Dan Poneman heads Centrus Energy, the only company in the United States that is licensed to produce High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) which will be needed to fuel some of the advanced reactors now being developed for commercial deployment. Poneman talks about Russia’s dominance of the global nuclear supply chain, why a strong nuclear sector is imperative for national security, the chicken-and-egg problem with producing enriched uranium, and the many hurdles facing new reactors. (Recorded August 16, 2023.)
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 Dan Kahneman. He is the CEO of sinteres energy, which is the only company I believe in the US that is licensed to make Halo fuel for nuclear reactors. Do I have that right then?
Dan Poneman 0:25
friendly amendment, we’re the only country in the world licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make high assay low enriched uranium for nuclear reactors.
Robert Bryce 0:34
Okay, right. But the but the Russians don’t have to apply for that permit. So they will leave them
Dan Poneman 0:38
Oh, you got me on a technicality.
Robert Bryce 0:41
the only the only company licensed to produce a loo. So again, I didn’t warn you. I’m not going to ambush you. But I think you can handle this when guests on this podcast introduce themselves. So imagine I’ve given you given your title and what your company does. But imagine you arrive somewhere you don’t know anyone you have about a minute to introduce yourself, please do. So.
Dan Poneman 1:01
I’m Dan Kahneman. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. I wanted to be an oceanographer until I got a summer internship after my freshman year of college with John Glenn is Senator from Ohio, who turned me on to the question of nuclear proliferation. And in fact, believe it or not, I started working on uranium enrichment in the 1970s, on the nuclear fuel assurance act of 1976. And here almost 50 years later, Robert, I’m about to cut the ribbon on the first new US production, US technology enrichment plant to begin operations and producing enriched uranium since 1954. Between then, and now, I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve been a consultant, I was Deputy Secretary of Energy, I worked at the White House for six years, I tried to stop Koreans and Iranians from getting nuclear weapons. And it’s been fun.
Robert Bryce 1:51
That’s, I think that’s about 60 seconds. So that very well done. You get an A for that. I like that. Well, so let’s talk about, I want to, there are a lot of things I want to talk about. But you mentioned enrichment, and you’re about to start enriching uranium in a new new facility, the first one since the 1950s, which I didn’t realize the historic significance of that. But the Oppenheimer movie is just out and one of the blurbs I saw one of the discussions of that that Oak Ridge National Labs where they were enriching uranium in between 1943 and 1945, they use something like 1/7 of all the electricity in America for the centrifuges. I’m assuming that was what the power draw. Do you? Are you familiar with this? Um, I mean, I ended up with this. Yeah, Tony. There are a lot of things to talk about with centrists, but power demand is one of them. And this, this historical fact, I thought was quite interesting. Tell me about that.
Dan Poneman 2:43
Well, it’s no coincidence that the first three big uranium enrichment plants were all built along the Tennessee Valley Authority hydro electric system, because of just that fact, it drew down enormous amounts of electricity for the technology that was chosen during the Manhattan Project, which was called gaseous diffusion. It required tremendous power, much more than the current generation of centrifuge machines that are now popular. And and then as a true fact. Now there is an apocryphal, perhaps apocryphal stale story told that and I don’t remember the exact number Robert, but just call it call it $100 million in 19 $44, but that President Roosevelt called Senator McKellar from the Senate Appropriations Committee senator from Tennessee and said, I have a very important project, a secret project who can win the war, I need you to give me all that money in the budget, but it can’t show up. Can I build that plant with that kind of money? And he said, why? Yes, of course, Mr. President, I just were in Tennessee did you want to put that thing at hand? That is perhaps apocryphal, but that it is a true fact that the technology was invented in Oak Ridge, Tennessee as part of the Manhattan Project. And indeed, our company, which is not a well known fact centers energy is in fact, the last standing remnant of the Manhattan Project that became the Atomic Energy Commission, then it became Department of Energy and then the only country to privatize this activity in the world of enriching uranium, which is not surprising, since it can be used to make nuclear weapons was the United States. So we are what’s left of the Manhattan Project. And that technology has been obviously replaced by subsequent technologies, but we still have an own a manufacturing facility. 440,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Robert Bryce 4:42
So I have you you’ve seen the movie Oppenheimer then
Dan Poneman 4:45
I loved the movie. Yeah, sure, didn’t I? I’m old enough, Robert, that I actually I at least met and knew some of the people in the movie and the real characters that is
Robert Bryce 4:54
interesting. I’ve yet to see it. I’ve heard rave reviews about it, but I, I you know, I’m focused on the electric grid and electricity issues and I just thought that one number, the 1/7 of all the power consumed in the US over that two year period was consumed at Oakridge for uranium enrichment is just, I know I can find those numbers. I’ve got them somewhere. I have a lot of historical databases. But that’s just a crazy amount of energy. And why was Why were the guests. I want to talk about centrifuges and how we make you write how we enrich uranium now, but Why were those gaseous diffusion? What? What was that process? How did that work? And why was it so power hungry?
Dan Poneman 5:32
Well, two points. One is I can’t vouch for the 1/7 number, the number I have commonly heard as 10%. But I have not diligence that to use a lawyerly phrase, so but it’s a lot. Okay, point one point was
Robert Bryce 5:42
village diligence. That’s, that’s the, that’s a
Dan Poneman 5:46
new word for lawyer in me that creeping out on the lawyer recovering lawyer, no problem. But, but, and of course, the technology to this day is highly classified, but I can talk in terms of the general principles. Basically, the difference between separating out separating out weapons grade uranium and weapons grade plutonium is Plutonium can be separated out with a chemical process. But Chemically speaking, uranium 235 and uranium 238 are the same element, right? And so you can’t like dissolve it and acid and have the 235 show up in one bottle and the 230 Chub another, but you have to find a physical process that will discriminate between between this slightly small or slightly lighter to 35. Eyes to why that matters, Robert, is when you you asked about enrichment, when you pull uranium ore out of the ground, over 99% of it is uranium 238. Only 0.7% of it is uranium 235. But the 235 isotope is the one that splits easily creates a chain self sustaining, ultimately chain reaction releases heat, etc, etc, you enrich to four or 5%. And you get enough heat to generate steam drive turbines make electricity, same process, you go up to 90% Pure, you’re in 235, you get either really small, powerful reactor small enough to fit on a submarine or an aircraft carrier, or you get a nuclear weapon, and a mushroom cloud, right. So the there were many, many technologies that were analyzed at the time of the Manhattan Project, including magnetic isotope separation, so called amis, etc, the gaseous diffusion technology took a barrier, and it forced this at high pressure, it forced this gas, you have to take the uranium or turn it into a gas, and you shove it through these barriers. And it just comes out because the holes in the barrier prefer smaller isotope, just a slightly increased concentration of YouTube that you have on the other side of the barrier. So number one, it takes a lot of power to force it through the barrier once. But number two is such a slight tiny increase of concentration of your 18 to 35. You got to do that many, many times. I don’t want to say numbers, because I’m not sure what we’re allowed to say. But but it’s both the physical challenge of shoving it through these barriers. And then the need to do it over and over and over again, to get from that very, very tiny, low concentration of less than 1% in the case of the Manhattan Project and the first nuclear weapons up to 90%.
