Hügo Krüger is a South African-born civil engineer, podcaster, and writer, who is now working in Paris. In this episode, Krüger talks about green colonialism, the collapse of Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned utility, how South Africa modeled its electricity system on the New Deal, and why his home country needs to burn more coal. (Recorded July 21, 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 my new friend Hugo Krueger who in Afrikaans you pronounce II. Sorry, I messed it up already. You almost got it. Yeah. You her Creator in Afrikaans. He is a civil engineer living in Paris. He’s a South African. He is a member of the truth and Energy Coalition in South Africa. Hugo, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Hügo Krüger 0:36
Well, Robert, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Robert Bryce 0:39
Now, we talked for a minute, I warned you that guests introduce themselves, you have a long background, you’re a nuclear engineer. But imagine you don’t know anyone at a party you’ve just arrived. You have a 60 seconds or so please introduce yourself.
Hügo Krüger 0:52
So generally, engineers don’t talk about a job at a party because that’s tends to put up all the other guests. But yes, I am. My background is in nuclear civil engineering. So I’m a civil engineer. I worked in South Africa originally, I grew up with a from Pretoria originally. And then I worked in Johannesburg for two year full of Ford, she was a maintenance company. So it’s abandoned concrete construction. That’s where we can alternative green cements, we realize that stuff’s not going to fly. And then I came to Paris on a scholarship to do my master’s in civil nuclear engineering. Since then, I worked in include point C, which is the UK, that project that is nuclear industry doesn’t talk about, it’s like having a brother in jail with the price. And then I worked on Etihad international fusion reactor in the south of Paris at Qatar rush, okay, which is an incredible project. Lots of scientists love that project. And then I’ve since then been since 2019, been employed in the oil and gas industry where I work for utility companies that construct the infrastructure, basically, for the oil and gas. So we’ve had big contractors with BP, for example, and with Eni, the Italian oil company, things of that sort. So they are really got to learn about geopolitics, and just energy in general. I mean, oil and gas industry teach us so much about energy. And there’s a possibility that I might even go back to nuclear in the future depends which would happen. That’s that’s sort of my career wise. In addition to that, we have a mutual friend in Joel Kotkin who wrote that awesome book, the coming of new feudalism. Just before he wrote that book, I saw articles of immediate action city planning, and that’s also related to civil engineering. And so I got in touch with Joel, because he wrote a book on the history of cities, which is just remarkable knowledge of man has. And since then, even I’ve been collaborating, writing and criticizing government policies, and what we would call elite ideologies, sort of Marxist analysis of the world is saying elites have gone nuts over US energy policy in particular, but it’s not just energy has other policies like spatial planning, as well. But I think the focus of this podcast will be the the energy policies going off the rails, and hopefully we can get into, you know, it’s a report I did with the truth and Energy Foundation in South Africa, on just the these type of policies in effect on the third world, because it does not get enough coverage in the United States.
Robert Bryce 3:01
Yep. Well, so that was longer than 60 seconds, by the way, but we won’t, we will no penalty involved here. So that’s okay. You’re living in Paris now. But I want to start with and you’re also married, I just You introduced me to Miriam, your wife. She’s from Iran. And you were recently in Iran. And I want to talk about that as well. But let’s start with South Africa. I’ve only been there once. So I don’t know that. You know, I know just a little bit and I spent nearly the entire time in Johannesburg. But the grid the electricity system in Johannesburg, or I’m sorry, in South Africa is in total mess. In February, the outgoing CEO Andre De Reuter vest, comm alleged corruption within the utility. But what is the situation now the blackouts in earlier this year? Were 568 10 hours a day? Are the blackout still that bad? What what is going on an S calm? And why do we care about that now what’s going on?
Hügo Krüger 3:59
So I’m going to say something you say which is how long do you have?
Robert Bryce 4:04
Only an hour, my friend?
Hügo Krüger 4:06
Okay, so let’s start with these three. You cannot talk about South Africa for understanding the history. It’s complex like the United States. We also had segregation, but we were infamous for it, it was called apartheid. Okay, and that ended in more or less 1994. It was actually ending before that, because there were negotiations behind the scenes, but officially 99 to get forward in it with the role of Nelson Mandela inauguration, the rainbow nation. Now a school during the apartheid years, it’s very important to understand that history was used as a geopolitical tool to settle conflicts between various groups in the country. South Africa is 11 languages. We have multiple tribes. Lots of people have different origins, even the white population if I can use that language as two groups principally the the English and Afrikaners, and the apartheid regime, the principle of divide and rule, but it also had a strange principle of forcing groups into cooperation. And what it did is try and plan and put its national infrastructure all over the place. Andrew, so give you an example of cooperative planning through civil engineering of South African suit to the cities that small, independent country in South Africa. It’s the largest country inside of a country in the world, and supplies most of Johannesburg’s water, for example. It’s the battery of South Africa, if the Situ turns off the taps tomorrow, South Africa dies, okay, it’s national strategic asset. So what are your partner to achieve at a time that is we made a cooperative agreement with the suit and we said, Okay, you guys give us the water, we send you the lights. So downstream of the suicide, electric dam, we supply the lights and they supply a water. So it’s a policy of deterrence, because based on the philosophy of a Frenchman by the name of Andre Wolfram Bofur, was the general of Holland, France or northeast of France being defeated after the Second World War, we see the collapse of France was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the collapse of the French army. It was the greatest disaster of the 20th century, because of our French army collapse, you wouldn’t have had all of of course, that was a statement, right. And anyways, he then became a master in strategic planning, which he came with a policy of total onslaught. Okay, the grand strategy. So South Africa’s electricity system during the apartheid years, was planned with executing the colonial ideology, if you can put it that way. So we put electricity all over the country, we gave goodies, we have an agreement for Kabara. Boss, we have to pay the tribes in Maputo longer the problems of the coal, they live on the coal fields today. So you can stand this is a very complicated system that was set up. But then an economist would look at this and say, but what about cost and efficiency? Right? What happens when you start placing stuff like that? What’s what’s going to happen if the costs, okay, so if
Robert Bryce 6:34
I can just interject for people that I just looked this up to make sure. So just for some, for some context, South Africa has a population of about 59 million people, arguably the most prosperous country in Sub Saharan Africa, I think I can say that without
Hügo Krüger 6:49
we only have we have 40% of Africa’s energy. Okay. So from that we have the economy,
Robert Bryce 6:53
per capita electricity uses about 3700 kilowatt hours. That’s per capita per year, that’s very high number for Africa as a continent, and about 90% of South Africans, according to the World Bank have access to electricity. So again, arguably the most prosperous country in Sub Saharan Africa, but still massive problems that are reflected I guess, just I want to interject that because of what this very tribal country, right that is divided has these divisions geographically, ethnically, etc, that are still pervasive today. Is that fair to say?
