be added on when we need you. We curtail it about 25% of the time. And we subsidize hydro bills in Michigan in New York State, because we end up exporting the power out at a price that is much lower than the cost of production. And I’ve actually heard of this as a kind of ransom payment. Because the Ohio Valley there’s a lot of coal in that area, right. And the wind patterns tend to blow that up into Ontario. So to kind of pay for a clean air. I mean, this is kind of a joke, right. But we almost give away this almost free electricity, which you know, curtail some some coal production in the Ohio Valley. It’s a bit of a joke, but, but it’s an interesting phenomenon.
Robert Bryce 30:38
Well, and let me follow up on that Green Energy Act, because I mean, this was the it’s had big political repercussions, right for the McGinty government, right. They were they were the big promoters of this. And people saw their hydro bills, their utility bills, skyrocketing, and they went from the incumbent political dominating the provincial government to being a rump party replaced by the the Ford is your new premier. Yeah, but but he ran on a in part, as I understand it, on on these issues about electricity affordability, which is truly remarkable when you think about it in in terms of this important public commodity that he’s saying, No, we the government mess this all up. And it was in part because of this embrace of renewables. So my is my history right on this.
Chris Keefer 31:24
Yeah, more or less. I mean, there was another premier kind of in the mix, the liberals are sort of thought of as the the kind of national governing party in Canada, and the conservatives occasionally get in and shift the shift the agenda slightly. But yeah, I think it was a big part of that. And I mean, there’s not a lot of Ontarians, for instance, that heat with electricity, but those that did, I mean, they were just crushed by these electricity prices. And we have to understand that, you know, your energy costs when they go up, that’s a highly socially regressive policy. Sure, because, you know, as someone with the lower income, a greater amount of your disposable income goes into your energy costs. And so really, it’s it punishes the poor, and I think, I think that was part of the backlash, you know, it’s it’s a little more complicated than than that, but certainly, I mean, for me, this whole issue of the Green Energy Act is is personal, because in Ontario, we really leapfrogged. You know, we talked about this progression, sometimes in terms of energy density from, you know, biomass to coal to natural gas to nuclear. And we just jumped right over natural gas, really, because we had 25% of our electricity was from coal. And we managed to start up six candu reactors, which provided 90% of the energy to phase out coal, it was called the North America’s greatest greenhouse gas emissions reduction. And, you know, that was an amazing accomplishment. But with the Green Energy Act, we decided to spend 30 or $40 billion on these renewables contracts, again, for energy that really is often not useful, gets curtailed, gets given away for free, has done almost nothing to reduce our emissions any further, rather than, you know, maintaining and refurbishing one of our key nuclear plants. And these are big plants, right 3.2 gigawatts, the Pickering plant, right, which which was built instead of a coal plant in the 1970s, by the way, but because of that choice, we’re going to lose that that Pickering nuclear power station, we’re going to lose that 3.2 gigawatts of air pollution free, zero emissions electricity, which really powers the city I live in Canada’s biggest city is essentially powered by Pickering, on, you know, 1.2 square kilometers of land or something. And because of this foolish investment in renewables, we’re taking a massive step backwards, both in terms of young very climates concerned both in terms of being a climate leader, right, something like 40 grams of co2 per kilowatt hour, we’re gonna jump up into the 150s 160s. But also, in terms of a very personal issue for me, as a physician in terms of air quality, right? We’re going to be burning a lot of natural gas, right and better than coal, but still, you get a lot of nitric oxides and other, you know, cheap computers to smog. And we saw enormous health benefits when we got rid of coal. And for me, you got to keep working up that energy density ladder, and it’s a real shame to be going in the wrong direction.
