Grace Stanke, is a nuclear engineer and the 95th winner of the Miss America competition. In this episode, she talks about why nuclear is a “brilliant, brilliant gift that we turned our back on,” why we need “bold leadership” to reignite the domestic nuclear sector, and why she is working hard to change the public’s perception about fission. (Recorded November 20, 2023.)

Episode Transcript

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 Miss America. 2023 Miss Grace Stankey Welcome to the power hungry podcast.

Grace Stanke  0:16  
Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m stoked to be here. This is gonna be a ton of fun. I’m a nuclear engineering student. So I do a lot of work within the energy field and electricity overall. Okay,

Robert Bryce  0:28  
so now you already kind of beat me to the punch here, grace, and you’ve probably you’re obviously fully caffeinated here in the morning. That’s okay.

Grace Stanke  0:35  
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Like I said, early morning, so caffeine was caffeine was going, no

Robert Bryce  0:40  
problem. But I’m gonna ask you to introduce yourself you kind of already have but guests on this podcast introduce themselves. So now, of course, I’ve said you’re Miss America. 2023. You have said you’re a nuclear engineering student. But imagine you’ve arrived somewhere and you don’t know anyone and you have about 60 seconds to introduce yourself, please do so.

Grace Stanke  0:59  
Yeah, my name is Grace. I’m Miss America. 2023 also a nuclear engineering student. And beyond those two things, which I find those are two very big parts of my life. I also like to talk about me as a human being where I talked about I’m a classical violinist, a competitive water skier. I love going to national parks here in America and appreciating the nature for what it is. And I’m really incredibly blessed to have this year as Miss America to travel the country in the world talking about nuclear energy and electricity, dispelling misconceptions and myths, while also learning more about the world myself. You know, I’m a 21 year old woman that’s really had an incredible experience throughout this opportunity.

Robert Bryce  1:36  
Okay, so national parks. Which one’s your favorite? Oh,

Grace Stanke  1:39  
I love glacier. I am a Glacier National Park girlie through and through?

Robert Bryce  1:45  
Okay, I haven’t been there. So I’ll recommend Big Ben, which may be the polar opposite. Not quite the polar opposite from Glacier, but I live in Texas. And so Ben National Park. It’s not on the way to anywhere. It’s rugged, it’s dry. There’s a lot of cactus, but it’s amazing. So

Grace Stanke  2:00  
you know, so funny story about Big Bend. Actually, I was initially planning on spending spring break, doing big bend and Guadalupe Mountains. And then White Sands. I was planning on doing my spring break this year there but then I ended up becoming Miss America. So plans changed a little bit, but

Robert Bryce  2:17  
just just ruin your whole life, didn’t ya?

Grace Stanke  2:20  
Really? It really was a super big inconvenience. You know? No, it really isn’t hasn’t been not at all. It’s been really wonderful. And I’ve had a ton of other opportunities. But Big Ben is high on my list. That’s one that I haven’t been to that I really do want to make it too soon. Well,

Robert Bryce  2:33  
like I said, it’s not on the way to anywhere you have to intend to go there. So well, so let’s talk about nuclear, because that was one of the I know you’ve been on a number of shows, been interviewed many times about this issue. And I’m been adamantly pro nuclear for a long time. And so you’re studying to be a nuclear engineer. I know that you read up on you, you did kind of did it to spite your dad a little bit. But I’m joking a little bit. But it’s also part of your goal to get more women and girls into science, technology, engineering, and STEM is math, right? I just looked it up 16% of nuclear engineers are female 16%. Yeah. What’s the ratio at you know, you’re going to the University of Wisconsin, you’ve taken a year off, is that right? And you’ll be a senior when you go

Grace Stanke  3:17  
back. So I’m in my last class right now. I’m finishing up my degree this semester. So I when I became Miss America, I had one semester left. So I just spaced out the five classes throughout the year and have been doing it online. So my initial graduating class, so this spring, when I was supposed to graduate, which I did walk this spring, there was a total of three women that graduated two of us had taken a year off, I took a year off to do a co op with constellation and one of my one of my friends, she took a year off to do a co op with the International Atomic Energy Agency. So there was only one girl that was like part of that group initially. And then now I don’t know the current class that’s graduating just because I’ve been doing online school, but it is growing, you know, across America,

Robert Bryce  4:01  
interrupt sorry, three, then three out of how many students in nuclear engineering.

Grace Stanke  4:05  
There was a total that walked this this spring undergraduate there was about 15. At UW Madison, our graduate program is probably the bigger program at UW Madison. I don’t know the exact enrollment, but it’s something that has had its ups and downs. But we’re currently on an OP. Ed is just going to mention, you know, this, this fall has been a really big year for universities and with an undergraduate nuclear program, Georgia Tech saw 40% increase in enrollment of nuclear engineering undergrads, I’m gonna say that’s largely because of Vogel opening, the first new nuclear power plant come online and 30 years down in Georgia, but even within UW Madison, you know, we had a 20% increase this fall, which is insane, like that’s a really, really good step in the right direction for for the universities where we’re seeing that growth again, and that excitement towards nuclear and I think that’s reflected in society overall. Sure. So,

Robert Bryce  4:57  
but then will you talked about this before about trying to get more women and girls in. Let’s start there. I’m going to talk about nuclear engineering and nuclear technology more generally. But Maria Coors, Nick is the head of Nuclear Energy Institute. She’s a nuclear engineer. But there are very few and I’ve been watching this for a long time. 16% Today, in your class, so three out of 15? I don’t know what that percentage is off the top of my head is relatively small. What what has kept? What is keeping women and girls out of engineering and math more general and the sciences more generally? You You’re, you’re 20 years old, not 2121? Yes, you’re 21. So how do you see it as someone who’s in college? You know, my youngest is out of college now. I mean, what what did you see? Did you get resistance yourself? What are you among your peers that your women, you know, do they just not consider this? What how do you how do you motivate people, like you women like you to do what you’re doing. For

Grace Stanke  5:57  
me personally, I’ve never felt any restrictions. Being a woman in engineering. I’ve never felt like I can’t do this. I’ve never felt like there’s been experiences that have stopped me from pursuing this career, which I really want to talk about. I think culturally, there is some work to be done. But I think that’s a parenting issue in America, I don’t think that that’s a that’s a cultural engineering issue in a sense of making sure we’re treating others with respect and treating others as human beings first. So this comes to how, you know, when I do school visits, that’s a big statement. So give me one second. When I when I do school visits, I It’s interesting, because you know, Miss America markets me as this champion for women in STEM, and I am, I have, I firmly have recognized my ability as a role model for young girls to see themselves in a position in nuclear, which I’m so thankful for. But when I go to a school, I don’t single out the girls and say, You should be a nuclear engineer, because for me, personally, I am just going to tell you an experience I had this year, I had an experience this year where someone was trying to hire me. And they said, grace, we really admire what you do, we really want you to come work for us. One because you’re a woman. And to me that that is infuriating, when I have a very big list of qualifications, and the first thing they could come up with was my biological makeup. So when I go into schools, when I am talking with kids of all different backgrounds, all different, you know, whatever they believe in wherever they come from socio economically, politically, ethnically, gender, whatever they are, I don’t care. I just want them as human beings, I want to get to know them. Because different opinions, different backgrounds is what makes the best team. So what I do is I help kids find their passions. And whatever it is, you know, maybe it’s not engineering, but great. In nuclear, we need more communicators, we need more technicians, we need more tradesmen, there are so many different ways to be a part of this team and a part of this mission. So I help them find their passion, make sure that what they’re doing for the next 40 years of their life is something they enjoy. And then I help them find a mission to serve, which thankfully, generation Gen Z, our generational problem is climate change. So most people are pretty excited to help contribute to helping fight climate change. And one of those great ways is producing nuclear energy.