Hügo Krüger 7:27
It’s fair to say, although the urbanization like in the United States and elsewhere sort of made tribal and linguistical identity a little bit secondary, it’s still there. But but you know, as people urbanize, we tend to have a cosmopolitan identity as well. So it’s a mix between tribal Africa, and then what you would say, Europe or North America, if you go to Cape Town, Johannesburg, you think you in New York, for example, right? Yeah. But but as soon as you leave that very quickly, you into console. This is the mixed picture unity for South Africa. First of all, before you propose any solutions. In addition to this, during the apartheid era, as Eskom was allowed to set its own tariff, it was run as an NGO, but NGO in the true sense of the word that doesn’t make profit. Good old utility. Okay, so theoretically, the tariff could only recover the cost. And this worked very well. In those days, of course, it was limited to the white population. But the apartheid government could not control all the groups all the time. So they had to actually bring development to some groups. Okay. Fast forward to Nelson Mandela becoming the president. He by and large, kept the same policies going because he didn’t want to rock the boat. He was just caring about human development of stuff. So Eskom was given a mandate and duty to keep on expanding. And that’s why those good stories of electricity, Mandela came into power, saying everyone will have a house and everyone have electricity. And by and large, that is the promise that the ANC has delivered. Okay. The rainbow nation has delivered on electricity for everyone. That was a priority of Nelson Mandela. But they were
Robert Bryce 8:48
promised aid and you said ANC, the African National Congress, Congress, and they still are today. This was Mandela’s. This was Mandela’s political party.
Hügo Krüger 8:56
That’s correct. Yeah. They made that commitment and the the government by and large, delivered on full electrification and they still areas that lacks but I give one credit to the South African government, it’s full electrification and almost full housing. For all every one check we built, okay, in South Africa, we built in houses, okay, which is an incredible level of development that took place in a short period of time. But here’s the problem. Okay. 1998. The government then after, I think it was Tom Baker, it was the president who took over from Mandela. Mandela was only a first and a one term president. He refused to take a second time because he said, That’s what all African leaders do. He wants to make an example that you need to have a change of power. And that is why South Africa is one of the few countries on the African continent as a constant change of presidency. Okay, because he set the example so it was a good leader, even for the future. He saw what dictators did, but the prisoner took over was a toggle became awake. He was an economist. He was highly influenced by the Chicago School of Economics, free markets, everybody thinks are the sorts and he wanted to deregulate the electricity market and he had a minister of enterprises by the name of ALEC One at a time. And this minister came with the idea that we’re going to not expand South Africa’s electricity supply because the private sector would do it. Okay, that was his argument. He said, We want to deregulate the electricity system in the private sector, we do it. At the same time, the government already impose conditions on Eskom to supply electricity to people who did not have jobs. So you’re putting a utility in a very difficult situation where you’re not allowing supply, you’re increasing demand, okay. And on top of that, he came in with the idea and this is the worst policy in post post apartheid South Africa, my view of having a regulating board that would price fix it, a regulator could set the price, it’s not really free market, okay. And that price was forcing Eskom to sell at lower tariffs to the mines, okay, and at the fixture to the consumers, and it could not recover its costs while the government forced it to increase supply or to increase access to the grid, okay to increase access to houses.
Robert Bryce 11:00
So so. So let me interrupt because what I’ve heard you say so there was idea, oh, we’re going to deregulate the utility, but they’re going to set fixed prices, this is like this is a fundamental conflict, right. So is that that’s the key background from which we should look at Eskom today because you mentioned as well before we started talking or emails exchanges in the last few weeks that Escom was kind of developed in on the model of the American cooperative system, the American Electric Co Op system. The first priority for the coops in America is low cost, right? They’re the people are the owners of the system. And they’re and Eskom is a state owned utility.
Hügo Krüger 11:40
So it’s not just on a model, we took the New Deal. Our first director of Eskom was a man by the name of Andrew from their bio he studied he worked for General Electric and he studied in the United States. We were inspired by the New Deal. Okay, we South Africa developed through the New Deal. It was a New Deal type of utility, Southwest Transnet, our elite our railways, and we were inspired by the United States of America. Okay, that is the first it’s one of the first applications of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Our water resource management framework came from the Tennessee Valley Authority. Okay, it was the inspiration it was the inspiration for South Africa. So it okay there is no apartheid history. Okay, but you filtered it down now this price fixing thing is this This is so stupid. I can’t believe I took me such a long time to figure it out my first idiotic So anyway, this car came for price fixing. And he said the market will do it. Eskom then went to government and said in 1998 You guys need to be careful. Our projections say populations kind of doubled by 2008. And you guys need to add more. You need to build more reactors more coal power stations immediately 1998 What administer private enterprise IT the market will do it. What are the free markets say that tariff is too low for competition? Well, we’re not going to come in. Right? So you end up with half a monopoly a regulated body and a pretension of a free market. Okay. And that’s what South Africa is. Then about. 2008 is a CEO Jacob Morocco, I’ll introduce you to him who is the CEO of Eskom. He can come in and speak in more detail when I’m speaking to him on Sunday on my channel. And he basically was one of the first guys who said, Well, we’re just going to build power stations guys, because this is getting a crisis level. That’s when the rolling blackouts started 2008 Then South Africa built it to new coal power stations Madhu P and Casilla plant. But at that time, because of that decision in 1998 Eskom was told you will not build new power stations, they fired the civil engineers by the time they had to rebuild the power stations. They had one or two civil engineers left and few of them and they were just out of college. So, what happened with this coal power stations cost exploded. And since then, Escom has been accumulating depth and depth and depth. These are policies that I compare only to what was imposed by on Boris Yeltsin in 1990s. In Russia, okay. But we did it to ourselves. It wasn’t shady Bill Clinton advisors, okay. This is this is really systemic sabotage of national utility. So Eskom is being blamed. On top of that we had corruption Eskom and what they call institutional corruption called State capture. That’s what the writer cited. The writer was also not an honest person, I’ll be honest with you, because the writer fake the story that there was poison nonsense. It was an apartheid era as a security agent that the IRA to do that there was a very dodgy story. I don’t know all the history of it. But anyways, it’s just corruption, corruption, and the government needs to add supply to the grid ASAP. Okay, but you don’t just add electricity. You
Robert Bryce 14:18
have this? I mean, so. Right. Because, look, I know as you’re talking about it, you get excited and I can tell you’re, you know, there’s a mixture of outrage, fascination, fascination and discussed I guess, as well at how this key network this key system for the whole country was degraded. I like that this systemic sabotage of a national utility. But where is it today? Bring us up to speed today, if you don’t mind because I want to hear more about do you think the writers claims of corruption are overblown? Let me just address that.
Hügo Krüger 14:54
The situation is quite serious because the power station South Africa, the coal fleet, so since 2008, they’ve built new coal stations that came online. But these things because of the shady engineering and stuff is working at lower efficiencies and they should be working, but they are working relatively okay. But here’s the problem, Robert, our coal power stations were built in the 1980s. Right? This is one or two per year, they were popping them up the apartheid government at a time. What is the lifespan of a coal station? 40 something? Yes, we’re at a cold cliff edge in South Africa at the moment. It’s a frightening situation. Our efficiencies has been falling years in and year out. And South Africans are impoverished or impoverishing to the point that our own pension funds are in spending more money outside of South African and South Africa. We are in crisis. Okay. I don’t know what to say we need help. Okay, we don’t know like you admit when we need help. And we need gas. Okay, this is my argument. I don’t say it. Because I’m working on gas industry, we need the fastest electricity ASAP tomorrow on the grid. And the quickest way to get it as natural gas.