Robert Bryce 34:01
I can well completely agree I didn’t realize was 1.2 square kilometer. So at 3.2 gigawatts, you know, we are talking power density of something on the order of 3000 watts per square meter, which is among the highest that I know, I know, the Indian Point reactor before they closed Unit Two was about 2000 watts. But I mean, it’s just that, but it leads to this issue of land use, which I want to talk about just a little bit as well. Because in Ontario, you had a huge backlash, rural backlash against the encroachment of big wind and you had something like 100 community say we we are not willing to host wind projects, but it goes back to the other. The secondary part of that is my Li coordinator who’s been on the power hungry podcast a couple times. He said, Yeah, okay, you build new generation, where are you going to put it? How are you going to connect it and how are you going to pay for it? And the connecting part is the thing that is increasingly clear to me about the transmission issue, then the great benefit of nuclear is you can use Well, and in the future looking at where to locate it, use the existing transmission grid because that’s the other part of this. That is the is the Achilles heel for the renewables is the best resources are far from the cities where the demand is, is are you seeing similar?
Chris Keefer 35:15
No, I absolutely. I mean,
Robert Bryce 35:17
that was similar dynamic in Canada.
Chris Keefer 35:19
Yeah, I just interviewed Mike Conley, who did probably the definitive takedown of Mark C. Jacobson’s in the solutions project their roadmaps to 100% renewable energy. And I mean, we’re talking about fuel less systems in terms of these wind and solar systems. And that’s a complete paradigm shift, because what we’re used to doing is getting fuel, bringing it close to population centers, you know, doing it in a power plant, they’re having, you know, an efficient transmission infrastructure that brings that to the load centers. And there we go, right. But with wind and solar, you have to build it, where the resources are the best, which is often quite far away from population centers, I believe you guys in Texas spent on the order of $5 billion to hook up all that transmission, to bring it to your load centers in Dallas and Austin. So there’s this there’s this huge shift in in Ontario, it’s very interesting, because, you know, our and our probably our premier anti nuclear organization is ironically called the Ontario clean air Alliance. And they are vociferously anti nuclear, despite the fact that nuclear produces zero air pollution, right. And their proposed solution is to build tons of wind and solar, which again, the wind particularly produced out of phase with demand. And then we’re going to try and bring hydro power from Quebec, which has enormous hydro resources quite far away, I’ll say about 1000 kilometers to the northeast, right? So build the transmission infrastructure to bring that down, become completely independent on those. I made an error issue that respects national boundaries. So at present, you know, that Quebec hydro power, it goes down, and it’s it’s, uh, displaces coal and gas and in New England and some of the neighboring provinces. Right.
Robert Bryce 36:55
So let me interrupt you there because I had a low latency issue there. I don’t know why. But let me let me ask that question again, because I’m sure I’ve been checking my speed. That seems like it’s fine. But let me ask you about this. But the question to you
Chris Keefer 37:08
so what is its me Ron, one second. It was me. Give me one second. Okay. I hope that hasn’t screwed up. Anything else? I think so far, everything has been good. Okay, I’m on I’m on a better network. now. Go ahead. Okay.
Robert Bryce 37:21
Yeah, we we’ve had just a couple of latency hits. And I didn’t want to interrupt. But so let me ask this about. Okay, so new question. Quebec has a lot of hydro. And there’s been talk and I followed it in New York for nearly 40 years about bringing Canadian hydro into the northeastern us. So it tells me about what’s going on with Canadian Hydro and this idea about bringing hydro from Quebec into Ontario. Where is that? What’s the status on that? That discussion?
Chris Keefer 37:51
Yeah, I mean, so So this strategy is parroted a lot by one of Ontario’s premier anti nuclear organizations, the Ontario clean air Alliance. And their plan is to build yet more renewables, which so far have proven to be very out of sync with demand patterns, and back those up using hydro as a battery, and I think you’ll hear about this from a lot of renewables advocates that this is, you know, one of the one of the ways to deal with the intermittency issue. But you know, Quebec does have incredible hydro resources and a surplus many times of the year. Interestingly, they heat mostly with hydro in the winter, and so their peak demand is January, February, if you know anything about Quebec, it’s minus 40, in some of these places, right? So they have a huge upsurge in their demand. And they actually don’t export very much they actually import some energy from Ontario at that time. But all that aside, you know, the plan is to build an enormous transmission infrastructure from Northern Quebec, where these hydro dams are, you know, bring these inter ties all the way into Ontario, phase out our nuclear become completely dependent on a province that, you know, as recently as 20 years ago trying to secede from the nation. And the issue, again, is that climate and air pollution don’t respect national boundaries, right. So right now that hydro is going to New England, it’s going to New Brunswick, it’s displacing coal and gas, you know, it’s it’s decreasing carbon emissions and decreasing air pollution. So why on earth would you take an ultra low non air polluting source in Quebec and use that to get rid of a ultra low emissions non air polluting source in Ontario, and it makes zero sense. It’s just an ideological commitment and hatred of nuclear energy, which is puzzling for a group that’s asked extensively about clean air. And ironically, up until about 2011, took a large chunk of their funding from natural gas companies.