Robert Bryce  8:01  
Well, let me ask you about that, because that was one of the things that Okay, so I’m an old guy, right? I’m 63. And my generation had a different take on nuclear, but we have the specter of nuclear war in the background, right. And when I went to grade school, there was a bomb shelter, right? I lived in a house for a while that had a bomb shelter. This was you know, a nuclear proliferation, nuclear weaponry, the Cold War was in full swing, is does your general ask it this way? Does your generation see nuclear differently? And if so, and is it in? Is it expected of climate change? That is the reason for that.

Grace Stanke  8:36  
It is a massive difference. So my specific age groups of college age students right now, I would say know about Fukushima know about the Cold War know about World War Two and things like that. But I had a really shocking experience where I was at a middle school. And I’m so used to talking about those things and explaining them and addressing how current reactors and advanced reactors are different from the reactor at Chernobyl and all of these things, right. I’m very comfortable talking about those. And I kind of started just automatically going into it at this middle school presentation that I was talking about Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. So back in 2011, they had a nuclear power plant had a hydrogen explosion, and it ended up causing three reactor units to melt down, the fourth did explode as well, but there was no fuel in it. So I’m very comfortable and used to talking about all of that. But these kids were looking around and they’re like, What is she talking about? I’m like, Oh my gosh, like middle schoolers of today. Don’t even know what Fukushima Daiichi is. They don’t know about Chernobyl. They haven’t been taught

Robert Bryce  9:34  
that much, much less Three Mile Island or you know, exactly, exactly.

Grace Stanke  9:38  
So it is a really different generational thing because we didn’t live through that experience. Now I’m not discounting that experience, because that is something that is so valuable. There’s so much to learn from both of those those incidents in the power sector and when it comes to weaponry, you know, that’s, that’s a whole separate discussion in my opinion. I promote the use of the science of the atom for peaceful purposes. And that’s just where that’s at. And I think it’s really incredible though, to talk about the energy side of things and how much we learned from Chernobyl from Fukushima from Three Mile Island, how much the industry has changed. Like, it didn’t just change in America after Three Mile Island, it changed globally. And, you know, no other industry has that level of learning. And I think that’s really, really incredible.

Robert Bryce  10:22  
Well, so agreed, and I was lucky. I went to fortunate in many ways, unfortunate in a whole lot of ways. I went to Fukushima Daiichi this year, when I was in Japan, and I mean, incredible experience right to actually see it right. It’s one thing to talk about another see it. But a couple of questions about that, because the the fear of radiation around Fukushima was the more deadly was the killer. Right. It wasn’t the radiation itself, right. They they evacuated the prefecture. And that the studies have shown that the health effects of the evacuation were more severe than any of the effects that might have occurred from radiation. So I want to ask about the industry more generally. But is it so you You’re obviously passionate, and you you know, you care about this stuff? But is that is the the fear of radiation, the thing that’s holding it back, because you’ve also been critical the nuclear industry as well. But is that fear this kind of you can’t see it can’t smell it can’t taste it? Is that one of the key issues that we have to overcome?

Grace Stanke  11:19  
I don’t know if it’s necessarily a fear anymore. So I was at Fukushima Daiichi as well, actually, just a couple of weeks ago. So that was very recent. I just think it’s a lack of knowledge. I find that most people

Robert Bryce  11:31  
differ, and fair enough. But how do we change that? I mean, that’s I agree with you. And broadly, yeah, that is such a hard thing to do. How do we change that? For

Grace Stanke  11:40  
me, personally, I was one of those people, right? Growing up, you kind of mentioned, I got into this field out of spite, because my dad told me not go into it. I knew nothing about nuclear. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’m like, I don’t really know what’s going on with radiation here. And the thing that convinced me that changed my mind, and this is something that I do in turn when I’m working with other people, is I learned where nuclear exists all around me. Like it really is all around us. If you like, radiation exists. Yeah, well, radiation, nuclear science, it’s kind of all in one big nutshell. Like, because nuclear science is working with radiation, right? That’s where radiation stems from is nuclear technology and nuclear applications. And I think it’s interesting though, because like, if you like Bananas, bananas are actually naturally radioactive. We don’t do anything to them. And they’re just a little bit radioactive. Everything quite literally is. But the more notable things like smoke detectors, the reason you take the battery out, and it just keeps beeping. Sorry, that’s a that’s nuclear technology. And there’s so explain

Robert Bryce  12:40  
that because I just bought some smoke detectors. What is it? What is the science there?

Grace Stanke  12:44  
Oh, my gosh, okay, I’m gonna I want to make sure I get the specific isotope. Correct. So I’m just going to quick google it. Because I always I always smoke detector, radiological isotope. I always get it wrong, just because so America Americium America meristem, there we go. Apparently, um, 241 is what’s in there that it just it just when you take the battery out, it makes sure that it keeps working. That’s just a safety perspective. For fire detection, right, you want to make sure that the smoke detectors work, but the batteries are a good primary source and things like that. And also, it just makes sure that you keep that battery in there and you actually replace it. So it’s, it’s really awesome because it affects us in our daily lives. I think another way that I talk about it, you know, my dad’s a two time cancer survivor. There’s a lot of radiation treatments. There’s a lot of uses of radiological sciences and medicinal isotopes that come from the nuclear industry that are literally helping to cure cancer. You know, one of the one of the stops I made in my Japan tour was at Osaka University, the research center for nuclear physics and like they were talking about what they were working on. And it’s medicine side of things. And they’re like, Yeah, we’re working on curing cancers. And I’m like, oh, what type of cancer and they’re like, all cancer. I’m like, oh, casual, okay, subtle flex. Love that. So it’s really, really awesome. Because nuclear has more than just energy more than just weaponry. It’s available in medicine. It’s available in agriculture. I’m from Wisconsin. And Texas has a huge agricultural presence, too, right? We use it all the time. It’s literally all around us. So that’s one thing that really changed my perspective that I like to talk about with, with kids, with politicians with nursing home residents, literally everyone and anybody.

Robert Bryce  14:22  
How many events are you going to do during the year that you’re Miss America? Yeah, so

Grace Stanke  14:27  
I’ve been Miss America for about 11 months. Now. I’m on the tail end of it.