Robert Bryce 8:30
Gotcha. So the new centrifuge process that is far more far more efficient on from an energy input standpoint. And I don’t know how much you can talk about this. But why is just a more intrinsically more more efficient process. And,
Dan Poneman 8:45
yeah, it’s just an intrinsic, more efficient technology, and you basically spin the gas around and centrifugal force favors the, you know, one weight over the other weight, and then you just basically, you draw off that you still have to do it a lot of times. But you, you draw it off, and it just doesn’t suck down that same enormous amount of electricity that the old gaseous diffusion technology, then we basically dominated that market for decades, Robert, and then when the French got into Uranium enrichment, they also did gaseous diffusion, but then basically beginning with your Ranko in the 1970s, the industry increasingly turned toward this gas centrifuge technology that you’ve read about, right.
Robert Bryce 9:31
And so I’m gonna get into Hey, Lou in just a minute, and again, my guest is Dan parliament. He’s the CEO of centrist energy you can find more about them at centrist energy.com It’s a publicly traded company trades under the ticker L E. EU and you’re profitable as I recall in the latest quarter, you’re making money. What is that you’re you’re using it? You’re pioneering a new type of centrifuge. I was in a Maury province in Japan in February and saw all parts of the centrifuges that they’re using, they’re when they begin enriching again for their own fleet of reactors. But as I recall, citruses pioneering a new type of centrifuges that’s longer or taller 30 feet or more that is there’s an efficiency gain to be had. If you make the your centrifuges taller. Is that? Am I reading that right?
Dan Poneman 10:20
Well, it we very quickly, Robert, get into an area where it probably can’t really talk about it in public. But you can actually look on our website and see we do have very, very tall machines. And, and we believe that they are the most productive machines that exist. And so we’re very proud of those machines. And we’ve actually got over well over 3 million hours of runtime on these machines, we’ve had demo cascades up, we had some technical challenges. By a decade ago, those have all been worked through and now validated. And so they’re very tall, and they’re very efficient.
Robert Bryce 11:02
So let’s talk about the production of Halo fuel, because I’ve done and will or enriched uranium more broadly, because I’ve written about this on my substack. And I’ve interviewed Matt Wald, who’s written some terrific pieces for the American Nuclear Society on this issue of American fuel nuclear fuel supply and why it’s a problem. In June Centris, got permission from the NRC to start producing high essay, low enriched uranium. Hey, Lou. And this is you said as a first, but in talking with people in the industry, and in that they’re looking at new reactors, they say, we’re facing a real fuel availability is our biggest challenge. I talked to a guy just yesterday and saying, he’s with one of the nuclear startups, this is our key issue, we need the fuel. But it’s a chicken and egg problem in which you, no one wants to build a reactor if they don’t have the fuel. But if you don’t have the fuel, you’re not going to build the reactor. So am I reading, talk about the chicken and the egg. And when because you’re gonna if as I look at centrists and what I understand about your business, you need an enormous amount of capital to ramp up. But you’re not going to have that capital unless you have solid orders for reactors. Am I Am I understanding your business correctly?
Dan Poneman 12:08
You are a 100% spot on.
Robert Bryce 12:11
I mean, very first time for everything there. And that’s great. You nailed it.
Dan Poneman 12:14
You nailed it. I sometimes you know, it’s funny, because it seems so obvious to those of us in the business. But I say you know, people forget often there was a Stanley scene steamer, steam car, there were electric cars, I can’t remember who made it. But the electric car and then a 1908. Along comes Henry Ford, as I got this is black. And I call this thing a Model T and has got equivalent power 40 horses, you know, we can pull a plow, you go to town, you know, you don’t have to feed it. Hey, it’s great. And they go like, Oh, that’s wonderful. What does it go on? Well, you need to think Oh, ghastly, well, do you have it? No, I don’t. But you know, I don’t know, maybe if the Bolsheviks don’t take over, you can get it from the Tsar, you know, it never would have gone right. And people have been so waxing rhapsodic about these wonderful new reactors. And they are wonderful, but they don’t go I say no fuel, no fun. So what’s the chicken and egg problem? You just You said it very well. Any nuclear fuel facility costs a lot of money like the fur, it’s a very expensive proposition. And anybody who wants to finance one of those has got to have an order book to show that they’re going to have pairs. And so I need, you know, a bunch of just say, you need a large number of reactors to justify that. And meanwhile, those reactor developers are running around trying to sell large numbers of reactors. But there’s no fuel supply. So you just perfectly yourself captured the challenge
Robert Bryce 13:53
of Russia, although the Russians can provide the hate loot, right. This has been this is a problem now, particularly after the invasion of Ukraine, right? Or do the Russians even have the capability to produce the amount of Halo needed?
Dan Poneman 14:05
Well, two things Number one, I think many people up until about 4pm. On February 24 22, I thought that was going to be the answer because Russia was and is the only commercial source of Halo. Right? And by the way, there’s nothing surprising about that in the sense that Russia has 46% of the world’s productive capacity and enrichment overall, including not just Hey Lou, but traditional low enriched uranium, right? They they have basically moved into the position of dominance that we, in my poor view, disgracefully abandoned over several decades of, you know, basically not paying enough attention, frankly. But here’s the thing. They can they can enrich Halo for sure. But They don’t have to. I mean, they could just blend it down from HQ if they felt like it. And they’re not a market economy so they can charge whatever they want. So, you know, it’s, they’re out there, and they’re a significant commercial provider, but we shouldn’t mirror image and think that they’ve got to go through the same hoops that a US company, certainly a US private company would have to go into in terms of showing a rate of return to investment and so on and so on. They would and they have traditionally viewed these kinds of fuel supply situations, not only in nuclear, but obviously in natural gas and oil as geostrategic leverage tools. And so that’s, that’s what’s out there. And I think it’s to me, it’s surprising, but it’s a fact that it took Ukraine and the invasion of Ukraine, for people to realize that that was really not a good idea. And now that people do realize that it’s not a good idea, obviously, a much better idea is what we all think, and what Winston Churchill, going back to 1913 said is the real source of energy security is diversity of supply, and you don’t get diversity of supply without having a new supplier. And that would be in our case centrists.