Robert Bryce 39:34
Well, it’s but the key there is that that distance, and that’s the part that, to me is really the the key here is it goes back to the land use problem, and you’re going to build 1000 kilometers of high voltage transmission. It’s deeply unpopular. Nobody wants those high voltage transmission lines on their land. And so the the idea that, and you mentioned Meredith angwin earlier, and I think one of her great insights was her point. This fatal trifecta, too much reliance on intermittent renewables too much reliance on intermittent on just in time natural gas, no, too much reliance on imports. And I think that that’s the key here. In terms of me, I think we even saw it in Texas with these credit lines, right? Oh, we’re gonna bring renewables in from a few 100 miles away? No, no, to your earlier point, you want that you want the generation as close to the load center as you can make it because it means better reliability.
Chris Keefer 40:25
And very interestingly, I mean, you’ll see the arguments just flip flop back and forth, to suit the anti nuclear agenda. For instance, the Ontario clean airlines in 2011. They were building a series of gas plants, you know, which will backup these renewable sources if we lose nuclear, right, and that’s what’s gonna happen as Pickering shuts, we’re gonna bring three gigawatts of gas online. But at that point, they were saying they were actually there were protests against these gas plants being built in urban centers. And the the chairman of the cleaner Alliance, jack Gibbons actually went to one of these communities and said, No, no, you shouldn’t oppose this natural gas plant that’s getting built about 800 meters from your subdivision. Because it’s important, it’s environmentally friendly to build the the power sources close to where the demand is. So that was the argument 10 years ago. And now they’re saying, No, no, no, no, we don’t like gas anymore. We want to bring hydro in from, you know, 1000 kilometers away in northern Quebec. And it’s just, it’s, it’s insane. And it’s all about this creation of a Rube Goldberg machine, which is, you know, these these 100% renewables fantasies that rely on far flung production, inter tying it all with these connectors. And, you know, as as a, as my friend Mike Conley was was saying in this roadmap to nowhere, you know, even if you follow things like Mark C, Jacobson’s plan, you’re not going to know if it works until it’s about 80 or 90%. Built, right? Because it requires all this this reliance on these inter ties and these interconnectors So, you know, it’s it’s, it’s very frustrating to me as well, you know, as my as my role as president of Canadian renewable energy. I’m having the opportunity to speak with a number of political figures. And the degree of energy literacy is really astounding. And you know, I have this joke. I think it was from the Spider Man movie, Peter Parker said, With great power comes great responsibility. Right? You know, and these are politicians talking about an energy transition, like what’s more consequential than that. And they’re horribly under educated on issues of energy, and they’ll quote things, you know, as articles of faith, like Mark see Jacobson’s roadmap, they’ve never read the goddamn thing. They haven’t looked at any critical analysis, but it’s a convenient thing that backs up their position. Yeah, you know, it suits their cognitive biases. And so yeah, that’s okay. And I mean, that’s just such a symptom. What’s What’s wrong? You know, in terms of the way that we process information in the modern world malware, it’s just kind of clickbait Oh, that sounds good. I agree with that. But if that’s if that’s government policy, and forming government policy, and you believe in the urgency of climate change, we have x many years, if we fucked this up, and we make the wrong technological choices, and the whole Rube Goldberg Machine ends up falling to pieces, you know, you’ve squandered 2030 years, and you’ve squandered all the mining the resources, you know, the political will to do something about it. I mean, it’s,
Robert Bryce 43:09
it is, it is stunning, and that, that, that idea that I’m going to come back to the idea of complexity, but the idea around your point about these politicians promoting ideas, and you mentioned Bernie Sanders earlier, so Okay, Bernie, you’re from Vermont, there is no the wind energy in Vermont is so unpopular that you can’t build wind energy in the state of Vermont. And yet, in 2016, he came out fully in favor of Dr. Mark Jacobson’s from Stanford, his whole, all renewable portfolio or his scenario. But there was no understanding again, of the importance of the of the grid, the electric grid is the foundation of society. So these these ideas about replacing a simple system with a more complex one is the same thing we’ve seen here in Texas, where you look at what happened with the cotton market and how the cotton market functions. It is incredibly complicated. And now what we’re finding in the wake of the blackouts, well, the book doesn’t stop anywhere. No, oh, well, who’s to blame? Well, don’t blame me, oh, well, I got paid, you didn’t get paid. And now the litigation is going on. And it’s going to last for years. Because it’s not clear who got the money where the money went, there’s no one responsible because you they created a system with so much complexity that no one really understands it. And no one wants to take responsibility for it. So it goes back to this idea, in my view, and I’m curious what your thought is, but the government and the policymakers misunderstanding of what electricity is, and then this idea of this, it’s no, it’s not a commodity, it’s a service and it’s the most critical service. I mean, am I Does that ring true to you? How do you I mean, how do you think about the mean just the perception of the energy itself and it’s delivered, right, but it’s not. It’s not energy, we’re after its power.