Robert Bryce  14:31  
I’ve done it. It’s for one calendar year, is that right? It’s from

Grace Stanke  14:35  
competition to competition. So I was crowned December of 2022. And then I will hand off the title January 14 of 2024. So I got a bonus month. Typically it is approximately 12 months. But I in the 11 months I’ve been Miss America. I have traveled 200,000 miles so far and I will be probably hitting 250 In the next couple of weeks here. So I It’s it’s really so

Robert Bryce  15:01  
so hundreds of events, hundreds of interviews like this, this has been pretty much nonstop. Yeah,

Grace Stanke  15:06  
interviews and podcasts are quite common in terms of like in person appearances from a week to week basis, you know, I have to fly and travel. So I have traveled days built into the schedule. I’m typically doing two to three events a week. So like this week with thanksgiving, I’ll be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, doing some more of just American culture stuff. But last week, I was at Beaver Valley Power Plant and I was at Westinghouse, you know, like, there’s all sorts of different applications and things that I do as Miss America, which is awesome. It’s really fun.

Robert Bryce  15:37  
I would imagine. So, you have this is the wave you have to do at the pet the pet my

Grace Stanke  15:42  
gosh, no, I wave like a normal human being.

Robert Bryce  15:46  
So tell me about your dad. He was a cancer survivor. What was his cancer? And what was what isotope? I’m assuming it’s an isotope? They used to treat him what was that?

Grace Stanke  15:54  
Yeah. So he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And it was a very it, he had it twice. The first time he went through it. I was in fourth and fifth grade, the largest presence of radiological isotopes and things like that. And nuclear medicine was radiation treatments for him. A lot of iodine detection and things like that as well. It’s, there’s quite literally an endless list. I’ve asked, I was like, Hey, can you get like a record? I’m like, can I see your medical records, but he, I think his doctor retired. So it’s a little bit tougher to get them now. But it’s been awesome, because throughout this whole process, he’s had multiple surgeries, he had his spleen removed the second time around. And I think one thing that’s fun with any type of surgery, this isn’t just cancer, all of the tools are sterilized using an isotope, I think it’s cesium. And I think that’s something that’s really awesome to talk about and address where it’s used for sterilization purposes. It’s used for all of those different applications within medicine.

Robert Bryce  16:50  
Yeah, that I will now you got me googling here, which I don’t usually do when I’m doing podcasts. But it’s Dr. Keefer, Dr. Chris Keefer, who’s with Canadians for nuclear energy, you know, he’s an ER doc. And he talks about this a lot that, in fact, the Canadian reactors, the isotopes that they generate, sterilize something like half or more of all the the surgical instruments in the world, which is really pretty amazing fact. Yeah. So let’s talk about the industry. Now I know you’ve taken a job with constellation is that correct? I read this somewhere that you as soon as you graduate, you’re going to be working for them? Yes.

Grace Stanke  17:26  
So I’ll be wrapping up my schooling this fall. And then I finished up Miss America in January, I’m taking a month off to do a young and dumb trip, I’m going to Africa, I’m gonna go climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I’m super excited. And then I’ll start working in March. So it’s not exactly like, finish up the degree and start working right away. I have a little bit of commitments in between.

Robert Bryce  17:46  
Gotcha. But about that in you’re gonna be working I understand and nuclear fuels. But you tongue you said earlier about the industry. And I found a quote that you use. I’m quoting you here, I believe that the chronic and potentially and potentially the fatal flaw of the nuclear industry is our communication. After an accident happened, the nuclear industry solution was to disappear, hide behind a curtain. Now, I’ll agree with you that the industry nuclear industry, and the oil and gas industry do a terrible job of communicating their business, right, you know, the renewable energy energy business as much, you know, they have better, you know, better sex appeal, for some reason for whatever for the public. But is it? Is it just that the industry, it’s a hard thing for them to explain what it mean? Is it can you pinpoint how they can I guess I’ll ask it this way. How would the industry do better? What I mean, that’s one of the reasons why you’ve gotten a lot of attention, I think, frankly, right. You’re, you’re not a typical Miss America, you’re an engineer, right? That’s one defining thing. But if you if I said, Okay, well, you’re the head of the entire nuclear sectors, public relations, communications effort, what how would you change? How do you get that done? How you start, and how are you going to be most effective at changing minds?

Grace Stanke  18:59  
I think the one thing I want to explain that that quote a little bit more so after three Martin island here in America, the nuclear industry went no news is good news. If we can operate without anybody knowing about us, that’s a great day. Well, what that did is that allowed the media and all of these stories and all of these literally the Simpsons Godzilla, all of these sort of like just pop culture things to go rampant with this uneducated process of how radiation works and how nuclear science works and how all of that happens, right? And that’s really frustrating because we had this media kind of taking over where like I said, every supervillain in every movie ever. It feels like came from some sort of radiation thing or something along those lines when at the end of the day, that’s just not how radiation works right? Spider Man. Yeah, Spider Man is a good one. We love Spider Man and Iron Man two, actually two of my favorites. Iron Man’s chestpiece is like a miniaturised nuclear fusion reactor actually, which I think is a super fun fact. So there’s a couple have positive representations. I don’t know if a radioactive spider is positive or not. But

Robert Bryce  20:05  
fair enough. But, but you’re but the idea about radiation and nuclear being in part of this pop culture and is very, is very real. So I take your points there, but I mean, how does the industry be more effective? What is it? What are the keys there?

Grace Stanke  20:20  
Yeah, so I as if I were put in charge, the biggest things that I would be doing is make it fun and make it accessible, right? I know nuclear for us. A boring day is a good day, right? Like that’s, that’s also a phrase that said a lot. But when I go into schools, the biggest thing with making it fun and making it accessible, I think the American Nuclear Society, they offer these workshop kits that I use in my classroom visits. So making cloud chambers where kids can actually see radiation happening, they can see the alpha particles moving through these little clouds, that makes it visual that makes it accessible. Anytime I have anybody come with me to a nuclear power plant, or if they’ve gone to one, I’ve never seen anybody come out of a nuclear power plant against nuclear energy. And like I said, the two main things, making it fun and making it accessible. I think if we open up the doors a little bit more and get people involved, you know, pre 911, we had so many facilities that I’ve been to have these museums and these energy centers and things like that, that the it was open to the general public, where anybody could go in this was outside of the security boundary. And they could learn how a nuclear power plant works. And they could maybe see some old parts or something like that, depending on how the museum is set up. Post 911, they shut down all of those museums, and I’m, I personally think we should be reopening them. One of the homecoming, things that I did as Miss America. So context here of this story, when you become Miss America, the state organization puts on a homecoming celebration. So I did a big tour of Wisconsin in February. And on the final day, we went to the Point Beach Nuclear Power Plant in Wisconsin, and they have one of these energy centers. Now they opened it up for that day. And it was incredible, because the entire community came out to see this to experience this museum, because even if they can’t get into the power plant, they could learn about it in that scenario. And I think that that’s such an awesome thing. That the education, the resources are there, we just kind of disappeared, we made that choice. But we can open those back up and have that outreach very, very present beyond just the local communities where these power plants exist, but also to entire states, and things like that.