Robert Bryce 16:05
Right. Well, and I wrote about this on my substack. And Matt weld has written about it. And you know, I’m a big, big fan of what Matt’s work because he brings such depth of knowledge to it. And I had him on the podcast talked about this, but looking at the EIA numbers in the 1980, the US produced a record 43 million pounds of uranium oxide. Today, we’re not producing any, we’re importing effectively all of the nuclear fuel we need. So but this is now over a period of five decades, but it was just this inattention was this belief. Oh, the market is going to solve this was it the megatons to megawatts program? Was it all of these factors that led to this situation where we just have ceded the supply chain for this critical? Critical? I’m going to call it a commodity, I guess it is a commodity, although it’s a it’s a strategic fuel. I mean, how did we screw this up so badly? I mean, is that is that a fair? Is that is that the most succinct way to ask the question?
Dan Poneman 17:06
It really is Robert. And I’ve written a few books. And and I think the way you just described the problem, maybe you just gave me the idea for my next book, because I would love to write this. I won’t take a book length. Time to answer your question. Let me let me say, bottom line up front. What you said it was all of these factors. Point 1.2. When I was in college, we experienced the first oil shock. And I used to write economic papers asking whether energy, per se is just a commodity like any other or whether it’s really something different, because and and there’s a debate. And I would say to the extent that after the end of the Cold War, there was an increasing view, not unique to the United States, certainly Europe, that treated energy like a commodity. And we as the United States, I was deputy secretary, we cared a lot about the fact that we had actually gotten into a very dangerous dependence on oil. I mean, remember, when we went from like 25 to 33% oil dependence on imports. In the oil crisis, Nixon declared project independence, it’s a national crisis. And we now we’re like, over 12 billion barrels a day. So we really fixed that one, right. But on the nuclear side, we didn’t fix it. And it’s all elements. Robert, you mentioned uranium oxide, that’s the ore. Same thing happened on conversion of the solid to a gas, we now just got the new restart of the only conversion facility in United States convert on has an in Metropolis, Illinois. But on the enrichment thing, per se, it’s a particularly acute and it’s it is in part because of what you mentioned. And I I’m very proud I was on the original deal team for both President Bush 41 and President Clinton that invented megatons to megawatts there were, you know, brilliant people at MIT, like Tom Neff who conceptualized but we actually implemented it. And for your listeners, that was, at the time, the Soviet Union broke up. The huge national security concern was that one nuclear weapons state, the Soviet Union would become four because the nuclear weapons were actually in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. And the scientists would all run around to Iran and North Korea and sell their technology chops, and the materials and technology would flow with them. So we had both under President Bush 41 and Clinton an intense effort to stop that and we called it the hemorrhage problem. And on the subject, I could go on for hours, but I won’t on the subject of enriched uranium per se. We negotiated a deal to buy 500 metric tons of bomb grade, high enriched uranium 90% Pure from Russia and convert that to low enriched uranium commercial fuel. That was the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear weapons that didn’t end up in Iran. So that’s a good thing, right. And, and but here’s what happened. This took a national security imperative and lassoed it to a locomotive of the commercial market. So that fuel, which amounted to in enrichment, speak 5 million separative work units, or SWOT, which is how you count enrichment units per year. And since the United States used about 10 million per year, that meant that half of all nuclear fuel for 20 years, which was the length of the deal came out of the megatons to megawatts program. And that means since electricity, 20% of US electricity came from nuclear energy, that one in 10 light bulbs in America used to be a warhead pointed at American citizens. So that’s a good thing. But I was recently interviewed about this. And if you had hindsight, what would you conclude? And I would say, look, I still think from a nonproliferation standpoint, it was brilliant. But we fell asleep at the switch, because it lulled us into a false complacency. And we had three big old gaseous diffusion plants. And one by one, they shut down, and we did not replace them. And we’ve, we’ve spent some time working on a different technology, even after privatization, that would use laser isotope separation, which you could talk about later, if you like, that didn’t work out. Then we went to gaseous diffusion. And by the time the company got ready to deploy gaseous diffusion, Fukushima happened and the whole market collapse. So through our own inattention and frankly, being somewhat asleep at the switch, and complacent, we allowed ourselves to go from the world’s biggest exporter of enrichment, to the world’s biggest importer of enrichment.
Robert Bryce 22:07
Well, in that, thank you. And I know it’s a long loss. We could talk about that for a long time and what you know, the strategic imperative of doing that. But what what is it going to take give me the number than the bring it back to centrists? Because you’re we talked about the chicken and the egg, you need an order book to justify spending all this money to build the centrifuge plants. And without that you can’t get started. But the investors in these reactors aren’t going to want to do you know, put the money down unless they’re sure to the fuel? What’s the number what how much money does centers need to build? I mean, it would depend on how much what your output is right? But what as you look at the market, when you give me the number of tons per year, you can put that you would be targeting production? How much do you need to get to where you think you’re at a reasonable starting point to make all this happen?
Dan Poneman 22:54
Well, you as in almost all your questions so far, you sort of answered your own question, as you asked it, because you’re brilliant at framing questions. And I hate to give you an answer, like it depends, but it depends, let me put it to you this way. Traditionally, enrichment plants have caused in the billions, okay, the first letter would be the first letter would be B. Okay. And that’s because there are certain scale economies. And typically, you know, plants that get built are built with around a capacity of around 3 million school. Now, that is a little bit old think and to put an analogy to reactors versus fuel, just as we’re now thinking of small modular reactors, instead of the classic stick built very large, bespoke ones that you’re very familiar with. So too, we are looking at at modular production of enrichment, which I think is a smart thing to do. So I don’t want to make this sound wouldn’t but I would just put it to you this way. The numbers that are now bouncing around Congress are good numbers to think about getting started at a level that can be economically and commercially viable. So the House Appropriations Committee full committee, has put a mark of $2.4 billion over three years. There was legislation, it was sponsored by Senators, Manchin Barrasso, and Rician. And many others in the end, on the Senate side was authorizing a language. But they were talking about $3.5 billion. So I would say, Robert, those kinds of numbers are put you in the right zip code of what you’re looking at. And by the way, I should note, this is not expecting the government to pick up the whole tank, even though every single enrichment plant in the history of the world has been 100% bought and paid for by governments. We are a privatized company now. So we do need that government support because it’s imperative to get us onto the field of play, because every other area Sure of whom there are only four are all state owned enterprises. So we need state support for sure. But we will raise private capital. And if we get the kind of signal that that those kinds of appropriations that I just mentioned, would provide, we are confident with the market out there. And with demand signals that you can talk about, we can talk about more on this podcast, that we can raise the capital we need to get the plant built.
Robert Bryce 25:24
Okay. So to be clear, though, is this 3.5 billion that was in the advanced act? Is that the one that was included in the I don’t want to get too far into the legislative stuff? But there was that was that the 3.5 billion?