Robert Bryce 15:51
That’s interesting that you’re saying this because I mean, South Africa has enormous gas resources a lot. Unlike many other African countries,
Hügo Krüger 15:59
but don’t have the infrastructure for it. We don’t have the infrastructure built out yet. So at the moment, the base is crashes, guest ships on biologists, this is what I suggest. Even I would say solar with gas, it’s the it’s not an ideal solution. But that’s it. At the same time, this is what we’ve been arguing that rapport builds nuclear, because you need it in a decade because the the coal stations are coming to the end of their life. In a decade more will be and more will be. So built three to four nuclear power stations, South Africa has to turn into a construction site yesterday to save the economy from collapsing. Now, our cook energy consumption per person on base days, I don’t know what it is today, but it’s about the same as China. So we’re actually not that bad in terms of GDP per capita. Okay. But it’s coming to the end of its lifetime. For us to get to the United States standards of living are four times higher than us, we need to double and double again, so we need to rebuild our existing ones double and double again, right, that’s a construction site waiting to happen and our advantages, we have two thirds of all young men out of work. I’m not a Socialist or a Communist, but I’m saying we need a new deal out of his case of emergency. And that is where we’re at at the moment.
Robert Bryce 17:05
Two thirds of South African men are out of work.
Hügo Krüger 17:08
Yeah, unemployed, youth unemployment is 67%. And the median age in the country is 2425 years old. Most of them black men. So the policy is being imposed by the waist, and we’ll get into this later, is, in my view, colonial and racist. I have no other way to describe it. The idea that we cannot exploit gas and coal, we need more coal. I’ve got no other way of saying it. We’ve just saved our existing coal fleet, because of Africa, forced by the by the Paris Agreement was forced to shut down to coal power stations. Why? Because they had a little bit of higher emissions. And we were forced to do that under international agreements, which is absurd in a country that doesn’t have electricity, if you think of it. Well, and
Robert Bryce 17:43
you mentioned this in the report. The EU very recently released the truth and Energy Coalition and the Israeli lobby Freedom Foundation released a report critical of report that was released by the South African President. And I want to read part of this. You said in this report that just came out and it’s on your web or on your substack by the way, look on substack for Hugo’s newsletter, you’ll find it it’s h K h Cruger. T J i e.substack.com. And I’m going to Okay, so pronounce your name again in Afrikaans. I tried it and I
Hügo Krüger 18:21
Ill Korea, Korea, Korea, pulled on
Robert Bryce 18:26
okay. So anyway, let me let me get to this because this is on your sub stack where you your response troops and Energy Coalition and the Islamic Freedom Foundation. And this is directly on point to what you’re talking about with regard to climate change and issues around renewables. Continuous responses to climate change, concerns are driving energy policy and therefore must be rigorous, examined rigorously and tested. By all who care about where the country and climate are headed. The focus must be on enabling the country to generate the electricity it needs to create growth and real jobs. Only then can the laudable if flawed ideology of renewable energy sources take center stage. There is no debate on the enormous sums of money on the table from the industrialized west to induce developing nations, such as South Africa to abandon its wealth of natural energy resources to focus on foreign renewable energy sources. This pressure on us from international interest is in our opinion, short sighted, counterproductive and unaffordable for the foreseeable future. Although the appeal for many Paulo though, although they appeal for many politicians, industrialized nations became rich and developed on the back of coal and other fossil fuels. Now South Africa and others are being pressured to pay the price of forgoing that which these developed nations greedily consumed to become wealthy. I mean, I think, I mean, it’s a very powerfully written statement, right. I wanted to read that because it’s what you have just said, right that under Paris, your South Africa, very a wealthy country by African standards, but a poor one by the industrialized West countries, is being forced to a abandon a resource that you have in not just abundance but super abundance, your coal mines are extraordinarily resources are extraordinarily large.
Hügo Krüger 20:09
I mean, the joke of it is Germany, just political from South Africa during this last winter. I knew enough but but no, but this is what gets callous and insensitive to middle but is that the German think tanks in South Africa the worst that is they’re capturing government policy. We wrote that report German infiltration. French national security released report this week. Last week, I think it was the call to Ghana military school of economic thought, will criticize Germany’s infiltration of funding anti nuclear groups in France, they’re doing it in South Africa as well. They are actively capturing ourselves Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. And I sitting around President selling him solutions that is made in Germany, green and golden or whatever you want to call this nonsense. Okay. And I think it’s done, we put our foot down against the stuff. That’s what we’ve basically been saying that report, South Africa is enough coal resources for the world, I think for the next 200 or something years. So there’s a lot of sources, South Africa’s call center have been powered coal mines have been powering China’s rise, okay. It’s not just Australia, South African coal. South Africa’s coal fleet is one of the few fleets in the world that doesn’t use water to cool because we don’t have water on the African continent. It’s the 24th trimester was the country I’ll call fleet or a cold, that’s where our efficiencies are lower. It’s not because the underperformance because we need to call them with air equal using air is more inefficient.
Robert Bryce 21:21
That’s why you have the big cooling tower. It’s there when I was in South Africa I visited scicluna The big hole to liquids plant which you know that’s
Hügo Krüger 21:29
that’s that’s a bit different. Yeah. And we make our petrol our flow forecasts from coal that’s how much we have we one of the few countries who can do it us and I think Iran does some of that as well. Okay. The reason is, you know, we have so much coal in abundance, it’s not just electricity, remember electricity, I think is 10% of all energy or something like that. It’s our entire economy that’s being sacrificed our fly ash okay. The ash from our coal plants is so clean that it was put in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Okay, because of the power of alcohol that we will develop it. They that is what Lafarge and also it’s calling green cement. It’s not green. It’s that ash that comes from South African coal power stations, okay. And now the Europeans are bragging about how virtuous they are, and how green they are, but they denying us the technology that put them through the Industrial Revolution. And that’s where we say the hell with this nonsense. Sorry, we’re gonna burn coal. It’s no point in the discussion. We’re not going to negotiate about that.
Robert Bryce 22:20
So this is the right word mean there are many descriptions of this green colonialism, carbon colonialism, were just a new new form of colonialism. But it’s that keep Africa in the dark, too.
Hügo Krüger 22:34
I mean, I compare it to to the to the Irish Potato Famine, when Thomas Moulton believed that there was a stocking ratio is six ratio. Now they believe there’s a fixed carbon budget. Countries are different geographically, the United States is blessed with geography rivers in particular, and so is Europe. If you don’t have rivers, you will have to fall back on some other resource. And in our case, school, we also don’t have a lot of oil. Yes, we have gas reserves, but we don’t have the infrastructure yet. I that’s a failure of our government to develop the first method. We don’t have that much oil. But we have coal for oil. That’s what we have. So we have to use what is under our feet for own development. If we’re going to implement solar and wind, yes, we have a lot of sun the biggest Sun is in the Karoo desert, which is 1500 kilometres, I think, and Miles 1200 Miles is something that I felt that if bad conversion, excuse my American friends, anyways, that’s far away from a population centers, then you have to build the grid all the way out there who pays for that integration cost in a country that much unemployment, quick, cheapest solutions of Africa, the moment is called simple as that and we do it, we need to just accept it.
Robert Bryce 23:36
And so we’ll just one more quick point. So you mentioned so we’ve talked about Eskom Sasol as the other flagship company in South Africa, this is the company that is an international company, they excel in coal to liquids, the Fischer tropsch process. This koonta plant I went there a mate one of the biggest industrial facilities I’ve ever seen. I mean, it covered. I don’t know if I remember dozens of square miles. I mean, just it’s a mind mouth, coal to liquids plant, they produce something like 100 different products, everything from dynamite to gasoline, I mean from this incredibly sophisticated industrial plant that is privately held not government controlled. So let’s talk about nuclear, then. You you you were part of this report that was just published in response to the president’s report on climate change. But South Africa has some nuclear infrastructure now does it mean what you’re producing? Are you producing electricity from nuclear Now forgive me for not knowing this?