Robert Bryce  22:29  
So Point Beach, I’m just pointing it’s owned by NextEra Energy and is in. It’s on Lake Michigan and near the city of two rivers, Wisconsin, I’m just trying to find the what the output is, is it two reactors are one reactor to 1200 megawatt electric. I see two. Westinghouse right, gotcha. Well, so I’ve been I’ve been in many power plants. I’ve been in only one nuclear plant. That’s the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York, which is now shuttered, criminally shuttered by former Governor Andrew Cuomo, may he rot in hell, for his actions in regard. You’ve been, I think it sounds like to several nuclear plants got a favorite there. I’ve

Grace Stanke  23:12  
been to eight or nine power plants internationally as well. So I went to me home a power plant in Japan, which they decommissioned two units, but they did reopen one. And within America, you know, I’ve had some really awesome opportunities, which I think it’s awesome. Because each power plant has a lot of similarities. They all have a standard for excellence. They all have an amazing, amazing operational capacity. They all stay on time. You know, one of my favorite things when I go to power plants is sitting down for that pre job brief. So they always, you know, before you go into the plant, they sit down with you and it’s like, okay, so here’s the plan. Here’s where we’re gonna go, which I just, I love it so much. It’s great. So that happens everywhere. But each power plant does have its own culture, you know, they have their own attitude. They have their own sort of environment, which I think is so so awesome. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite some standouts, you know, I was at Vogel for my 21st birthday, actually. And I was in the control room of unit three when they hit 75% power, which was really, really cool. Just to see that sort of history being made during a plant startup for the first time in 30 years in American history of a new new reactor.

Robert Bryce  24:20  
Right. Yeah. Vogel Vogel is interesting. I was in Savannah last week and heard a presentation about Vogel and you know, all the difficulties and the cost overruns and and you know, it was overtime over budget, the difficulties they had in getting it built and keeping their partners on board. And so that that, but let’s talk about that, then because you’re a nuclear engineer, you’ve looked at this and I know you’re going to work for Constellation and I know there are some constraints on how candidly you can speak here, but as there, you’ve seen lightwater reactors, there are a lot of gas cooled reactors, there are a lot of paper reactors that are now trying to commercialize in the market. When you look at those and if you you know, as an engineer, if you said Well, if we’re going to pick one design, right, and would it be lightwater? Would it be gas cooled wood? I mean, if you could start with a blank sheet of paper and say, Okay, well, I’m looking at this, and I, you know, really the one design that would make the most sense. What would that chemistry be? And what how big would it be? Would it be gigawatt size? Are you believer in SMR? Is within Give me, give me your nerd out on? On type design, you know, best chemistry, et cetera? Go Go for it. Yeah,

Grace Stanke  25:26  
so for me personally, you’re completely correct with Vogel, you know, it did go pretty much twice the time and twice the budget of the initial planning, which is the biggest challenge with these massive light water reactors that we built in the 70s and 80s. Because of just societal and political and environmental changes, building a new massive light water reactor power plant is incredibly difficult. What I think is going to be the best path forward from a complete perspective, this isn’t just a technology side of things, this is from a what is going to be the most likely possible in terms of political licensing in terms of a community acceptance thing. I think small modular reactors using a light water, coolant in moderation is going to be the best way to go. Because using gas cooled, and you know, these metal fuels, and all of that is really, really awesome. And I fully support it. I think it’s the coolest technology in the world. But that’s completely new to people. And change. Like that does not happen quickly. In America, and especially nuclear, where it does need a thorough review, it needs a thorough check of what this process looks like, you know, from a license licensing standpoint, looking at new scales, SMR, you know, they spent millions and millions of dollars just to get licensed.

Robert Bryce  26:41  
And 500 million. Yes, fine point on it there.

Grace Stanke  26:45  
Exactly, exactly. And it’s something that is just such a process, that I think in terms of the best path forward to have this kind of happy meet in the middle place of general public acceptance of nuclear saying, we do want a nuclear power plant in our backyard, these small 100 megawatt reactors, small modular reactors, I think will be the best way to go using using water.

Robert Bryce  27:09  
So if we well, and you know, new scale, you mentioned the cost to get licensed or get the reactor design approved. But now they have canceled the plan that they had at UMC in in Idaho Falls. And so that’s a big setback. So when you when I looked at it, that was the only player in the in the market with that design is the BW RX 300, which is now being built in Canada. I’m sure you’re aware of this right, you know, that they’re going to build it at Darlington. So, I mean, in that in that area, I think right now, it appears to be a one horse race, and that with GE Hitachi being the one that’s in the lead, and new scale went public, and their stock has been punished. So I mean, it’s the the changes just in the last few months in the nuclear sector, I think had been remarkable, right, great success and getting Vogel three online and Vogel four in the next few months. But still a lot of challenges. So it we talked about radiation before. Handicapped, but then I’ve written about this, you know, I’m absolutely 100% behind nuclear, but I also am very sober about the prospects. I see the I’ll reveal my cards and then maybe can react to this. I think it’s one of the one of the biggest challenges it’s cap, it’s regulation, capital and fuel. Is that would you agree, or is there another thing there? I mean, they are handicap those. We have to focus on the regulation first. I mean, we’ve got to solve these things together. How do you prioritize them? How would you prioritize?

Grace Stanke  28:29  
So the biggest what I what I see, within the current climate that we’re in, I would completely agree with those three statements like being big issues right now. But what I would broadly say is almost we’ve got this sort of chicken and egg problem, we have the demand, we have companies that are kind of like they’re not signing it on paper yet. Or they’re say you have we want to build this. But then all of a sudden, they’re like, well, we don’t see the supply chain for it. Well, the supply chain side of it says, oh, yeah, well, we want to do this too. But we don’t see anybody signing on the dotted line yet. So we’re not going to start building this. So and that kind of ties really closely into fuel. I think especially here in America. One thing I’ve been pushing for is the nuclear fuel Security Act, which kind of restarts actually creating and producing our own uranium here domestically within the US. Right now, most of our uranium comes from Russia because of global politics and global climate and everything. Congress is considering completely stopping even the uranium trade with Russia, we kind of let that keep going for a little bit. But even that’s at risk right now. And without that, we don’t have a source of fuel for our nuclear power plants. Right. So we just have this whole chicken and egg problem, I think with the supply chain. Everybody supports nuclear behind closed doors. You know, I spent a couple weeks ago in DC I met with over a dozen congressmen and senators on both sides of the aisles. Everyone is like, Yeah, I’m all for nuclear, but nobody says it publicly. And what we need is bold leadership. We need that that first one to be built. We need that first step to be taken. People are just scared of doing that. And I think that’s something that is is one of the biggest problems I would agree completely with capital regulation and fuel as three of the main issues in terms of internally within the industry. Regulation, though, I think is sort of being solved. One other thing I’ve been pushing is the advanced act for being included in the NDAA. That’s like really relevant today. So I don’t know when this comes out. That promotes supporting our current fleet, changing the licensing process for these advanced reactors, because if we follow the same licensing process, it’s not the same technology, right? These advanced reactors are just kind of this different technology. And this is part of the reason why like SMR is with lightwater because they’re gonna have a place to start from the regulation side, to build a sensible and logical structure for the licensing process for these future SMRs have similar concepts. Right, we can start with, okay, let’s switch from a massive light water reactor to a SMR with light water. And now the next step after that is maybe a SMR with fuel, you know, or with liquid fuel? Will it