Dan Poneman 25:36
If I’m remembering right, because I’m not good at acronyms, even though I worked in arms control for a long time, but I think that was the one that dealt with regulatory issue. Oh, this would have been, and actually it fell out for parliamentary reasons we won’t bore your listeners with of the I think they called it like the nuclear fuel Security Act. Okay. And it but it’s worth mentioning, Robert, because this was astonishing. The National Defense Authorization Act is what’s considered widely A must pass piece of legislation, right. And, and so therefore, not surprisingly, there were like 900, amendments offered, sure which, which got skinny down to 21. And this enrichment legislation made it through that wicked, then it got skinny down to 14. And then of the 14, eight actually needed a roll call vote, this legislation passed, listen to this 96 to three. So this is a uniquely bipartisan consensus that the United States has to get back into Uranium enrichment.
Robert Bryce 26:37
Okay, so but and to be clear, so whether it’s 2.43 point 5 billion either pick your number, this is money than the government is saying we’re gonna buy this much fuel. Right. That’s that there? That’s the commitment that the government would buy it. And then the the nuclear reactor companies would buy it then from the government and tell me what’s the appropriation for?
Dan Poneman 26:57
Well, first of all, a lot of that Robert was still need to get it worked out. Actually, for the federal government, it depends, and I don’t want to get into the weeds here depends if you’re talking about low enriched uranium, or Halo high assay, low enriched uranium, but the bottom line is, typically just buying the product is not the most efficient way for the government to put money into this sector. What do we need, we need capex? We need capex. And so think of an analogy to aircraft carriers. If I go to a shipyard, and say, I’m gonna buy the aircraft carrier, from you go ahead and build it. And when you deliver it in 2032, invoice me, I’ll pay and 90 days later, the shipyard is not going to start any work, right. So what we need, and typically look at the advanced reactive development program, for example, that’s done on a cost share. So typically, something like this, we would think a cost share would be a very reasonable approach, you know, 5050 cost share between the government, it shows, private sector cares and has skin in the game, it shows the government cares. And this is a national security imperative. in multiple dimensions, by the way, we haven’t even gotten to this, but but United States needs to understand uranium to keep our nuclear deterrent, alive, and to keep our ships running under the oceans and our aircraft carriers as well. So there is a very powerful and compelling public interest in seeing this technology. And I just mentioned one of several reasons why so so I think it’s a very easy case, frankly, to make that this is a proper role of government to making this this kind of investment.
Robert Bryce 28:39
So the cost share would be so let’s say $3 billion. Yeah, you get three. So the $3 billion from the federal government would then go to a project that centers would build, or would it be a low interest loan? What I mean, what would that look like?
Dan Poneman 28:52
This? There’s many flavors that can work. Robert, and by the way, I got to be very clear, which is the Congress would appropriate funds that would be then vested in the Department of Energy to this disperse. It’s not like there’s a law passed and says, this goes to senators, we don’t do that in this country. Right. I know, we fully expect and not only do we expect, but we welcome the opportunity to competitively bid for such an award because the American taxpayer is entitled to get the best value for their their taxpayer dollars, right. So it’s not something that centrist needs that some of the industry needs, just to be a little bit technical about it. Point 1.2 The most efficient way is a cost share. You could do it, you could take a page out of the SpaceX book and a lot of smart people probably Matt Wald included, have written about this where you could actually put a demand signal out there, but then you could have advanced payments against a subsequent purchase that will be based on milestones during construction. There’s lots of ways to skin the cat. There’s also ways in which if you get a certain level of demand Out of say, the commercial utilities not for halen necessarily because they don’t have that need yet, but the existing utilities still have a large need for enrichment and 20 plus percent is still coming from Russia. And they’re eager to replace that. So they could place orders, those orders could form collateral that you could then take to the loan program office at the Department of Energy, and you could get a loan to so there’s, if there’s a will, Robert, there’s a way there’s many ways that this could be financed very successfully.
Robert Bryce 30:32
Gotcha. So you signed. Thank you. And I know all of this is complicated, and we haven’t even gotten to drill down on the different types of fuel whether it’s low enriched Halo, trisomy, etc. But in July, Sintra signed or announced a memorandum of understanding with Terra power, which of course famously backed by Bill Gates TerraPower. announced they bought just recently bought land in Kemmerer. Wyoming for the Nigerian project. Nigerian reactors, 345 megawatts? How many? How much? Hey, Lou, does that one reactor? Let’s do Can we just drill down to that one project? How much Halo do they need for that one reactor and how much? Hey, Lou, can centrist well, you can produce as much as you can afford, right? You can produce him you tell me how much you want? We can we’ll we’ll scale it. But just for one reactor, give me an idea. How many tons per year would that natrium project need?
Dan Poneman 31:26
ROBERT The the reactor developers, I think, view some of these issues about their exact fuel consumption as proprietary, so I would be loath to sort of speak on behalf of tear apart for how much they need. But let me put it to you, I think I can get to the nub of your question. This way, I can tell you what we can do. Okay, we are about to by the end of this year fire up. As I mentioned, the first cascade a demonstration cascade to be sure, of new production since 1954. That small cascade of 16 machines will produce around 900 kilograms, just wrapped up to say roughly a metric ton of 19.75% Hi assay Leu or Hey, Lou, per year. And that assumes we use feedstock, which is conventional lowness, uranium fuel of 4.95%. If you start from the ground, it would take more but just start with the stuff you can buy as Leu on the market, we could. With the demand of you know, a few of these advanced react developers build another cascade in 42 months at Cascade, Robert has 120 machines, that cascade would produce six metric tons per year, once our supply chain is up and running, we can add a new cascade every six months. So in short, within 48 months of a decision to proceed, we could be producing 13 metric tons per year of high assay low enriched uranium. The US Department of Energy has predicted demand will be 30 metric tons by 2030. There are lots of comments around that demand figure. But what I’m telling you is with that level of investment, which is not to be clear, the full up plant of the scale that we were talking about a few minutes ago in with a congressional discussion we just had, but we could be providing sufficient Caillou, with with two or if we get more demand for cascades on top of this demo cascade that we would be able to satisfy the needs of the developing reactor community, I think very, very well.
Robert Bryce 33:54
So just to review those numbers down so you, you could build the cascade in 42 months, how many machines was that? Again? I’m sorry, 120 120 120 centrifuges? And then that would be producing? How many tons per year?
Dan Poneman 34:09
Six, six metric tons of Halo. Gotcha. Okay. So it’s six metric tons per cascade, and then you get a one ton out of the demo cascade. Now, to be clear, the output of that demo cascade will be owned by the United States Department of Energy there they you know, you know, the other gold rule advanced the gold makes the rule, right. And so they, they, we paid for some of it, it was a cost share. But we’ve now shifted out of the three or cost share contract. We’re now about to we are starting the SoCal operations contract which we competitively one and a competitive process, which we’re happy about. And once we show that we can produce just 20 kilograms, which we’re going to do another cost share on after that. Then we turn into a cost plus incentive fee con trek with the Department of Energy, but Department of Energy will get all of that product. And they will then allocate that, presumably to the winners of the advanced reactor development program grants. Right?