Hügo Krüger 24:31
Yeah, we so we have one pressure water reactor built by the French in the 1980s, in Coburg in Cape Town. And ironically the guys in Cape Town are the most green in South Africa most anti nuclear but they don’t know where the lights come from. Also, we
Unknown Speaker 24:46
know this sounds familiar.
Hügo Krüger 24:49
ISP suggested that we just move the transmitter we put it in the line we move it to Janice because Johannesburg appreciates it kept on doesn’t. But anyways, we said May we also have For a safari research reactor, it’s a it’s also far it’s a medical research reactor 10% of all medical isotopes in the world for cancer treatment come from South Africa nuclear. And on top of that South Africa in 1992 actually had a fusion Experimental Reactor, but it was closed down because government got the funding, they use it for the developmental needs. So our nuclear has been relatively advanced, small compared to the US and France and and all the countries. But I had a podcast, for example, with Dave Nichols state of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation. Very nice guy. Very practical, they tend to be so yeah, that’s basically the one nuclear power station. It’s two units. So one is sometimes you know, when one is offline, the other wants to work type of thing. I think it’s two gigawatt in both of them together. And then we also have sites that have already been cited and already been approved, as far as I understand for new nuclear boats. And when the previous government of Jacob Zuma launched the RFI, request for information, the greenies went to the government and lied about the price. They said it cost a trillion Rand which account I think you’d have divided by 20, to get the dollars equivalent, they doubled the price of the thing, and the court blocked it by accident, because they don’t understand what was going on. So that is earthlife. Africa, I’m going to call them out to the environmental group. And they seem to be getting funding from overseas oligarchs. Right? Blocking nuclear expansion, a country without electricity. Why would they do that? I don’t know what their motives are. But it’s clearly not benign, you know?
Robert Bryce 26:23
Well, but this is part of the playbook, isn’t it? I mean, that’s obscene it here in the US, these massive NGOs with massive budgets, I mean, just truly massive that spending the traditional energy groups by 41. By my own calculations, I’ve published it, no one’s ever done anything to convince me that the numbers are wrong, but this is this is international money that is coming into South Africa that is being used to prevent nuclear from coming online and or in prevent coal from coming online. So the that is seen as cynical,
Hügo Krüger 26:57
not just preventing they already source to the point where they take our governments to court, okay, to shut down coal power stations, and in the government, it costs money to take people to defend yourself in court, you know, even if you’re you know, you’re right, and you know, how judges are you sometimes when these things you sometimes don’t, you know, they they use every little trick in the book, to try and force these plans to close down to not operate, because they literally want to attack the industrial economy. And how can you do that in a country with two thirds of old men who are out of work? You know, of all young men, that’s what I don’t understand. And that’s what they do. And they believe religiously, they’re doing the right thing for the environment.
Robert Bryce 27:31
Well, this was your the South, I say you’re, you live in France, but you still I think you clearly identify as a South African that it was just a few months ago, a few weeks ago, the mineral resources and energy minister gwede Mantashe he, it was an article in the Daily investor talked about this very thing about he said, We pretend to be a developed economy, but we are not we’re a developing economy in a poor continent. And he talked about the fact that anytime that South Africa tries to develop oil and gas they get taken to court. I mean, is this what you’re talking about this very, I mentioned, but piece of
Hügo Krüger 28:13
this, this is the same groups, okay. There’s more than one group is the unfortunate thing. It’s not just one it’s like an ideology of cultists. So I describe it, they blocked the oil and gas exploration of South Africa’s coastal extrajudicially, by the environmental assessment has been approved by the Department, the relevant governmental bodies, and they still go on to quote, and then they still throw millions of dollars at it. Where did they get the money? I don’t know. I really don’t understand where the money comes from. India. And this is where I think South Africa needs to go. India has passed a law a few years ago that says all foreign money to NGOs will be scrapped, because India did an assessment saying NGOs was costing three to 4% of the GDP per year. And they say it’s a threat to national security. And I’m saying to South African intelligence, watch these guys. And let’s lock a few guys up. It’s for an infiltration. That’s how I see it at this stage. I mean, it’s funny in the beginning, and yes, I can accept it. But when you come and you abused the precautionary principles you want to do anyways, it’s always precautionary. I mean, as if anything’s ever safe, right? To block a technology because you’re invested in renewables. And this is what’s happening. earthlife Africa did it. The founder, admitted to me on Twitter, that he’s in the East now invested in renewable cooperatives. What a surprise the guy in blocks nuclear is involved in renewable cooperatives who would have thought of that robot, you know, this is daylight corruption that is happening and they blase about it. Right? So we need to call these guys out for just blocking the development of a nation as aspiring and democratic and all of these things, but we can’t get you know, industrial development and look at our crime rate. Look at all the social issues we’ve got you won’t solve it without solving the energy problem first.
Robert Bryce 29:47
Like that one day like corruption, right that this is in plain sight that is not being called out. And I knew that will I’ve, you know, I was in Johannesburg and I was staying in a you know, place It was pretty secure. But the murder rate in Johannesburg is the violent crime rate in South Africa is very high. And if you have that level of unemployment, two thirds of South African men are out of work. And the average age you said is 24,
Hügo Krüger 30:15
you know, to full of young men and 30% of all people on average, but 24, the average age is 24. Here, the majority of youth don’t have work and even at the right way, building power now, they will probably never work in their life. If we if we don’t apply, right. I mean, there is depriving people of, you know, living a full life, okay, that shows me, I’m not a person to say, I’m privileged, you know, as a virtuous thing, but it shows you how privileged I am to be working in a nuclear energy, you know, sitting in another country, while the majority of people in my country don’t have work, right, because of electricity. And that that is what frustrates me so much about this whole situation. This is not theoretical, green policies that the Americans and the US can, you know, our green versus we all this is a real politic, influencing people’s lives directly, and they are actively blocking it.
Robert Bryce 31:03
Well, so are there more people like you, Hugo, I mean, this is asking about the professional side, right. So you said your privilege, and your father was a professional? And so you had some advantages growing up? But are there more South Africans like you who are just saying, I’ve got to go somewhere else to make a living because the country is deteriorating? Beyond Well, beyond what I can manage? Or what what is the what are other? What are your friends, your you know, growing up? What are they doing? Well, many
Hügo Krüger 31:30
of them have left the country or they still there, but they are, many of them are thought of leaving young people have left? I mean, why is Elon Musk in the United States? Right? Doing? You know, why are they so many South Africans working for his energy in America? Right? You know, they, it’s because they live in, they seek greener pastures. You see, there’s a very good book and I need to introduce you to Charlie Robinson called fertility, electricity and literacy. These three factors are in development, for economic development. The first is literacy. The second one is fertility. Okay, that usually comes with literacy, education of goals. And the third one is electricity. And if you don’t have you have the first two, okay, but not the third one, educated people leave your country, the brain drain is a problem in India, in South Africa, in Brazil, it’s a problem across Iran, where my wife is from, it’s the issue of the developing world. Okay, it’s the issue in in Egypt as well, countries that do not solve the electricity crisis will lead to force the most educated people to look for greener pastures. And those who leave were left or tend to be uneducated, frustrated, and turned to a life of violence and crime. And that’s been observed across all cultures and nations. So energy is so central to human development. I mean, it’s above lit next to literacy, it’s the most important thing you think of it. Right?