Robert Bryce  31:00  
maybe that makes the well it makes the capital problem a little less intensive, right? If it’s only it’s gonna be the BW RX three is 300 300 megawatts instead of a gigawatt, right? So there’s going to be less capital involved. And if it’s a familiar chemistry, the regulatory problems won’t be as much. And then the fuel part of that that reactor as I understand it uses low enriched uranium. So that’s already, that’s, that’s the common fuel now, so we won’t have to get Halo or something else to make that work. Right. So right, so I can see that argument. And but there’s going to be, I think there are gonna be a lot of companies that are going to try and push their reactor across the finish line, and they’re going to go and have to go away, because I don’t I mean, we’ll I’ll put it to you. Yeah, we can we can license and commercialize at scale more than one kind of reactor, or should we just be focusing on one?

Grace Stanke  31:47  
Yeah, so this is an interesting question that I’ve thought a lot about. So globally, right now SMRs, we have about 80 different startup companies that are designing these SMRs? And many, is it yeah, really, it’s, it’s actually it’s a decent amount, there’s a lot of people that are doing it. So there’s a good amount of global presence and interest in SMRs. Now, if we have 80 of these all go through this process of licensing and say they do all get the funding for building a commercial reactor, well, now you have this workforce that’s, you know, going through at different designs and learning at different things, which is good from a learning standpoint, but not very functional in terms of changing the entire energy grid, you know. So honestly, I think when you take that ad, it’s going to have to get narrowed down to I think about five of them will make it through this licensing process in a sensible manner, in a logical manner. And then from there, it’s going to come down to that supply chain issue, you know, who’s going to be able to build that factory to develop these SMRs? Because that’s, that’s the strongest argument about

Robert Bryce  32:47  
and who’s gonna have enough capital to stay in that game? Right. And so, I think it was just in the last few days. TerraPower has said, Oh, we’re in for the long haul. Well, they have Bill Gates behind them, right, which is a big advantage, right? Yeah. Let me take a quick station break. My guest is Grace Stankey. She is Miss America 2023. You can follow her on Instagram, at Grace dot Stankey. That’s S T A N ke she is also on Twitter, at Grace underscore stanky. And since we’re doing a station break here at Grace, we talked about what’s your call to action besides following you on Instagram and on Twitter, you want to you want to cause trouble at the dinner table over the holidays? Is this? What? Yeah, how do we found how did you? How did we ended up formulating that before we came on the show before we started recording was challenge your family over dinner? Or getting? Get they’re getting their nuclear face over the turkey or whatever? How do you? How do you How would you? What’s the question? If your Uncle Jim is there and he’s gonna you know, he’s very smug about whatever he thinks he knows. How do you challenge Uncle Jim or cousin Billy or whoever over the dinner table?

Grace Stanke  33:53  
Yeah, you know, I think the biggest thing is making sure that this conversation is happening. Most Americans do not know where their electricity comes from. They just pay the utility bill at the end of the month. And that’s it. It’s just another thing on the to do list, right? I don’t think they have a voice or a say in this matter, or they don’t think they have the ability to cause change of their utility bill at the end of the month. But we actually can. I’m a firm believer that public public perception fuels policy, right? Your Congressman, your senators, they represent you, they represent your community. And when your community says, Hey, we do want a nuclear power plant in our backyard, we want strong, reliable energy. We want emissions free energy, we want high paying jobs in the community. And we want millions of tax dollars because we want our roads fix that pothole out in the front yard. It’s annoying, right Uncle Jim? You know, and that sort of thing. I think finding a way to bring it into that home base and have that conversation. Realize that you do have a say in this even though it is a million billion dollar industry. It’s something that the American people do have a voice in it. And I think that’s incredible to make sure that that conversation is happy. running internally to spark that curiosity to learn more is what I always say, you know, my goal is to make the one connection that hopefully is like I like to say the neutron that starts the fission chain reaction, you know, have that one conversation all of a sudden,

Robert Bryce  35:14  
say that again, you want to, you want to be the neutron, the Jimmy Neutron, you want to be the neutron that that spurs the chain reaction?

Grace Stanke  35:22  
Yeah, I gotta, I gotta have a fission. It wouldn’t be a podcast if I didn’t have a nuclear pun in here, right. But honestly, though, it takes just one conversation. And honestly, that’s what I’ve learned in DC is it’s in terms of the advocacy on the politics side of things, it takes just one conversation, one young person going up there and saying, This is what we want, this is what we care about. And this is what I want to see. Right. And that’s not even a young person think that’s just entire communities have the ability to make that statement to be that bold leadership that I talked about. We need bold leadership, but and it can be honestly from anyone it can be from a company making that capital investment, it can be from politicians making that statement, but it can also be us as the American people.

Robert Bryce  36:08  
Well, so what I’ve heard you say before, particularly when you talked about schools, right? That is so if I’m going to feed back to you what I’m hearing you say it’s that you’re and you’re trying to capitalize this, and you have a platform, not very many people do, right? They’re only 94 Other Miss America’s I think you’re the 95th winner, right? Correct? Yeah, I mean, you’re using the bully pulpit, and you’re saying what I’m hearing is we need to do this education at the school level, which I think is very clearly missing, we don’t have in terms of particularly in the grade school level, that fun and accessible understanding of nuclear, those are the words you use, but it’s also at the within families, it’s within the broader cultural, broader society. So am I right to think that you’re you want to catalyze this change in the conversation? Are you hoping that that’s one of your hopes? Is that Is that a fair read of what you’re talking about here? Yeah,

Grace Stanke  36:57  
I would say broadly, you know, my, my main mission as Miss America is to change the public perception of nuclear energy, right? It’s to help America transition into the zero carbon energy portfolio that is being pushed. And I think the only way to sensibly do that from a baseload energy perspective, we need nuclear, and we need hydro to make up that baseload energy, right. And we need to start building nuclear today. So that education doesn’t just stop at elementary and middle and high school levels. That is primarily to ensure that we have the workforce to fill the needs of the United States nuclear sector, right. They just announced, actually, the United States, DOD announced that they are they want to triple nuclear energy’s capacity within the United States by 2050. Right, that’s a lot. That’s a lot like and we don’t have the workforce right now to support that. So that comes to educating high schoolers of today to make sure they are working in this industry tomorrow. Now, however, we need the support everywhere today, you know, I have this this story that I tell in my speeches, about how I had my misconceptions about people proved wrong for a while I didn’t talk to the older generation, like I’m gonna be straight up, I just was like, you know, what, y’all aren’t going to be around in 2050. So why should I do it? Like, I’m gonna say very candidly, and very directly. So I was like, Why should I bother trying to convince these people of, of supporting nuclear energy, and I went through, you know, you went to Capitol Hill and realize they’re all old people. Exactly, honestly. But that’s, that’s kind of how the story ends is I’m the people that are in office today that are making these decisions for 2050. They’re not going to be around in 2050. But we need that support today. Because this has to happen on this timeline, in order to make sense in order to be logical, and in order to actually help like, fight climate change, right. So that’s something that I think is so so important, where we’re including all generations at the table, that’s something I’ve learned throughout this year. And throughout my you know, whopping 21 years of wisdom that I have, I have a lot of learning left to do in my life. I want to say what I say is not the end all be all. But I think that I think it’s been incredible, because I’ve been a 21 year old student sitting at these international tables in Vienna, in London, in Paris, in Tokyo and all of these places. And we got to make sure we have that workforce development when we are building these power plants. And that’s where the education for me at the high school level and below comes in. But it also needs to just start happening today. Because if we have this massive increase in workforce, we got to have the plants to employ them at as well.