Robert Bryce 35:12
So let’s broaden this. I want to talk about the other fuels, right? low enriched uranium, because as I understand it, the Westinghouse design that VW RX 300 uses conventional, low enriched uranium as do all the existing reactors that we have in the power reactors we have in the US, I want to talk about that in just a minute. But I’ve been pro nuclear for a long time, right? You know, in my view, you’re anti nuclear, you’re anti carbon dioxide, you’re pro blackout? Well, I’m pro, I’m anti blackout, I’m adamantly anti blackout, right? If we’re serious about climate change, we have to get serious about nuclear full stop. Right. This is obvious to any thinking person that cares about these issues. But in talking about Congress and talking about these other countries, Russia being the obvious one, the the Chinese being the other ones, that is it axiomatic if we’re going to have a strong nuclear industry in the United States that we have to have strong government backing that is decadal backing, right that bipartisan, staunch backing both on the fuel enrichment disposal in the management that is the short answer short question. If you’re going to be a nuclear country, do you have to have strong government backing to make it happen?
Dan Poneman 36:22
Yes. Okay, yes. For the reasons you said. Any, these are multi decadal investments, they will not be sustained if they flip flop every two or three years. And and by the way, they are multi-decadal dividends in security, you estate and why does everyone except us seem to understand this, you establish that you are supreme, supplying a country’s nuclear program. That’s 100 year relationship. That’s 100 year relationship. And it’s fundamentally strategic, many things flow from it and not just jobs, you’re then in the country, you have relationships, they grow. I mean, this is we’ve been we’ve been like taking a feather to a knife fight or a knife to a gunfight, you know, the Russian Orderbook. After Westinghouse finished the four reactors, which I visited when I was in government in Hyang, and Sandmann. The US Orderbook, at that point was zero, the Russian order book was $130 billion. And, you know, they Build Own Operate, finance, take the spent fuel back, and we have lots of advantages, but we got to do better. Robert, if we want to have influence globally, we have to do better. The good news is, I have never, and I’ve been doing this almost a half century, I have never seen either an issue or a time that can show greater bipartisan support 96 to three, we just got that. And then the house had similar so so we are positioned to be successful. But now Robert, we got to grasp the brass ring, because it’s it’s tragic that it took Ukraine to kind of force this front center. But my goodness, if they’ve gotten our attention, and we don’t do it now, who knows when we’re going to get the chance, again, if we’ll ever get the chance again.
Robert Bryce 38:16
So I’d take your points here on what you said. And you’re talking about security, kind of in the broader national sense of security, I would think about in terms of energy security, as well, and having a stable grid, right, which I think is absolutely an essential part of this. Right, and having baseload power that’s affordable, reliable, resilient, all of those things. But I see problems as well, as you know, when I’ve been thinking about this writing this piece of sober look at nuclear energy, what’s the one of the key problems? Well, fuel availability is one of them. But second, it’s this this government backing issue where the US particularly on the electric sector, has said, Oh, we’re gonna let the market decide, right. We’re gonna, which in a lot of other commodities that works, but electricity is a service, not a sip, not a commodity, and is that going to be one of the hindrances to the rollout of domestic reactors is that they won’t be they won’t work in, in in deregulated electricity markets. So is that going to constrain the rollout?
Dan Poneman 39:12
Yes. I didn’t know. That’s where you’re going, Robert. But, as usual, I’m finding myself in violent agreement with you. And my last book, which I can find a copy and flash it around here. Double Jeopardy talks about this, the market does not recognize and
Robert Bryce 39:31
you should always have your books at hand. Dan Kahneman. I mean, if you’re going to be an author, and you don’t have your book at hand, what are you doing, man?
Dan Poneman 39:37
I will. If I can get off if I can get off Smith
Robert Bryce 39:39
here. I’ve got two right here. What are you doing? Oh, there it is. All right. Double Jeopardy. Combating nuclear, combating nuclear threats. Was the subtitle combating nuclear combating nuclear terror and climate change. Okay, yeah.
Dan Poneman 39:58
You know, I don’t know. Call Amazon. I don’t know how to find it anyway. But no, let me talk about this just a minute. The market does not recognize the unique attributes of nuclear, there are externalities. The market does not credit for being carbon free. Then Mark, I can tell you, I got the phone calls from members of Congress in Minnesota. In 2014. During the polar vortex When coal stacks froze, and natural gas pipelines froze. If it wasn’t for the nuclear energy, they would have lost a lot of people. Was it hurricane Harvey? In Texas? You’re down there, you know, nuclear is got tremendous benefits that the market does not recognize.
Robert Bryce 40:48
Point 1.2. And the market I think, just just to clarify, you’re talking about the electricity market. Right? And yes, you regulated markets and that and we’re and plant Vogel, unit three just came online? Well, that’s not an that’s an unregulated market. Right. And so, you know, I guess asking another way, would it be possible to build a plant like Vogel in a deregulated market?
Dan Poneman 41:09
Well, John Rowe, sort of legendary CEO of what was then Exelon said, you need for to build a nuclear power plant in a deregulated market, you need $8 natural gas and a $25 price on carbon. And that set of circumstances did not present. But there are other problems with the market. So as you know, and now it’s been somewhat corrected, because of the recent production tax credit. But if, if when can sell into the grid at negative two cents per kilowatt hour? How can nuclear beat that you can’t bet negative and still get into the bid stack? Right? That’s, that’s another problem. So and, you know, there’s been just tremendous, and I learned a lot from you and your slide deck, the amount of resources poured into the renewables, and I learned a lot from you. We have these metrics, called I just saw the other day in a newspaper article, the levelized cost of electricity. Well, that’s all well and good. You could you could you probably have written a book. That’s all well and good, but what about the backstopping power when you know, the 75% of the time those renewables aren’t operating? What about the high voltage transmission? It’ll take, According to Robert price, 150 years when we need it by 2050. So there’s any number of these things that have been kind of like, impeding the I think full deployment because I believe what you believe, look, I am passionate about as many things I’m passionate about. I’m most passionate about saving this planet. And and if we don’t you saw the commercial liftoff report, the United States alone needs another 200 gigawatts by 2050. And we got to really get on the stick if we’re going to have any prayer of getting there.
Robert Bryce 42:52
And I’m sorry, the commercial I’m not familiar with the commercial liftoff report, what was this for nuclear? Oh, this is our gigawatts.
Dan Poneman 42:59
You will want to read this. I think it came out in around March. And it to be clear, it’s ecumenical. And the sense that I think they say that the United States overall is going to need like 700 gigawatts of additional power generation by 2050. But of that about 200, if I’m remembering right, has to be nuclear. If we’re going to meet our net zero targets, you will like this report, you should read it. Okay.