Chris Keefer 44:54
I mean, I might think differently if you know, my job was running a video games arcade or something about the The life saving importance of energy, but I’m a doctor, I work in a hospital, right? My blackout, my ventilators need or liability, and we have a whole bunch of diesel generators in case the grid goes down, right? Sure. But we don’t want that to go down. And if it went down like it did in Texas, we’re gonna run out of diesel for those generators, right, your enemy in Texas could have been even more of a house of cards, and it will become more of a house of cards, I understand if, you know, another $60 billion is spent on just wind and gas, and you don’t firm things up with with something like nuclear. You know, you mentioned Bernie Sanders. And this is something that I find truly puzzling, is, you know, progressive politicians, they care about progressive taxation, they care about, you know, the quality of public services are so opposed to nuclear, I mean, Bernie Sanders from Vermont on record, supporting the closure of Vermont Yankee, the loss of several 100, I think, four or 500, union jobs, you know, emissions went up after Vermont Yankee was closed. But, you know, the issue is, I think of the grid, as I think I’ve said this before, do you I think of the grid as a comments, right, and an attack on a grid of fragile zation of the grid upon which we all depend, you’ve called it the network of networks, right? That’s an attack on everybody and attacking one’s attack on all. And as we’ve been talking about high energy prices, punish the poor more. And when we look at a lot of the renewable developments, I mean, there’s this idea that’s very popular amongst maybe Bernie Sanders followers that hey, because, you know, when a wind turbine and a solar panel, I mean, they’re, they’re kind of they just feel natural, but also they’re at a scale. That’s, that’s understandable, right? Right, I could pop one on my roof, I could put one in my backyard, a community could control this, you know, we could have cooperate, we could democratize energy. But it very much fits into this kind of smallest beautiful off the grid, what I call kind of an electrically gated community, right. And that’s what we really see in a lot of these sort of very eco conscious things. We’re going off grid, we built this nice little energy efficient community, screw the poor screw anyone who can’t afford this. But all the incentives are there for, for instance, in Ontario with our feed in tariffs, if you’re wealthy enough to take out a big loan and put a bunch of solar panels on your house and get paid 44 cents per kilowatt hour. You’re being subsidized by, you know, our economic, economically disadvantaged, average rate payer. This is a fundamental issue of social injustice. And there’s, you know, another one is, you know, I talk about the, you know, you privatized the profits and socialize the cost. So, yes, solar panels are getting cheaper, wind turbines are getting cheaper. That’s, that’s pretty amazing what can happen when you scale these things up, and you have government support and subsidies, etc, right, that can happen with nuclear, I hope. But the issue is that the individual farms are cheap, and investors, you know, pay to build the farm, but they don’t have to pay the grid integration cross costs, right? They don’t pay for the crestline. The rate payer does. Right. So you’re, you’re, you know, these, and that’s the thing where, because renewables are really sort of off limits, especially on the left for any kind of criticism, right, these sort of discourses are not developing. So I think people are familiar with ideas like land footprint, you know, the material intensive amount of mining that needs to occur for these weather harvesters. Right. But, you know, I didn’t start thinking about these ideas of, you know, the grid as a commons of, you know, privatized the profit, socialize the cost of these social justice issues that, that our energy choices are making, until I had the courage to say, you know, what, I don’t care if you call me a basher or a bro, I’m respectful and how I talk to people. I’m intellectually curious, I’m gonna, I’m gonna chase this one down and really seek to understand it. And, and, you know, these are some of the arguments that I’ve had success with talking with some people on the left, some people, you know, I guess your equivalent of Democrats or, you know, New Democratic Party that we have up here in Canada. Right.