Robert Bryce  39:30  
Well, look, I’m you’ve made me a fan. I gotta tell you I mean just how you use the Miss America. Well, the tiara, I guess that is MTR Right? Was that what they call? Fun

Grace Stanke  39:41  
fact it’s a crown. So I didn’t know this until like six to my year. There’s a difference between a tiara and a crown. I did not know that. Don’t worry, it’s not like a common knowledge thing but crown is like full circle. So the Miss America crown is full circle. I like to say it’s more reminiscent of a king’s crown versus a queen’s crown. which I think is cool, because I’m all about like power is what I say with energy and electricity. It’s also power. That kind of represents a little bit more powerful. So yeah, it’s cool. And a tiara is not full all the way around. It’s

Robert Bryce  40:12  
just like, Okay, well, good. I know. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. I

Grace Stanke  40:14  
learned something new today. Like I said, it was like six months into my year as Miss America to

Robert Bryce  40:19  
us, but to use that use the crown as a way to you, because you could open doors and that in. And I also found this quote that you said, What’s wrong with nuclear energy was never wrong. And this is the line that I really like. It was a brilliant, brilliant gift that we turned our back on. And I think that that, you know, that is I’ve thought about this, and I’ve written about it, you know, why is there this? This opposition, right, what is this? The broadly, there’s an opposition among essentially, all of the climate focused NGOs in America, the Sierra Club, the natural resource, Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, they all make these excuses. They’re all anti nuclear, or at least they won’t talk about it won’t promote it. Instead, they promote this, this Mirage around renewable energy. But think that the way you can get a brilliant gift, I think that’s ready. And we turned our back on it was let me ask you a philosophical question. But is it something about this idea that the technology was too good, almost, that we couldn’t as, as a humans that was like, Well, this is just too good for us or something? Right, that there’s a lot of that’s been written about this about the ideas around technology and so on. But why did we turn our back on it?

Grace Stanke  41:31  
Ah, Have you have you seen Oliver Stones nuclear now? I’m

Robert Bryce  41:36  
very familiar with it. I have actually not watched it, but I’ve Yes, but anyway, I’m going Yeah, yeah, that’s okay. So I’m making my own documentary on nuclear. And so I haven’t been kind of fully employed. But

Grace Stanke  41:47  
that’s awesome. Oh, that’s so cool. That’s awesome. Um, so I, I think that they addressed this issue in it, keep in mind, it’s in a very Hollywood manner, why nuclear was stopped. Because you know, what, in the 70s and 80s, when nuclear power plants were first created, people were like, great, by 2010. America’s gonna be powered 80% by nuclear, like, this is the future, this is what’s going to happen. So what happened in between there? And honestly, I, for me, personally, my experience my opinion, I think it’s just, that’s, that’s what this is how capitalism works, right? That built competition that threatened other energy industries, and all of a sudden, that led to all sorts of different things happening. And, you know, I think that’s just competition between today between multiple different industries, because it’s funny, because I talked about energy. And I talked about this transition to zero carbon. I have all these people, all these anti nuclear people that are on Twitter that are always like commenting, and all of that stuff. They’re like, Oh, wind and solar is the way to go. I’m like, you know, I support wind and solar as well, right? Like I am all for it. I’m support even using fossil fuels. If we can figure out carbon capture and figure out an effective way to use that, I think there will always be a certain portion of the population in America that will need fossil fuels. You know, think about remote areas in Alaska, where a miniature reactors still won’t even make sense. So a fossil fuels will always make some sense for some area. Now, I want to see that minimize, though, in my personal opinion, in my ideal energy portfolio, but I think that, you know, we turned our back just because there was that fear, that lack of knowledge of radiation of all of that stuff. I also think it’s it was tough for nuclear as an industry as a whole to overcome that that brutal first impression that we had on the world because the world’s first introduction to nuclear science was killing millions

Robert Bryce  43:31  
was the bomb was the bomb. Yes.

Grace Stanke  43:32  
Yeah. Exactly.

Robert Bryce  43:34  
And the specter of that still in the specter of that is still the proliferation I claims still are ones that are brought up around the nuclear energy sector. But let me let me I’m interrupting. That’s what I do. I’m a podcaster. I interrupt a lot. But but the you said that part about the competition. And that’s been an issue that I think is really important. We’ve talked about Congress and policy, is government just simply going to have to take a bigger role here. And one of the ideas that I’ve heard lately is that the DOD, the military is going to have to lead on this because the private sector, you talked about competition earlier, right? Nuclear is a different animal, right? It’s a different beast, in terms of, you know, you can’t just let anybody decide they’re going to build a nuclear, it requires a lot of regulation requires a lot of government involvement, is government is going to have to finally just say, whatever they whatever it is, the DoD or someone else, we’re just going to have to build them like the Tennessee Valley Authority or some governmental entity is going to have to take the lead. Does that does that ring true to you?

Grace Stanke  44:29  
i So when you look at globally, the successful countries, when you look at things like France, where it’s 80% 90% nuclear powered, the government does play a major role now in America, we have a

Robert Bryce  44:41  
very same in Russia, same in China, same South Korea.

Grace Stanke  44:43  
Exactly, exactly. It’s a very, very the successful countries right now, they are government backed. Now here in America, I think it could go multiple ways. I agree with the DoD taking the lead. You know, I think it’s funny because SMR is right now everybody’s like, this is News. Technology and it is to the commercial field. But what powers submarines, and that’s been around for 40 years. It was reactors like that’s that’s exactly what was powering submarines and these aircraft carriers with DoD applications. I think the DOD has so much science and like maybe this is conspiracy theory level stuff, but I think they have so much knowledge and scientific stuff going on that like is at least a century ahead of the commercial world. Just like thinking about drones, I had a family friend that he worked at the Alaska airbase and drones had been around since like the 80s. And now it’s now just as sort of being integrated into the commercial world, right, where people are using it for all sorts of different stuff here. But it’s something that I think the DoD will definitely take the lead on that I think they already have, you know, they have project Pele going on, which is a reactor that fits inside of a shipping container to power military bases for the army, their Air Force Base in Alaska, they contracted with Oklo, a company that’s doing more micro reactor sighs I would say.