Robert Bryce 43:27
So let’s talk about the different types of fuels here because we’ve been focused on Halo, but Halo is only part of the story. You mentioned earlier, Russia provides 25% Of all the new enriched uranium enriched fuel that is now being used in the US nuclear fleet. But though that is all low enriched uranium in in fuel rods that you bundles that people are probably familiar with that form factor of what it looks like is they’re lowered into the into the reactor core. But there’s also trisul fuel and hey, Lou, and can you describe those what the because they’re different. Different companies are using I believe case Kairos is using try so Hey, Lou, I think is Oklo. Other country other companies Abilene Christian’s reactor needs. Hey, Lou. So what are the companies and what are the types of fuel that they need? And is sinteres only planning and playing in the halo sandbox or what you know, where are you really focusing your work?
Dan Poneman 44:26
Let me let me take the last question first. And then I’m going to unpack for your listeners this different flavors of fuel piece, okay. So the existing market is for low enriched uranium fuel of the 440 or 50 reactors operating around the world about 400 or 400. Plus use low enriched uranium. Some of them are so called CANDU reactors in Canada, they actually use natural uranium we don’t have to
Robert Bryce 44:55
talk about those, right? It’s enriched and low enriched is about 4.4 to 5% typically
Dan Poneman 45:00
four to 5%. You think of beer? Think okay here? Yeah. Okay. And then if you take Russia out of the equation, the global demand for Leu enrichment is around 48 million SWU. Okay. If you
Robert Bryce 45:18
look at global and smooth, just give us that as a single working separative work unit. Okay, so 48 million
Dan Poneman 45:27
work units per year, per year for the world, for the world. Okay, gotcha. Supply when you take if you take Russia out of the equation, which a lot of people want to do is not happened yet. But a lot of people want that to be, you know, the end state is 33 million separative work units or smooth. So that gap that shortfall 15 million SWU. That’s equal to 100% of us demand per year. Okay. It’s also equal to about 10 million, I beg your pardon about two thirds of European demand, because I think European demand is between 10 and 11 million school per year. So what am I telling you what I’m telling you is Centris wants to make Leu to help fill that gap. And we don’t think we’re the only ones are going to fill the gap, the incumbents are going to fill the gap. But this is kind of astonishing. People, Robert, find this surprising. There’s only four significant commercial suppliers of enriched uranium. And they’re all state owned enterprises. It’s Russia and its state owned enterprises. China and its state owned enterprises, France, and a European consortium called Yurchenko, which is 1/3, Dutch 1/3, British 1/3. German, okay. And so when the US utilities are looking for energy security, which I agree with you is very important, it’s important to them, they’re not really thinking about Russia and China anymore for security. And, and of the Europeans, actually 80% of the US market, between 70 80% of the US market is supplied by one company alone, you Ranko and just in terms of economics, 101, resilience, you know, avoiding monopoly, price risk, etc, etc. You want competition in a market energy security. Go back to the 1913 quote, of Winston Churchill, he was talking about oil, but it applies to energy, it’s in variety, or diversity and diversity alone, he was right 100 years ago, okay, so we are very eager to get into that market. And by the way, there’s a positive knock on effect. Because fixed costs to enrich uranium are very high. The IP is very expensive, the security and seismic testing and the regulations are very expensive. And whether I build two or 2000 machines, it’s the same. So if I build a few 100 machines to make, hey, Lou, I get a unit price that’s higher than if I’m building 1000s of machines that make Leu and I can spread those costs over so many more customers. Right. So that’s, that’s a huge driver of the economics and enrichment. So that’s thing one. And then
Robert Bryce 48:09
so to interrupt the scale, a scale always matters, right? So the scale is going to be if we’re going to get into this, we have to get into it in a big way. We’re going to have to have government backing, but I just wanted to clarify show your Rinko. I saw them and in the IEA meeting in Washington last October, what’s the French companies that are Riva? That someone is doing the enrichment
Dan Poneman 48:28
just to be called a Riva? It’s not called Orange. Oh, okay.
Robert Bryce 48:31
That’s right. Okay. Right. I that was I was thinking of, okay.
Dan Poneman 48:36
I have nothing to be clear if they’re competitors, but I have nothing but the highest respect for them. And I think we all should have a very important role in the market. But that’s just the kind of taxonomy who’s out there,
Robert Bryce 48:47
right? And so are all so who’s supplying the centrifuges? Are these ones you’re gonna have to fabricate yourself? How do you make How do you because these are, these are complex machines. I remember when we when I was in Amaury, we were the J, NFL, Japan nuclear fuel limited. They toured us around and there was a little window into the centrifuge cascade. And I said, Well, how tell them we can’t tell you. Well, how fast late we can’t tell you. What about any alpha. We can’t tell you. Who. So what can you tell me about where these are complicated machines? You can’t go to buy them at Walmart or Target. Where do you get them?
Dan Poneman 49:19
Robert, I’m beginning to think we were separated at birth. I went to Amori prefecture about 2025 years ago, I looked through that little little window. I said How big are those machines? They said we can’t say it’s out fence it has been listed. We can’t tell you. So I don’t know what’s going on here. Point 1.2. There aren’t many sources of supply of the machines. It happens that the two European companies have a joint venture called etc. So actually that company etc. Makes the machines for both the Euro anko and orano companies. The Japanese is the Chinese, the Russians, they all make their own. Okay, we make our own, we actually I mentioned we have this manufacturing facility, we make almost all of the parts ourselves 440,000 square foot capacity facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, we are building out the supply chain. At one time, when we had the larger kind of the old version of building only massively, we had a huge supply chain of like 900 suppliers. But now we’re building out a much leaner, smaller, it’s still over several states. But but most of the work we can do right within our factory, and then we ship those parts to a very large like Pentagon sized building set of buildings actually, in Piketon, Ohio. And that’s where you’ll see the picture. That’s where the actual machines are sitting and they will spin we lease that property from the US Department of Energy. So I’m going to call it I haven’t forgotten your the question about try so etc. But I don’t want to stop you before you wanted to finish this topic. Well, no,
Robert Bryce 51:03
that’s good. Because that was so you’re just reiterate. So then sinteres is manufacturing its own centrifuges? Yes, we do have subcontractors
Dan Poneman 51:11
and suppliers. But most of the parts we make ourselves
Robert Bryce 51:16
Gotcha. And in Piketon because we talked about power demand earlier. And there’s something very interesting to me, obviously, and grid demand and so on. So in Piketon Ohio, who’s your power supplier there?
Dan Poneman 51:27
We get I believe, gotta check this. I think we get power off the grid. There. Okay.