Robert Bryce 48:42
Right. Success, but to interrupt so that you’re saying the success is on the regressive nature of the policies, then? Yeah, I think I agree with you that I think that that is the what I found in the last few months, and particularly since the blackouts and looking at the regressive effect of these renewable mandates, and and electric vehicle subsidies, a lot of these things, these are people these are policies that are going to hurt the poor and the middle class. And and it’s interesting to after the blackouts, how the marketing of solar and battery systems has increased, because oh, well, oh, well, you can’t depend on the grid, well, then by solar in the budget, but you know, Tesla powerwalls. Okay, well, you know, the the barista at Starbucks doesn’t have the 25 or 30 or 40. Large that’s going to be required to have that grid independence as your, to your point. So it’s the reliability and affordability go hand in hand.
Chris Keefer 49:33
And how like how libertarian is that? I mean, these are these are values,
Robert Bryce 49:38
almost kind of Darwinian.
Chris Keefer 49:41
Yeah, I mean, these these are values that should be so foreign from the likes of AOC and Bernie Sanders if their politics were consistent, right. But I mean, I think they haven’t thought it through to be honest and hope, again, because the discourse on this is so undeveloped, because on the political left, even on the political center, you know, it is taboo. It is heretical. To talk critically about renewables, I mean, I’m a guy, certainly on the left side of the spectrum, I’m a social democrat. And you know, if I want to think critically about renewables, I’ve got to go to see Mark p Mills of the Manhattan is someone I’m not politically aligned with at all. But you know, someone with a lot of engineering and science expertise, a physicist who can crunch the numbers and talk about things like you know, the BET’s effect, the theoretical limits, the fact that, you know, wind and solar are not going to follow the same curve, as you know, Moore’s law does with electronic chips, right? This, this would be common knowledge. And let me just say this, I mean, if, if wind and solar threatened at fossil fuels in any way, trust me, then this horse would be entirely different. Right. Meredith Anglin talked about
Robert Bryce 50:43
his how do you how do you mean, what if,
Chris Keefer 50:45
you know, Meredith angwin talks about this, you know, for every, you know, megawatts of installed capacity of wind and solar that you put on the grid, generally speaking, you need to put something like 1.1 megawatts of a of a backup, right? And for all intents and purposes, that’s natural gas. I mean, we’re gonna have all kinds of hopeful fantasies that one day there’s gonna be a breakthrough battery technology, which will, you know, it’s not an energy sources and energy, you know, it’s it’s stored energy. Right. Right. But because, you know, you’ll see advertisements all over the place, you know, from, you know, BP beyond petroleum, about their renewable energy investment, and how it pairs naturally, with natural gas, the ideal partner for renewables, and it really is, but as Meredith talks about, this creates this fragile grid of just in time gas, and intermittent unreliable renewables. So like I said, I mean, nuclear threatens fossil fuels, when a nuclear plant closes, who benefits I mean, it’s natural gas that’s replacing that in almost every there’s a, there is a there is certainly an interest in seeing these plants, close it. And I think that’s why you see a lot of fossil fuel funding, having made its way into the environmental movement, and particularly their anti nuclear efforts.