Robert Bryce  46:00  
And that was just a couple that was just a couple of months ago. By the way, I’m glad you mentioned Pele, because I haven’t looked at that very closely, isn’t it? What’s the output on that? Do you know that? Is it like 500 kilowatts is a megawatt? How big is that reactor?

Grace Stanke  46:11  
I don’t know. I don’t know exactly what the output is. The biggest thing is they just needed it to power an army camp and they wanted it to be able to be picked up and literally just sitting on a truck at any point in time. And

Robert Bryce  46:23  
so the chemistry Do you know the chemistry and then I should look it up, I should probably know this, they’re using

Grace Stanke  46:28  
they’re using trisul fuel, I know that much where they’re using a new type of fuel where it’s little instead of pellets. So you know, pellets right now are currently about the size of your top knuckle knuckle of your pinky, but they’re using sort of it looks more like shot actually, is what I would say like I grew up doing sporting clays and all of that stuff. And it looks very similar to just like the little pellets of shot for a shotgun shell. But it’s its little spheres of, of nuclear fuel surrounded by a cladding. And that’s what they’re using in that sort of technology. So it is a different process. It’s going to have to go probably through a different regulation system and everything but I think it’s very, very possible.

Robert Bryce  47:08  
Well try so is what That’s right. That’s Hey, Lou, actually inside there. That’s the same fuel that x energy is using or planning to use in their in their design. Yeah, well, we’ll have to follow up and project Pele. So pretty cool. Yeah, it is cool. So what’s the hardest part of being Miss America?

Grace Stanke  47:28  
Oh, one thing that people don’t know. So I this is a very travel heavy job. And it’s a very isolating job because of that. I typically am traveling alone. I don’t get to see my family. I was gone. You know, historically, Miss America only went home for Christmas and Easter. Thankfully, I’m in my parents house right now. I have that’s

Robert Bryce  47:49  
in Warsaw. Yes,

Grace Stanke  47:50  

Robert Bryce  47:51  
Well as your hometown, right, yeah, exactly.

Grace Stanke  47:53  
Yes. So it is a different circumstance where after COVID, that changed things, I also pushed heavily for a Healthier Work life balance for the role of Miss America, and it to me, if I was working for three weeks, then I should have four days off, you know, that’s just kind of like a little bit more of a Healthier Work life balance there. And I it’s a very isolating job because of that, you know, it’s a smaller organization than people think we have about seven people employed at the national level. So it’s not a massive company, that you have all of these resources. It’s a pretty small company, which for me, that’s a big change going from working in the nuclear industry, where there’s schedules, there’s all sorts of different resources, there’s all sorts of different individuals to reach out to. Within this, it’s, that’s that’s not the case. So I’ve got to be ready for anything in terms of flexibility. I’ve had it where I walk into appearances, and I was supposed to be there on my schedule, I had, oh, I’m socializing and mingling at the Kentucky Derby for four hours or something like that. And then I walk in and they’re like, oh, no, you’re our keynote speaker for an hour and I’m like, Oh, that’s fun. It’s a lot of flexibility and adaptability and being comfortable with with that isolation almost so that’s something that you know, I’ve been able to utilize social media and all of that to stay in touch with family with friends and everyone along those

Robert Bryce  49:10  
but so if I was going to read it back to just being on the go all the time that that wears you out, let me ask you something else because you know, I have not interviewed Miss America before and you know, I think about the long ask the question directly or beauty you’ve done beauty pageants I guess for now 10 years more than this for much of your life. Are they an anachronism? I mean, it’s you know, I don’t and I asked that respectfully, because it’s just, that’s okay. Today’s world it seems like you know, oh, there is a Miss America there is a Miss USA that there’s, you know, a different kind of vibe in the culture now about you know, women in culture and women in society and objectification all. Are they an anachronism? How do you think about that?

Grace Stanke  49:51  
Yeah, so for me personally, I never competed in swimsuit. I never competed. The scoring criteria for when I competed at Miss America. I was never judged on my physique. Nobody. Now I will say I am a more traditional look, I’m not the most beautiful woman in America, but I am 511 I’m skinny, I have blonde hair, right? Like, I’m a little bit more of that traditional look of what you can expect. But I’m by no means the most beautiful woman in America. The reason I got involved in the Miss America organization is one, it’s a scholarship organization. I’ve earned almost $70,000, towards my education from competing. So my Bachelor’s is entirely paid for and a master’s degree as well if I wanted to go and get a master’s. So that’s an option that’s on the table. The second major thing

Robert Bryce  50:32  
you plug in in ribs for the Masters is pre is pre paid, then if you decide to go back,

Grace Stanke  50:36  
when I have I have like a cash scholarship. It’s not like I didn’t walk out with a briefcase full of cash

Robert Bryce  50:41  
was my second question. It was $50,000. So you that 50,000 in cash. You can’t you could if you wanted to go back to school to school, you could use it for that. Or you could buy a BMW, if you want to do it, I guess no,

Grace Stanke  50:52  
I cannot I cannot buy a BMW is only applicable to tuition statements only. So it’s like any other scholarship, right? It’s just available for a certain period of time. So I think I’ve got like two or three years here to decide if I want to do a master’s and to use that money. So they, they the organization keeps it I request a X amount of dollars, and then they mail a check to the university. So it’s it’s not I have never held that much money in my entire life. But it is something that you know, scholarships were a big part of it. Additionally, in high school, I was a very driven individual. I, you know, I pushed myself like academically by the time I was 17, I graduated high school, I had the equivalent of an associate’s degree in college credits. When I went into UW Madison I had, I had about 72 college credits already built up, I pushed myself academically, I pushed myself with my violin, I was winning some national awards, I was regional awards, all of that stuff. I was starting to get into waterskiing competitively, where I ended up doing that division one in college, right. And so I was a very driven individual. Because of that, I didn’t really find that I had a social circle. I felt good in in high school. You know, I had friends I had people that I spent time with, but I never really felt like they were people I actually wanted to spend the rest of my life with which there’s a couple but I guess I didn’t have that social setting. And that social experience that most people did in high school going to compete at the Miss Wisconsin competition. You know, just at the state level, I was with a bunch of other women who it was cool to be kind. It was cool to be driven. It was cool to be ambitious. It was cool to be successful, it was cool to genuinely 100 support each other and cheer each other on. I have met a lot of friends that I am so thankful for. I’m headed to one of my best friend’s wedding at the end of this year. She is actually my first runner up for Miss Wisconsin. And she’s been such a valuable friend to me. I’m going to Paris with my Miss Vermont. Next week, actually, for an appearance,

Robert Bryce  52:50  
a sisterhood of magic contestants, then I guess. Yeah, way to think about it. That’s, well, I hadn’t thought about that. Because sometimes I will, how many pageant competitions I’ve watched, but you know, they hugging and afterwards and I’m wondering if they’re actually the women who aren’t winning or going to work? You