Robert Bryce 51:32
Right. Okay. Okay, so, so, Leu, we’ve talked about that four to 5% enriched uranium that goes into these fuel bundles that are you know, I forgot 18 feet long, something like that. They’re long and lowered into the reactor cores. Is the Hey, Lu form factor, the same trysail form factor? Let’s talk about those. What
Dan Poneman 51:54
does it look like? That you have to have two axes? Robert, okay. This is you are, you’re getting a little bit of apples and oranges going there. So along one axis is the assay of the fuel. Okay, not really done this way, but just to for illustration, so four or 5%, Leu, 90%, naval reactors and bombs. 19.75% Hey, Lou, okay. And the reason why is the legal limit between low and high is 20%, for reasons I won’t go into. And why that matters is after 20%, you get a lot more what we call guards, darks, and lights, because of the risk of diversion to weapons. Okay, and therefore, if I’m a reactor developer, and I want enhanced performance that you get with these advanced reactor would you know all about smaller packages, less waste, et cetera, et cetera, you get as close to that line as you can without crossing it. So 19.75%. And there were there were other assays that people use, don’t get me wrong, but that’s that’s why it seems like a somewhat arbitrary number, but it’s not. But the other thing is, what form it takes, what form it takes, because first of all, you mentioned let’s just be clear on the taxonomy here, in advanced reactor space, there’s light water reactor designs, and then there’s non lightwater or you could consider it slow neutrons and fast neutrons. I’m gonna explain this in very short order. The Light Water Reactor ones are really miniature versions of the existing fleet that everyone’s familiar with. That would be dealt Westinghouse has just announced when you mentioned the GE BW RX 300 That would be new scale that would be terrestrial okay. So they use low enriched uranium fuel, the ones that use fast neutrons, no longer used traditional h2o light water coolant, as most reactors do. Now, you use like liquid metal for coolant, okay. So that would be, for example, Terra power and Oklo. Okay, then you have some that actually have a molten salt, in which the fuel is mixed in with a molten salt. And that’s a joint venture that you’ll see between GE and TerraPower. They’re doing with Southern Company, and then you have ones that actually was an oxide but in the oxide, then there are subsets and one of the substance of an oxide is an oxide that goes into this so called trisul fuel pellet, which is an ingenious thing in which you have multiple layers of ceramic coating with the actual fuel pellet. And the advantage of that Robert, which you probably have had those people on your show, is you don’t need those big like my book cover with a big containments anymore because each little tiny pellet is its own containment and so you you have a major increase in the safety margin and so on and so on. So we can make So for example, we work very closely with X energy which makes try so fuel as you know, their reactor will use tracer fuel but it’s try so Halo right. So, the HALO can go into either a tracer fuel pellet or a liquid metal of fuel design that accompany like TerraPower Okhla would need
Robert Bryce 55:22
good well thank you because I need a diagram to understand these different and I’ve seen them before but I you know, I’m sometimes the info goes in and just goes out the other direction so, but so the X energy try so uses Hey, Lou, right but it’s a different form factor that is actually in the reactor itself. So what we’ll look forward then in blue sky this for me, Dan, so and again, my guest is Dan Kahneman. He’s the CEO of centers, energy’s been a half a century set or so in, in the nuclear sector, in one way or another, can find out more about centers at centrists, energy.com, their investor presentation, their latest one is from May, which lays out a lot of these issues that we’re talking about here. It’s called the nuclear fuel market opportunity. So at Blue Sky this for me, I asked you to do this because I was in a spoke at a meeting in Idaho Falls about gosh, maybe 10 years ago, and I asked the new scale people, okay, blue sky for me. When are you going to get your reactor deployed? They said, Oh, 2025 2026? Well, now they’re saying somewhat later, blue sky this for me in the United States? How soon will we have? Forget the Vogel reactors, right. But the new SMR deployments, everything goes right with the NRC with fuel availability. How soon will we have say 5000 megawatts of new nuclear capacity on the grid in the United States? How soon? Could that happen?
Dan Poneman 56:51
That’s a tough one. If everything goes the way, I think it should go. We’re going to have to ramp up the supply chain. Right? I’d want to go back honestly and see how fast we’re building them. In the heyday of like the 1980s, but fine at a rate of 5000 a year.
Robert Bryce 57:17
Now just to reach a total of the reason I ask is because look, again, I’m adamantly pro nuclear. But the people forget the scale of the generation fleet in the United States. We’re at 1.2 terawatts 12 150 gigawatts. So well, let’s just even say one gigawatt, you know, we have 1200 gigawatts. Now, how soon could we have one gigawatt of new? We’ll call them advanced reactors, not the Vogel that has put Vogel aside, but 1000 megawatts, one gigawatt? How soon could we have one gigawatt of new nuclear generation capacity online in the United States?
Dan Poneman 57:51
If Robert Bryce and Dan Kahneman got to call the shots?
Robert Bryce 57:55
Well, all right. Well, that’s not fair. We, well. Okay, I’m gonna wave my hand and say it all shall happen as soon as possible. How soon? Could it happen? We
Dan Poneman 58:05
did it if it’s a can, and not a will. I would say if we put our minds to it, we could get that done by 2030. When we put our minds to it,
Robert Bryce 58:16
one gigawatt in seven years.
Dan Poneman 58:20
Think so? I think so. I don’t think that’s actually crazy. I mean, I can’t help I’m a student of history, you are too. I don’t remember how long it took to make liberty ships in 1941. Right. But by 1944, we got him down to like nine days each, right. I don’t remember how many aircraft we had in 1939. But by 1944, we had 150,000. I don’t think that the challenge of saving our planet is less grave than what we faced in the early 1940s. So we got to get serious about this stuff. You’ve heard 1000 of these things. Here’s just one last it’s a very interesting little illustration. You know, you’ll be surprised to learn that people thought they were going to use horses to tow artillery pieces around Europe and World War Well, in any future European land war. You know, and so we had a horse breeding program in the US Army. Okay, so guess what? You can’t surge horse production because that’s like biologically impossible. Right? So now comes World War Two. And we look around, we’re like Roe, you know, not working. What are we going to do? They put out an RFP for a four wheeled vehicle that would basically do what a horse could have done in terms of moving artillery pieces around Europe. And I can’t remember if it was nine weeks or but, you know, very short period of time. They got Willys Overland in Toledo, Ohio, and it’s a thing they ended up calling it something like the Jeep or the Jeep or something like that. And I think they were like 644,000, produced by 1944. Right. And I think Eisenhower called it one of the three strategic inventions that won the war. And then by the way, so then they go, Well, wait a second, the war’s over. Now what? Well guess what? Turns out most of the American farms were still using a horse drawn plows and stuff. So then they went commercial, and then it turned into a recreational vehicle. So what I’m telling you is there’s a national security imperative, we get the thing started. And don’t underestimate American innovation and the power of the marketplace to make this thing successful. We just have to grasp the nettle. And we can do this. I think as a country, we can do this. I know I’ve said it twice already. But just think about a 96 to three vote. That tells you something important about this country. And when we recognize we’re really up against it. We can do big things. And the three were
Robert Bryce 1:00:48
Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders, right. No more with Marquis Merkley and
Dan Poneman 1:00:58
I got this. It was no disrespect to anyone. It was Senator Markey. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders. They were the three. Okay. All right.