Robert Bryce 32:43
Well, and it’s so I’m glad you put it that way. I you know, my line is electricity frees women and girls from the pump the stove and the wash tub, right that this is the key for allowing them to become literate allowing them to be go to school, that they have the now suddenly they’re freed up because they can they’re not gathering wood or dung or whatever it is to make dinner and they’re not hauling water, and they’re not washing clothes by hand. But I like that the literacy, fertility and electricity, that those are the keys, but if you don’t have electricity, then then reducing the fertility and increasing literacy is going to be for naught.
Hügo Krüger 33:17
Yeah, I gotta give you an example. So at the end of after the end of the apartheid government with my father was working for the Development Bank of South Africa. So he was in development economics. And we traveled through the forest called the former homelands. Now, these were areas that the apartheid regime sort of put out for the black population to stay in very underdeveloped and he would travel at night and he would smell that smell stole sticks with me when I think of it, they would smell plastic. Okay, why plastic people were using plastic around wood, okay to light the fire as fire lighters because they didn’t have money for fire lights, they would take plastic bags, round wood, and do indoor cooking. And childhood pneumonia at this stage was an extraordinarily high level. And you still see it in many countries, okay? The the amount of smog and stuff and your children are dying in childhood, okay, because of that. That’s why I say give Mandela credit because he solved that problem. But you know, so, you know, the electricity issue. I feel as passionate about it as you do because it is so such the officer obviously solution to get the country to the level where they can transition to a service sector economy. That’s where every country wants to be. I think Francis Fukuyama wrote has identified relatively once mentioned article called Getting to Denmark, you know, every country wants to get every country can get to Denmark, and what does that mean? Soviet electricity. The basic industrial development has to happen for all countries. Before we can care about climate stuff. I look at it this way that countries are three priorities in electricity. The first one is energy security, no matter the cost will get energy. The second one is cost and equity everyone was have it and the third one is climatic conditions. If you put three before to before one, you go back to what you guys called with iron law of, of electricity and climate. That is basically geopolitics always comes before climate concerns. And it’s a case of Across the world, right? We’ve we’ve observed it in so many countries. And my view is just South Africa at this stage produces 1% of the world’s co2 1%. We don’t matter, we can fall in the ocean tomorrow, it won’t matter to the temperature of the earth one bit, right. But if we don’t develop, we will kill each other. So we need to scrap all these climatic stuff, all the environmental stuff at the moment, develop and then we can clean stuff. We’re not at that stage yet. Where you guys were in the 60s and 70s, where you could start caring about clean air and stuff. We’re not there yet. So we would rather breathing the dirty air before we get there. Yes, we can get in a better way. I agree. They, but still we need to go through that process. And we’re not alone in the world, so many countries on that stage at stake.
Robert Bryce 35:40
Well, as you’re saying that you go I can’t help but think that the what is what makes this so kind of heart rending were kind of frustrating and I can see it in the way you talk about and how passionate you are about it is that South Africa was on the was on the verge it had this kind of a spree to grid I call it right where there was the belief in the grid that this the system was working. And all it needed to do all it needed to do what it should have done was to expand and to be logically expanded with the consumer and consumer in mind with a strong with strong vision from government. Instead, there was a belief that oh, well, we have to get government out of this. Well, not at the beginning. If you you have to make this is the part that the US we have this luxury and we you know, I’m in Texas, right? Were one of the first states to deregulate, we’re gonna open it up. But you had to have the functioning grid functioning systems in place before you could have the luxury of saying, oh, and now we’re going to do so we’re going to let the free market in. But you’re saying if I’m going to play back to you what I’ve heard you say that Escom we had apartheid, which was a dark period, right. And for a lot of reasons, and you come out of apartheid. And and Mandela understood as common that Eskom was was one of the national flagships that provided cohesion for the country around which the the whole country could could coalesce for lack of a better word. But then this idea, oh, we’re going to we’re going to deregulate in the mismanagement of the, of Eskom as a business and the electricity as a service, then started to degrade the entire network. And now, you’re at a point where the entire country is, I’m hearing you say this, and I see it in the headlines is, is on the verge of chaos, because you’ve degraded the electric grid. And
Hügo Krüger 37:34
you, you sort of gave me away what I call the the problem in the US thinking, Okay, you said electricity as a stock or a service for a moment a standard correctly, like it’s to these other service or something. I said, it’s a third component, and it’s infrastructure. And if it’s the infrastructure, it’s the responsibility of the state, to some extent. Okay, so
Robert Bryce 37:55
here’s it will, I’ll just finish my point. So that one of the things that I think is the problem with electricity and how policymakers think about it anything Oh, well, it’s a commodity and we sell it in watt hours. Okay, well, we can count the watt hours. No, wrong, dammit. No, you got it wrong. Yes, you sell it like it’s a commodity, but it is a service and it is an essential service for society. And this,
Hügo Krüger 38:17
but I have to say it’s a service, but it’s also a social good. Okay. Yes. Right. Which, yeah, societal good. So are we in agreement? Okay. And they, I think lies the problem. And you see, the problem, in my view comes from, I’ve read a lot of developmental economics and is it comes from the interpretation of the Industrial Revolution. Western elites, if you look at people now Parliament tend to be lawyers. Okay. They tend to be economists and lawyers, right. Milton Friedman,
Robert Bryce 38:43
and why and why are they lawyers? Because they couldn’t do the math to get into engineering school.
Hügo Krüger 38:47
Exactly. Okay. And the reason for that is the thinking of the Industrial Revolution came from three economists, which was Thomas Malthus, bad guy. Okay, Adam Smith, reasonably good. And David Ricardo, okay. And they had theories of the relationship between land, labor and capital. And we still debate this stuff. We need land property rights. I mean, that’s the basis of our Constitution. South Africa is the basis of the US Constitution, you know, this is my property, you know, you get a boring type of thing, which is all good and don’t disagree with that. The Japanese was the first country to industrialize. Okay. They had a different conclusion, they actually would have agreed more with Karl Marx. I’m not a Marxist. But Karl Marx, in Das Kapital wrote that the steam engine was the prime mover. It was sort of the argument he wrote, and they industrialized during the same period, and they concluded that energy at that role as well. Okay, and look at the Asian elites. They all tend to be engineers and then things now I don’t think as a society run by engineers is a very good society. Frankly, you know, I am an engineer, but I think we are too autocratic if we, if it comes to management and production, but you need a little bit of a balance and we need these two cultures that CP Snell wrote about to come together. Okay. That SFC bisnow is what’s wrong and South African elites unfortunately state in North America in the UK, that study in China, like guy. So Mandela was a lawyer, okay? He was he was a was a human rights lawyer good person, but he didn’t understand electricity, right? This is the problem. So it wasn’t part of electricity is still seen in our countries as a component of the economy. It’s just the 5% day of GDP or whatever percent of GDP and that’s fine. We still have agriculture here. And we still have furniture making, you know, electricity in physics is the capacity for work. Without the capacity for work, there’s no work and that’s why I regard Anthony Wrigley energy and English Industrial Revolution as one of the greatest economists of the centuries on Paul Friedman and Iock and John Maynard Keynes are those guys, you need energy.