Robert Bryce 51:52
Well, it’s interesting, you bring that up, because the one that pops into my head in my head is the Sierra Club, of course, which took I don’t know, was 25 or $30 million from Chesapeake Energy, the natural gas industry and, and then they became under fire, oh, we didn’t mean it. And oh, and now they’re leading this electrify everything and the anti nuclear effort, as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council and some others. But I really like your idea of too, and maybe it’s your turn, but this fragile nation of the grid and the grid is the commons. And that we’ve seen as you said, you know, socialize the cost privatized the profits. That’s the American way, believe me. But that’s definitely what happened here in Texas, where we had $66 billion spent on solar and wind in the years before the blackouts and then immediately after, to your point as well. Oh, don’t blame wind and solar don’t but oh, no, when nobody expected them to perform. They, you know, nobody expected them to perform perform well, why did we spend $66 billion on them, then when the grid was on the verge of collapsing was effectively worth nothing? But But let me go back to one of the things that you had on your, on the website for Canadians for nuclear energy, I want to just shift gears, you quoted Rudolf virchows, who is whose name was not familiar to me. And he said something very interesting. I’d like to quote which I’d never seen before medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. So if politics is medicine on a large scale, our politicians are Miss apprehending or miss diagnosing the need for this critical network. Right? The mother network, right. But let me ask you, well, who is virtual and why? that quote? Wait, why did you use it? Why is that on the Canadians for nuclear energy website? Well,
Chris Keefer 53:35
I think it’s actually a it must be in the doctors for nuclear energy. Well,
Robert Bryce 53:38
maybe it’s maybe doctors. Okay, that’s,
Chris Keefer 53:39
that makes more sense. Now, if I scratch my head for a sec, sure. Yeah. Okay. So we’re gonna vercoe is kind of known as the the kind of grandfather, the godfather of public health. So he was sent up by God, it was to upperside, Luiza to I think, investigate a typhoid or a TB epidemic. And he was a renowned pathologist and clinician, you know, he discovered a lot of core concepts around from BOCES, for instance. And I think the government of the time expected him to come back and talk about the, you know, the microorganisms at play, and he came back and he said, you know, the reason there’s an outbreak there is because people are dirt poor, because their housing sucks, because they’re on starvation wages, right, which was not a welcomed conclusion by the government. And, you know, when we think about medicine, we’re trained not just to see the patient in front of us, but to think about the upstream causes of their disease, because there are these things called social determinants of health. Right. And so I think that’s what he was referring to. And that’s what I’m kind of trying to draw on in terms of, and that’s to be honest, that’s why Helen caldicott does what she does, or that’s why physicians for social responsibility did what they did, they were concerned about, you know, nuclear annihilation from from an all out nuclear war between the Soviets and the US. It’s a valid fear and they said, that’s the real upstream health consequences, right? I mean, all the thermal and burns and radiation followed would be the health problems we’d be dealing with, but let’s try To deal with that upstream issue, and I’m making that argument now that listen, air pollution is a major determinant of health, 7 million people, the w h o estimates die every year as a result of air pollution. And that’s not to say that people that are crippled by it right? If you’re a child growing up in Delhi, India, for instance, you know, we do pulmonary function tests on your your lung capacity is going to be maybe 50 60% of what it should be. Right? You’re, you know, there’s deaths and there’s disability. So that’s what I’m drawing on there. In terms of in terms of Rudolph workouts, concepts.
Robert Bryce 55:30
Yeah, I just thought that that was an interesting, it’s an interesting quote, to think about medicine, is this, this, you know, being a social science? And yeah, but again, it goes back to this, this idea about, well, where are we going to go? And will this fragile zation of the grid continue with the costs then being absorbed, most definitely, by the low in the middle income people. And that was something that in some of the surveys, in fact, I had Dana Harmon from the Texas energy poverty Research Institute on the podcast recently, and she talked about the blackout and how low income people, you know, fared during the blackout, and many of them lost power, but they didn’t lose their natural gas connection, most of them. Right. And so that fuel diversity became an issue about, well, social equity. Right? And then, you know, keeping it you know, having people have some access to some reliable energy. So it was, let’s talk for a minute about your, your the decouple podcast, because now we’re both doing doing a podcast What? Why did you start it and what’s your aim with the podcast?