Grace Stanke  53:07  
know, you know, okay. Yeah, so I’m gonna be straight up with you, because I Miss America does push this whole, like sisterhood initiative. However, I’m just going to say you put me in a room with 50 other women, I will be best friends with some I will not be best friends with all of them. And I think that’s completely okay to say, well, you know, just in terms of different people, you’re not going to be best friends with all of them. But you know what I respect each and every one of them. I know, no matter who it is, like, No, I’m not best friends with all of them. But I know I can give them a call. And they would be willing to help me with whatever, whoever whatever skills they have whatever they can offer, like, I know that they would help me out in a circumstance that I needed, which I think is really awesome. But overall, it taught me some really great communication skills. I think that you don’t learn in an engineering degree. I think it actually helps promote my professionalism more in a way where I have now had this launchpad for my career where, you know, I had this opportunity with constellation, where when I was talking about jobs, I could have done just Core Design Engineering. But I wanted to also continue the advocacy work. Now there’s not many 21 year olds that have this opportunity to say, you know, I like core designing. But can we work in this into the job description as well, that’s not a common thing that happens with entry level engineers to kind of pick your own occupant pick your own jobs. Right. And so I’m really, really thankful for that where it was a launchpad for my career and building this platform of different demographics of people. Because social media, typically you build this echo chamber, right? This is branching out where I’m talking about nuclear, not just to nuclear people, I’m talking about nuclear to the broader general America.

Robert Bryce  54:48  
Sure. So I know from I live in Austin, and graduates in petroleum engineering, I know from UT Austin with an undergrad degree are getting, you know, starting salaries $120,000 Or so it was what’s was starting pay for a nuclear engineering roughly in those numbers off the top of your head? Yeah,

Grace Stanke  55:05  
I would say I would say on average entry levels, anywhere between 70 and 100, depending on where you’re at, it goes up very, very quickly. So the position I was looking at prior to Miss America, I was going to be on track to be at I think, like 180, within 10 years of working. So and that’s like, if I just stuck with engineering, I didn’t really, you know, do anything crazy outside the box, I just went up through the engineering advancement track.

Robert Bryce  55:30  
So that’s a good wage. Yeah, it’s a very,

Grace Stanke  55:34  
very good wage on I like to always when I go to high schoolers, and I talk to high schoolers, you know, talking about the trades work, you get Nuclear Grade welding certificates and everything you’re getting paid 250 Like, it’s insane. The amount of money that there is in the trades work for nuclear, just because that is such a high demand industry, and it requires a high level of skill. So honestly, if I, you know, when I talk to people that are like, Hey, I don’t really want to pay for a four year degree, or I don’t want to go through the typical college process. I’m like, go into trades work, get that Nuclear Grade certificates, and you’re gonna get a double what somebody who did get a four year degree is gonna be an idiot. Be a welder

Robert Bryce  56:10  
be an electrician. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, so we’re coming up on about an hour and again, my guest is grace, stinky. She is Miss America. 2023. She’s on Twitter at Grace underscore Stankey. She’s on Instagram at Grace dot Stankey. I always ask people to introduce themselves grace. And I always ask them a two final questions. What are you reading? I know you’re busy. And you’re traveling a lot. But I’m from my, I’m guessing that you’ve said you’re driven. I’m imagining that you read a few books and find time for that. What are you reading these days? Yeah, I

Grace Stanke  56:42  
love reading books on the airplanes. That’s one of my favorite things during the boarding process. Right now. On a Kindle e reader. Oh, so I like physical books. I’m a physical book person, because I also my eyes have gotten really strained from screen time and everything. So I got lots of eye problems. I’m an old lady on that front where my eyes are. So

Robert Bryce  57:01  
I’m an old man, you’re still a young lady. You’re Go ahead. But what are you reading?

Grace Stanke  57:07  
I’m reading ask more of the power of questions. I don’t know the author off the top my head, I would have to double check. It’s a former CNN journalist though. And it’s really fascinating because one of the best things that I’ve learned this year as Miss America is sometimes it’s better to just shut up and listen, right? Not everything that I have to say needs to be said like, sometimes it’s better to just sit down and listen to the people I’m working with which you know, when I talked about how I approach most situations, most of the time, I just get to know the person first. That’s what I start with. And this book is really about sort of different approaches to use questions as tools to also deliver a point in a different manner than making a statement, right? Helping other people come to a conclusion without saying the conclusion explicitly. So I really like it. It’s funny, because I used to make fun of my dad for reading all of these like leadership books and professional development books. And now here I am, I’m like, Oh, wow, this is really come full circle housing it.

Robert Bryce  58:01  
We become our parents, whether we like it or not. My last question, what gives you hope,

Grace Stanke  58:06  
gives me hope, looking at looking at kids today, you know, I think that there’s a lot in the future. And this makes me sound so old. But I’m just like, it’s so exciting to go in to these high schools and to go into these middle schools and elementary schools and talk about not even just nuclear science, but to watch kids find their passions and watch that excitement really get there. You know, watch them say, yeah, I really want to do this for the rest of my life, I can totally see working in politics, because I’m angry about how politics are today, I want to fix this, I want to do better, I want to do good with humanity and, and just make a better place. You know, even if it is just one person. It’s so awesome to see that change happen. And I really, that gives me so much hope. Because I know so many people out there in the world want to do good. I know there’s that compassion that trust that blind faith in each other. And I feel like as Miss America, I really get to experience that firsthand. I was walking through an airport. And someone recognized me and listen, I don’t look like Miss America when I’m going on the airplanes and everything. And they were like, Hey, are you grace? And I’m like, Oh, are you a stalker or a follower? Because there’s a difference. Like there’s a difference here. Obviously, I didn’t ask that. But this woman comes up to me and she’s like, Hey, can I tell you a story? And I’m like, oh, yeah, sure. I’m like, Listen, I’m in a rush. Do you mind walking with me? I gotta get to my gate. And she walked with me. And she told me this story about how her brother passed away from a drunk driving accident and how she really wants this to be shared and how, if you’re drinking, put the keys down, put them away, don’t don’t even have them in your hand. Like all of these sorts of incredible messages that I’ve had so many experiences like that, where this woman did not know me. She’s never met me before. She saw me in an airport when I’m in a rush and like, obviously not looking like Miss America and everything. And she still took the time to just put that blind trust in me and trust me with something so vulnerable and so deep. And I think that that’s incredible. You know, we see that connection, we see that passion and we see that trust in people and that needs to be highlighted more. That was a very long answer for like a quick question, but I feel like it was it was a very deep question.

Robert Bryce  1:00:11  
Well, I think that’s a good place to stop though. That’s great. My guest again, it’s been great. Stanky Miss America 2023. I love her line that nuclear is a brilliant, brilliant gift that we’ve turned our back on and we need to turn back toward it. We’re in full agreement on that. Great, thanks a million for coming on the power hungry podcast. It’s been fun.

Grace Stanke  1:00:32  
Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Robert Bryce  1:00:34  
And thanks to all of you out there in podcast land for tuning into this episode of the power hungry podcast until next time, see you

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