Robert Bryce 40:37
I’ll interrupt that you will two points when you wrote around about this in one of your most recent pieces on substack. And to remind people that’s Hugo’s newsletter on substack. If you just search for that, you’ll find it. But a quick shout out to CP snow because I quoted I cited snow I think in my fourth book power hungry. Were his his essay on the two cultures, right that. He says he starts saying if you ask a cultured person, whether they know any of Shakespeare’s plays, or sonnets, they’ll say, of course, but if you ask them to tell you what the first and second laws of thermodynamics, they’ll say, Well, I don’t have any idea. Right? But this was this. And he said, It’s the two cultures and the science on one side and the humanities on the other. And in between, I think I’ve got this exactly right herb I’m quoting directly a gulf of mutual incomprehension. Right, and so, but that gulf of mutual incomprehension is what you’re saying is at the root of this failure from policymakers. I’m reading it back what I think you’re saying the failure of policymakers to grasp No, God dammit, you can’t mess up the grid. You can’t mess up the electric cars. Go ahead.
Hügo Krüger 41:45
It’s not even policymakers just in America and the EU. Okay. Yes, they are green fanatics. Okay, but it’s even in South Africa. Our own president is debating inequality at the moment, I look at the speeches. And he’s saying, well, we need to increase labor in the economy, we need to just create intrapreneurs and jobs. And energy might be a small mention, where we said we’re going to fix Escom, and then the rest will come without understanding that. What is wealth? What is a place? Okay, what all roads that is energy being dispatched into the economy, a bridge is in a low entropy state because energy was pumped into it, okay. An aeroplane is, you know, all that metal requires energy to press it into these applications of energy. Okay, so everything arrives from energy, and you find even the African elites, okay, are having this weird debate where they don’t seem to understand they think we’re just going to solve the electricity, and then we’re going to run the economy, without understanding the energy is the lifeblood of the economy. And that’s when you know, the
Robert Bryce 42:41
electricity and electricity in particular, it’s not just any form, it’s just not a can of propane. No, you have to have the electric grid to be reliable, affordable and resilient. And if you don’t have that, you’re not going to get the kind of economic growth that’s sustainable. And, and I think that to build on your point there, there’s this idea of, oh, well, we’ll just switch to renewables. And because it’s green, and that’s going to be the way forward Well, without any understanding of what that the importance of that resilience, affordability, reliability, that that is essential in the provision of electric power.
Hügo Krüger 43:16
And yes, my my my big grudge against I’m not against renewables, I think they wonderful for getting daytime costs down of manufacturing, for example, if you’re manufacturing multiple panels on it adds to the production cost. They have the applications where they are appropriate. Okay, I might even disagree with you on some of the stuff that you’ve wrote on renewables, I might even think offshore wind I’ve built some of them. Some of them are great where they appropriate Denmark, but not in the UK at the moment and Siemens the share price, okay, so they have their place in this world. The thing is, though, if we design a reactor like let’s say, a nuclear reactor or coal reactor, we don’t just design for kilowatt hours. That’s a big misinterpretation, we take in 1000s of requirements for habitat, water for how housing for all of these things, and they flow into that reactor, you get one single design. Now you move the reactor 10 meters, okay, well, 10 Watt yards, as you guys would say, or 30 yards, probably what’s going to happen you destroy the habitat, and why are we seeing land conflicts in the United States? These are signs of habitat destruction, right? Okay. Now, in the United States, you have relatively one culture, okay, more or less? Yes, there’s there’s different people’s understanding of cultures and accents. But why not? You speak one language and you’re all American. Right? That’s one thing. I appreciate that Americans are all Americans, you because you have a much longer history than we do. South Africa as a nation only more than 90/94 through a very difficult pass. What’s going to happen if you mess with electricity grid explained in the very beginning, all these conflicts that were sold during the colonial period, what’s going to happen? Those conflicts are going to come back if you start messing with it, and you threaten the survival of the state and that is why your iron law of power and climate of eligible Jr. ties in with I would I would say to geopolitics before anything else, people need a habitat before you can start optimizing and messing with it. And that is This way, I think the debate is not coming in through yet. And we’re seeing it. I mean, I’m not I don’t want to laugh in America, because it’s these land conflicts are serious, you know, people can get killed over there. I won’t be surprised if somebody’s going to pick up a gun and threaten each other very soon. Yeah, but it’s because the guys implementing it, I’ve got a Silicon Valley mindset, where you have venture capitalism, okay, where you have a very quick, quick buck and returns your friends money, the thing goes missing. Whereas old school engineers, like I was still trained, okay, looked at long term planning of 60 years, or 40 years and something and that’s the way it’s going to be. So we look at long term returns, okay, because we don’t want to rock the boat too much. Silicon Valley wants to have this up and down thing where they introduce entropy into the system. Entropy is great for markets. It’s great for innovation. I don’t think it’s that great to do it with people’s habits that people don’t like having their lives disrupted so much. But all these changes that are coming, even if the renewables are better, because I would say in some cases, they are better in some cases they just not. Right.
Robert Bryce 45:55
Well, it’s interesting, you didn’t think about it. And I liked the way the idea of the entropy is great for markets, right? Been the traders love volatility, right? They are that’s where they make their money. Right. You know, you ask any of them. We don’t want a stable system. Right. And that, I mean, one of the guests on my on the podcast, BF Randall had put it this way. He said, The problem with nuclear is there’s not enough grift. Right, that there’s not enough money sloshing around for them, because it creates a stable system. And yet that stable system, if I’m reading back to you what you just said, there. That’s what the how the engineers are looking at the grid. No, we want that sumbitch we want it stable. We don’t want it.