Chris Keefer 56:43
So you just broke up for a second. But you’re asking about the decouple product? Yeah.
Robert Bryce 56:49
Yeah, for some reason, we’re getting another latency here.
Chris Keefer 56:52
I think our connections going haywire. Let’s let’s take a brief a Monterey, Rick, you sound like you’re wired in? So I’m not sure.
Robert Bryce 57:01
Yeah, I don’t I don’t I don’t know what I’m getting on my end. But we’re, what were we talking about?
Chris Keefer 57:09
Oh, the decal sudden, you’re breaking up like crazy.
Unknown Speaker 57:12
Chris Keefer 57:14
Sorry, you broke up again. I missed that. I think I know what you’re asking. But okay.
Robert Bryce 57:18
Let me ask you again. So you’re the host of the deep decouple podcast did tell me about your aim. What What are you? Why are you doing the podcast? And who do you have on there?
Chris Keefer 57:29
I mean, fortunately, it’s a selfish project. You know, and in college, I had a radio show. And I’ve always been a very curious person. And I love talking to smart people. And so I would read a book, and it gave me this incredible excuse to call some up and have this really, incredibly intimate conversation for you know, it’s not it’s not a lot of opportunities or vehicles in life to do that. And so, you know, I spent about two or three years really reading deeply about climate change and environments, and thinking about energy. And, you know, at some point, I decided I wanted to get more involved in a debate. And I was really struck by this by this idea of decoupling, which comes out of the Eco modernist. A couple of very different competing artists in terms of how we how we deal with environmental problems, and one is this sort of, Judeo Christian blueprint of eating the apple of knowledge in the Garden of Eden were expelled into this cruel world, and we’ve kind of sinned, you know, by industrializing and those things and go back to this, you know, forgotten paradise. Right. And, and, and that involves kind of harmonizing with nature. And, and, and, you know, trying to de industrialized, essentially, which has enormous impacts, right. I mean, if we were to go back and do natural things like burn our forests down for fuel, the environmental impacts would be horrible. And on the Eco modernist side, you have this idea that, hey, we’re humanists and environmentalist we can continue to allow humanity to flourish with plentiful energy, food, etc, technology. But we need to pursue the technology strategically that can ecologically decouple us so we can have that human prosperity without environmental degradation. And so that leads you towards technologies that can intensify human activities, right? So you can do more intensive farming on less land and rewild. And spare nature, right. Or you can produce energy with a much lower footprint without air pollution without, you know, altering the climate. And so nuclear is really I think that because of the energy density, right, just because of this quantum leap, moving from combustion deficient. It, I’ve tended to focus a lot on that, not exclusively, but that has been a real shame on the podcast. And there’s, you know, early on, a friend was saying, Listen, you think you’re going too fast on this because you’re maybe going to run out of people or topics and trust me. The deeper you go, the more there is to learn. So, yeah, it’s been a real wonderful journey. And I was it was a pleasure having you on a couple months ago.
Robert Bryce 59:55
Well, I my experience on the podcast is the same as that. I like talking to people. I always Have and and and learning about their worlds and you know, I think I got it from my dad who was an insurance salesman and never met a stranger. Right? You know, he loved he loved people love to good joke. So let me just we’ve been talking about an hour. So I don’t want to keep it too much longer. But nuclear in the United States is stuck. I mean, we have the prospect of smrs coming and you know, you have a number of companies in Canada as well that are developing smrs. And they’re promising out, I’m all for it. But do you ever despair about this? I mean, because I’m, you know, we see these plants closing in the United States, Bahrain and Dresden, the unit Indian point you to three closing this year, which should not happen. I mean, these these plants should be kept open. But of course, we’ve heard nothing. Alas, I say, of course, alas, we’ve heard nothing from the Biden administration about actually keeping them open. So and you’ve mentioned the closure of Pickering. So, I mean, I’m an optimist. And how do you how do you how do you stay optimistic? I guess, is the question.