Robert Bryce 1:01:10
I thought I thought Ed Markey was the other one, but that’s okay. Whatever it was, Marquis. Okay. Marquis. Okay. You said, you said to the other Merkley? Yeah, I don’t know, whatever it is. So those three then the other coast, the lead is the Luddites or whatever. The last question then about down blending, because we talked about and then we’ve been talking for more than an hour now. So I want to close but we talked about megatons to megawatts, which was a down blending project, right. You had high high, a very high levels of high, highly enriched uranium, that you then down blended. The US government and Matt Walden, I talked about this has pretty substantial quantities of highly enriched uranium. Why couldn’t Centris then use some of that and then turn that into Haley, what is this DoD is saying no, nevermind, that’s ours. Dibs on this. What? Is that a possibility here? Are you think that that happening? Or if I miss apprehended what the possibility is here?
Dan Poneman 1:02:09
No, not really. I’m smiling because you asked all these questions that, you know, as the PAL Joy musical says, If you asked me I could write a book. So look, the bottom line is, is first of all, I’m just going to make you might even call an aesthetic argument, to spend a king’s ransom, taking this raw stuff out of the ground and put putting into pure spun gold of this high octane Hu, which is precious precious stuff, and then just diluted back to the stuff that came out of strikes me as a promiscuous, prodigious waste of taxpayer money. I think it’s insane. Okay, I just to put not to put too fine a point on it. Okay. That having been said, this has, in fact, been the policy of the United States of America for a number of years. And the actual numbers are, of course, classified. But over the years, there have been and I was part of this under 1995, at the White House, President Clinton declared a certain amount of he with access to national security needs and available for these other peaceful uses. But the bottom line is, every time you do that, two things happen. Number one, you basically are eating the seed corn of our national security. And number two, you’re allowing the continued atrophy and pathetic collapse of our industrial base needed in the long term to provide it. He’s a short anecdote. True story. I’m in the government. I won’t say where once, but it was roughly 2010. I’ve always believed what I believe today is not because I’m running this company, it’s because this is what I think is right for the country in our world, in terms of enriching uranium. And I said, we should be creating a new capacity to replace those old plants that are shutting down. And people laughed at me in the government. And I said, I know why you think it’s funny, because we have a lot and you can blend that stuff that but I said, when you run out? Are you going to use coal or wind powered to get under the polar ice caps with your submarines? Or do you think perhaps Vladimir Putin will bail you out? And I was told in response, Dan, you’re 10 years too early. That was 2010. I’m not a math major. That’s more than 10 years ago. So it’s way past time. The bottom line is we will need to do this in the long term. And the only thing that happens by delaying is we continue losing influence. We continue losing supply chain, we continue losing expertise, and we continue ceding the high terrain and the both the economic manufacturing employment, national security, nonproliferation supply chain and resilience To all the other state owned enterprises while we sit here and just atrophy otherwise, it’s a great idea.
Robert Bryce 1:05:12
Nicely said, you can get off the stump now. But that was good. I liked that was no Well look, I so I’m going to condense what you just said well to use to take that high. You called it Hu or to HGH, EU High, high enriched uranium 9%. So we need that for defense depart. We need that for our nuclear submarines, nuclear carriers, etc. Okay, so I’m condensing what you just said into much. Right? You did a good job of expanding into those other things, which is great. Okay, so last two questions. And these are guests questions. I ask all my guests. What are you reading? You’ve talked about writing another book, but what books are on your top of your pile these days? Are you so in volved, in lobbying in DC, and are the things that you don’t have time to read? Tell me what’s what are you doing?
Dan Poneman 1:05:57
I? Yeah. Not the ladder, for sure. I’m really, really, really enjoying unlikely heroes, by a friend of mine, as somebody who was the founding editor of internet security, Derek Leibert. I haven’t seen him in 40 plus years. It’s about Harry Hopkins, Francis Birkins, Harold Ickes and Henry Wallace, and supporting FDR, and I’m just up to the 100 days, and I’m thinking of how we should analogize that period of 100 days to this. I’m also very much enjoying, I can’t read enough about Lincoln. The and then there was light, wonderful book. Jon Meacham, you know, it’s strange to think of people like Franklin Pearson, James Buchanan, and Zachary Taylor is kind of living politician, but he really makes it come to life on a kind of completely different front, because I’m a bit of a workout freak. I’ve finished an interesting book called out live by Peter Atea. About, you know, how to how to live longer and better, and so forth. And basically, any history I can get my, my hands on, but those are the three that I’m working on. Right now.
Robert Bryce 1:07:10
Good. Okay, that’s a good list. And what gives you hope, Dan, we’ve talked about a lot of things that are exempt could cause despair, and lesser lesser humans. But what gives you hope these days?
Dan Poneman 1:07:23
Robert, I do see, and candidly, you’re part of this, I do see a growing recognition in more and more people, that climate change is not theoretical. And that urgent action is required. And and it’s it’s becoming, in a good sense, much more mainstream. unlikely allies are popping up. And and that’s a good thing, because, as you said, about 10 minutes ago, without a deep and broad bipartisan consensus at a time where we don’t find much frankly, on most things. I think this issue is one where you, you can find that, and I’ll end on this note, because it only came up peripherally. Most of my life has been spent on national security issues, actually. And what I say in this book, is you can support nuclear energy, even if you don’t agree on why, because there might be some people who care a lot about defending our homeland, and deterring our geostrategic adversaries, and the importance of a continued robust, safe, secure and reliable deterrent. And I believe in that, and you get that through the Arsenal which is supported by enriched uranium, and by the Naval Reactors, which is supported by enriched uranium. And you could also not care about that at all, but care a lot about the planet being effectively incinerated and see that nuclear is an absolutely critical path item to achieve our objectives there too. So I I think this is a moment of incredible hope in that respect, and frankly, is what keeps me going every day.
Robert Bryce 1:09:20
Well, that’s good place to stop then we’ll stop right there then. My guest has been Dan parlimen is the CEO of citrus energy. I’ve been meaning to have him on the podcast for a long time. And I hope you understand why because he knows these issues very well and is in the middle of some of the most important issues in the nuclear sector in America today. You can find more about his company citrus energy at Citrus energy.com. Dan, thanks a million for coming on the power hungry podcast I learned a lot and had great fun with it.
Dan Poneman 1:09:48
Thank you for hosting and good luck with everything including your music
Robert Bryce 1:09:52
that I need. I need help on that one. Okay, and to all you out there in podcast land. Thanks for tuning into this episode of the power hungry podcast. Until next time, See you