Hügo Krüger 46:34
Let me give you another example. Sure. Which is not we’re just not energy. The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1932. It was one of the greatest civil engineering achievements in human history. Okay. I think that’s where they invented for not mistaken hot, hot, that was the Hoover Dam. But it’s safety nets that was invented to the Golden Gate Bridge, because people kept on dying back before safety was serious. That depth was only paid off in the 70s. Okay, now, if a market an investor would look at that thing and say, you know, I want a 15 year return max, I want a bridge that collapses every 15 years. That’s a good. But the Golden Gate Bridge allowed for Silicon Valley to take place. Right? So the long term infrastructure is the hard way or the I don’t know how to explain it to the infrastructure. It’s the baseline to where markets can prosper, an economy can prosper on. And that’s why I justify it aspect of the New Deal. I think part of this debate has to do with privatization might have gone too far. And you bring it back to nuclear the way nuclear contracts work is that we offend the financing because your biggest risk of failures during construction first five years, okay? So it’s high risk, high return and they you say it’s government pension money against government pension money. Now that’s a taboo word. That’s that’s almost nationalization to you, as I say that it’s almost komak speaking. But why do we do it that way? If pension money’s put their money down, I said, we want compliance. On top of that, if you build it in the developing world in South Africa, because we signed the Non Proliferation Treaty, we’re the first country to give up our nuclear weapons voluntarily. Okay. We signed Non Proliferation us international war coming on top of that thing, that locks out all middlemen. That’s why you don’t see ads for nuclear. There’s no money to steal. There’s no middlemen in the thing, the way that contracts are signed, locks out middlemen not even Bill Gates is able to steal money yet from nuclear, okay, it’s a very difficult thing to come in. In the US, it’s a bit different because of the way you guys historically built, but even your nuclear plants historically had the government involvement at one stage right. And the market argument has been it’s a bad investment. Okay, my basic argument has been maybe the US market needs SMRs because you guys are really private in this this type of people but we are still comfortable with big state spending on capital infrastructure because that’s where we are in terms of our development. So
Robert Bryce 48:47
let me ask you to read that back again when because you said the problem in nuclear there’s no money to steal so replay that again for me when you say that how do you mean that I want to so if South
Hügo Krüger 49:02
Africa to what you’re saying there so South Africa tomorrow wants to buy a nuclear power station I’m not speaking from the perspective of the developing world or developing world we don’t build it ourselves we don’t have the expertise to build it we buy it
Robert Bryce 49:13
you’re gonna have to go to Ross atom or General Electric or
Hügo Krüger 49:17
before the will I would have said Ross had them but now I don’t know okay,
Robert Bryce 49:20
well but there’s still there’s still one of the one of the biggest players in the world now. So SK power would be the South Koreans are you going to
Hügo Krüger 49:29
the French electricity the front of the the expense of not wasting hours or whatever because you’ve got all those things right. And so I said want to buy it. The price you’re gonna get me Robert is not Vogtle, which is $10,000 per kilowatt. I want 3000 Which is what the South Koreans are building for. Right? South Korea is one for it. So what’s that? What does that mean? You bring the financing. Okay, you as wasting hours are going to ask your taxpayers to bring the money. I’m not paying for that because construction risk is the UK the construction risk. Right. I will only pay you back when it comes back when the money comes back. It’s what the Chinese are doing if the developmental plan is called a wallet form of investment, the guy who builds the plan brings the wallet. Okay? And we pay you back in tariffs afterwards. So what does that mean? If you pass it on CEO and there is money stolen, you need to go and explain to Putin in the quiche KGB why the money is gone missing? That’s not my problem in South Africa. Okay, do you think Ross Why does Ross system get it done? Because I don’t need to know better project management manager than the fear of the KGB. Okay. Okay. It’s the same with South Korea. South Korea locked up one of the last presidents wasting our disasters got one guy indicted at the moment for stealing money. So yes, money is stolen in nuclear. There is corruption there. That is accountability. But we who receive the plan, that’s not our problems. Finland who just got was it Aikido? I can never pronounce the name. They are not aka Ludo in Finland the Alka Ludo. Yeah, okay. Finland is not carrying the cost for that project. It’s France. They messed up. So Finland is having a very good deal. So if you’re buying it is different in something it’s like a car. It’s like a Boeing. Okay, Fran, if Airbus delivers Airbus late, its friends who has to bail it out. And that Airbus CEO has to explain to the French pension funds. Why the money’s missing. It’s not South Africa’s problem. It’s the same with nuclear soon that’s
Robert Bryce 51:16
buying a nuclear then the buyer in the nuclear transaction has more leverage because the seller is taking the risk.
Hügo Krüger 51:24
It’s like a call if a coke call breaks. And if you buy a Toyota tomorrow, it is made in Japan, it’s probably Japanese pension money going into there. And let’s say after the two or three weeks, the wheels fall off. That’s not your problem. You build it with a service plan and Japan is that call comes with that guarantee. Right? So that’s Japan’s problem. So what do
Robert Bryce 51:42
I come straight back to the dealer and say, fix this thing? You you fix
Hügo Krüger 51:45
this thing? And that’s the OTA of how many times haven’t we seen this in a call industry where there’s a small part going missing? And then they have to get they have to beg for money? That’s not my problem is the guy bullet buying it? And why do I say this?
Robert Bryce 51:58
I love your line here. There’s no better project management than fear of the KGB. What is the FSB now though, right? With with Yeah, but the same
Hügo Krüger 52:10
serious people. It’s building serious stuff. And why does wasting hours do so poorly in EDF is because the risk of the contract is badly shit. Okay, the risk must be shared between buyer and seller, and therefore you will have better compliance. That’s how that’s an innovation in contractual law that civil engineers have implemented to get infrastructure costs down in Europe. That’s why Europe’s cost is cheaper than America’s in the US people still get a loan from the bank and then they build it and then this explosion and then it gets too big to fail. And you know, the whole thing goes carried on and that happened to Vogtle? I think. That’s why I said the US an exception. On top of that, I want to add this into the US because I’ve been looking at the United States wastes problem. You know, South Africa already has a waste depository, we only have one power station. Okay. The US cannot get you need to get your car mount and bolt. Otherwise your projects going to be tied into environmental legislation. I did some calculations, you need about four depositories the size of South Africa, because you’re much bigger in terms of nuclear miles. My estimates are and it’s just rough, eyeballing it, okay. It’s $110 billion, which is probably going to be government money. Let’s face it. Okay, you can say there’s a lot of money. It’s the same money a Joe Biden gave in one year for the war in Ukraine, just to fix your waist. Okay. So don’t tell me don’t have the money for that. That’s how your industry can breathe again in the United States. Right. So yeah, I add that to the to the to the issue in America. i My sense is that there’s so much interest against nuclear power, that they don’t want it to prosper and not building the waste depository as part of hamstringing the industry. Yeah. And then we should get to the other point now, which I think is linear, no threshold, and I think we can talk a lot about that as well. Well,
Robert Bryce 53:44
let’s save linear no threshold because this is more complicated than maybe we have time for because we’ve been talking for almost an hour again, my guess is you go Krueger, that would be the English pronunciation. If you were speaking Afrikaans, it would be her Cree her. Well, okay. You can find him on substack look for Hugo’s newsletter on on substack. I want to talk rather than talk linear no threshold, which in brief is that our fear of radiation is way overblown, I think would be that the way that safety regulations around radiation had been promulgated or completely, completely out of proportion to the the danger that they
Hügo Krüger 54:25
can be relaxed, they can just go back I’ll make one statement list what we had before 1973 during a second the atomic bombs 100 millisieverts limit is reasonable for me, costs will come down a little bit. Okay.
Robert Bryce 54:36
So 100 millisieverts, so let’s, let’s talk about your recent visit to Iran. Just met your wife, Miriam, you’ve been married for three years. I’d love to go to Iran. You know, to me it’s a fascinating country, very pro western country one that is now one of the results of the Iraq us Iraq war now twice invasion into twice invading Iraq, is that the Iraqis in the year Iranians are now much closer together than they ever were their big key trading partners where they were not before but you were telling us about going to Iran and going to the one house where the gentleman lives in a house where the radiation levels are continually far higher than what would be allowed anywhere in the world. I’m missing I’m that’s the abbreviation tell us about that trip.
Hügo Krüger 55:22
So I okay so it honestly is my second visit to Iran is so my wife is from Iran. Okay. And beautiful country
Robert Bryce 55:28
and she from Tehran or where she from?
Hügo Krüger 55:30
No, no, she’s from she’s from Isfahan which is in the middle of the country. Okay, so that was I was somewhat in a North okay, but we traveled a lot and a lot. We both visits and we went to this town to the Caspian Sea. And we went to Ramzan. Ramsar is where the Shah of the Iran had his holiday palace. Okay, that guy was enriching himself. That’s why the Revolution by the way, was not a benign dictator because he stole a lot of money for himself. Anyway, so he’s holiday Palace is there it’s green. Robert, it looks like the Amazon. Okay. And they are, you know, people on the beach and guess what background radiation is 250 millisieverts safety revelation regulations in a nuclear plant is 10. It’s 25 times higher than what we considered safe at the Nuclear Power Plant. I met yours Donta Lishi is from the Polish mahalo district of ramsau. And they you have men who are not just men people going and they both in Hot Springs, and they exposed to radon coming up, okay to under 50 millisieverts and some of the healthiest people in the world. They also grow what they call clementines, given things that they love, small oranges, I ate one of I ate one of those things. And I’m not green and date and I should be dead according to modern radiation standards that was lobbied for by the ominous sounding Rockefeller Institute. Just by the way I have to add that you can see my conversation with Dr. Edward Calabrese, you should have on was exposed LNT is complete nonsense.