Chris Keefer 1:00:58
Yeah, I mean, I’m a bit of a hopeless optimist. I’ve always liked backing an underdog. And, you know, I tried to let you know, I think I’m a realist, as well. And again, part of it is just this this fascination and curiosity and you chasing the truth down. There’s a satisfaction that in and of itself, and even, you know, even the smallest advance, I think needs to be celebrated. I think, again, there’s just so much room for this discourse to develop once people have the courage to actually engage with the issues and not sort of be I don’t want to say canceled, per se. But really, I mean, it’s very hard to get a pro nuclear narrative into the into the mainstream media. I mean, we recently Canadians for nuclear energy, challenged our national broadcaster who said, you know, this is the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, which caused the meltdown which released radiation which killed 20,000 people. You know, we call them on that. And, you know, the Ombudsman sort of shamefacedly said, Well, you know, you’re right. I mean, strictly speaking, everything we said was true. It’s just we should have rearranged the sentence to you know, it’s totally disingenuous, but it’s tough. I mean, I’ve had conversations I never thought I would have had I mean, I’m talking to the the shadow natural resource critic, talking to many political figures these days, because I think there is this understanding that the nuclear is essential for meeting, you know, these ambitious climate goals that we’ve set out for ourselves. The issue is that, and I think this speaks to what we were talking about before with, you know, do we pursue this in a privatized fashion? The lack of government support for the freight train of nuclear is, is going to cripple it potentially. And I think that’s why we’re sort of trying to appease the liberalized electricity market by being really maybe humble in our aspirations and saying, Okay, well, let’s maybe we should start the whole process over because I mean, let’s not forget the nuclear industry started by building micro reactors and small modular reactors and economies of scale of one out. You know, it’s a very untested idea that, you know, SMR is in an economy of multiples are going to be able to Trump economies of scale. But I think the idea is, well, let’s do it, because that’s the only hope we have for ever building anything new again. Right. And for me, I think I’ve always, you know, wanted to challenge foundational ideas. And I think that’s, that’s something we need to do. And we need to give governments the political coverage to realize that there are grassroots citizens who care about this issue, who are educated or energy literate, and want to follow the evidence base, which again, demonstrates the nuclear has a proven track record of adding the most megawatts of ultra low carbon energy per time unit. We’ve de France decarbonized. Right. Sweden decarbonize Ontario decarbonized. You can’t point a jurisdiction to me that’s not part of a larger grid. That’s decarbonized with renewables. So yeah, there’s there’s work to be done, Robert, but yeah, I’m, I guess I’m just kind of energetic and I don’t mind a Sisyphean task. I don’t mind pushing the boulder up the hill.
Robert Bryce 1:03:51
Well, good. Well, maybe we should in there, Chris, because we were right about an hour, but I’m glad that you’re up for the Sisyphean tasks ahead. My guest has been Chris Kiefer. He’s the director of doctors for nuclear energy. They’re on the doctors for nuclear energy.org. He also has the he’s the host of the decouple podcast, which you can find on all the podcast outlets. And he’s also you’re involved with Canadians for nuclear energy. Are you a director there as well? What?
Chris Keefer 1:04:18
What’s your precedenti? Oh, President,
Robert Bryce 1:04:21
President, they have Canadians for nuclear energy. So I’m sure if you use the Google you can find Dr. Chris keefer, who is also a physician and emergency room, doctor. So Chris, thanks a million for being on the podcast. It’s been a great conversation, I’m glad we are able to find another time to talk at length.
Chris Keefer 1:04:38
It’s been a lot of fun. And it’s great being a part of this really, I think burning ecosystem. I think our podcast started around the same time. And there’s just a number of great podcasts that are coming out. That give me a lot of hope. And I think that really bridging the debate. Yeah, and
Robert Bryce 1:04:52
like you. Yeah, the number of guests. You know, I got a long list of people I want to talk to and yeah, it’s been it’s a lot of work, but it’s also A lot of fun. So, again, Chris Kieffer, thanks a million thanks to all you in podcast land for tuning in today. Tune in to the next episode of the power hungry podcast with another guest that may be as interesting as Chris Kiefer, we will find out so Okay, thanks. See y’all next time.
Chris Keefer 1:05:16