Robert Bryce 56:47
So just to repeat what you said the the limit for radiation at nuclear plants in the US is 10 millisieverts over on a on a per day, what
Hügo Krüger 56:58
is de Medici visits per year and EDRIC maximum cumulative dose of a thing, it’s, I think it’s over five years is 50, or something, but if I remember correctly, but it’s something like 10. And the standards we had before 1970, before the base commit in the 1950s, during the atomic bomb was 100. And all we are saying is go back to those standards. That is I would say an acute though. So direct shot 100 and accumulate dose of 100 or whatever I think 100 Over five years from we should go back to because l&t The current model, it’s so ridiculous. It assumes your body does not heal from radiation, which makes no sense because if that’s otherwise, cancer treatment won’t work. So the whole Radiation Safety Standard, just a fraud. I mean, I’m just calling a scam and a fraud. And the nuclear regulator is should be held responsible for imposing stringent regulations that are not scientifically basis, and that it’s killing people. Because Because of those standards, we evacuated too many people at Fukushima that should never have been evacuated. And we killed them in the process. That is what I make argument to conservative rails people.
Robert Bryce 58:01
That central Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. And I was at I’m just making a note here because I mean, you’re you’re saying you make so many great points. The in my visit to Fukushima Daiichi in February, I mean, it was a very vivid experience. And I’ve, I’ve traveled a fair amount in my life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my career. And to be able to go to Fukushima Daiichi was a marvelous opportunity but incredibly sobering. And it wasn’t just sobering, seeing the ruined reactors, because we could see we did that it wasn’t just sobering to see the 1000 tanks of water for the tritium, that tritium contaminated water that’s now going to finally be released, which should have happened a long time ago, seeing all that massive stuff and all the stuff that they’re doing to treat the water, but it was the fact that the entire prefecture had been depopulated. I mean, there were entire areas where there were no you know, there were houses, there were roads that were you know, and but no people. And so, but it was basically a ghost town, but they were all evacuated. And they were evacuated with this because of this irrational fear of radiation when it would have been much better had they stayed and the mortality rates among the people who were evacuated would have been far lower. So that was part of the haunting experience of going to Fukushima was seeing how the whole area had been depopulated on purpose and that they people had only started coming back and it still was just this eerie feeling throughout the entire area. Yeah, and
Hügo Krüger 59:29
yes, yes, the tragedy that so my sister taught English to the children of Fukushima afterwards, she went, she went to South Africa. The children were being stigmatized for being radioactive. Okay. And that traumatized a lot of kids. Yeah, that was an unnecessary when you become radioactive, you don’t become more you always become less because of the case. You know, there was no you don’t have to be scared of somebody that’s radioactive. Right? There’s nothing you cannot it’s not witchcraft. It doesn’t spread radiation to you. And yet they would they were interpreting it as witch as radio. issue. So the kids were traumatized because of it. Nobody has died from radiation at Fukushima. Okay, very simple. Those people in my view should not have been evacuated, okay? Or at least give them a choice, right, which is more disproportion but some people will be scared and I’m all for accepting human behavior you have to design for that. But here’s the thing, though that the base person on those that you need to get on as Dr. Wade Allison, who taught at Oxford, and he worked at CERN, and he investigated the Brazil nuclear reactor accident, it wasn’t a really a nuclear safety. It was a medical reactor accident where thieves stole some medical equipment. And then children and pregnant women ingested radiation, high level I dosages, and he showed in his analysis, how the dosages was something like 10 to 100 times higher than you would find in efficient Fukushima. And pregnant women will find which is the ultimate test for what you would call radiation safety. Right? Right. So the point I make is a radiation safety standards are so strict that it leads to the irrational response, that water should have been dumped in the ocean years ago. There’s nothing safe, you can drink that water, I’m honest, I’ll drink that water if somebody challenges me to do so. Okay, yeah. And you can eat, you can eat the fish, nothing is wrong with you, it’s probably a little bit good for you, because there’s no good evidence of what we call radiation or Mises. Right, which is a certain level of radiation might be good for you. And people should not, you know, misunderstand me, this is not an excuse for civil engineers to not put containment structures on nuclear reactors and things of that sorts. I’m all for safety things. But I’m saying when things go wrong, are risks of going propulsion, if we understand what it actually are, scientifically speaking. And that’s why I’m challenging actually, the precautionary principle. Because it makes no sense scientifically, there’s a certain level of any toxin, even arsenic, which is a little bit good for you, or at least harmless, and then you get to a point where obviously shouldn’t be taking it. Okay. That’s not saying, let’s give kids ultrasonic, it just means if it happens, it’s not the end of the world, we can still manage it if it’s a little bit. Okay. So, you know, that’s sort of where the debate needs to be. And that’s what I would get if there’s one legal reform across the West, I will do is get rid of all precautionary principles and replace them with what we call hermetic principles. What is the dose response actually look like? What level is beneficial, what level is harmful, and then you promote the more or less price response. And radiation is the first place that we need to lobby for that. If we believe in nuclear power, and we want to get the cost into proportion, we can go back to the cost, you know, before the before the 73 oil crisis, if we have any such thing.
Robert Bryce 1:02:19
That’s a really good point, I’ll read back to what my friend Bruce Hamilton said. But the problem with nuclear is that we’ve made it too safe. Right. And that’s a it’s a different way of talking about the very issue you’re talking about, which is that no, we’ve designed these plants to the level that, you know, they’re they were imposed all these costs on these systems now, largely out of this irrational fear of radiation. And so but
Hügo Krüger 1:02:45
those those safety standards are coming to a point where it’s actually killing people, as in the case of Fukushima, because evacuation kills them. So you’re overshooting. It’s not a linear relationship between costs and safety. You get to a point with inflicts excessive spending is first of all chasing good engineers out of the industry, because nobody wants to work with so many ridiculous laws all the time. Right. And the second point is during an accident, even a Chernobyl Doctor Elta. Shapiro, very good doctors, he was a nurse that should overload a very good, good showed the fear, kill people, Chernobyl radiation to minor impact, and that’s a much worse disaster because there was no containment building. Right? Yeah. So you know, we need to really challenge the sphere narrative of radiation. And my view is it’ll take a little bit of time because the baby boomers were so deeply endowed into cold war propaganda of nuclear. Yeah. And I think the younger generation,
Robert Bryce 1:03:35
I’m one of them, I mean, that was what you know,
Hügo Krüger 1:03:38
I don’t blame you, we all have our own things. We’re just gonna move on with the climate these days. But that
Robert Bryce 1:03:43
was part of my, you know, my childhood. Right. You know, the first article I ever published was in my high school newspaper as an anti nuclear article. You know, so I was I was 17 Right, you know, and that was the kind of the vibe at that time right? Nuclear was bad nuclear was the military nuclear was the bomb. It wasn’t it wasn’t cheap, cheap, safe, abundant, reliable electricity was this other connotation that came with it? So you know, we’ve been talking for about an hour and it’s been great you know, I really appreciate your passion for these issues because you clearly are and credible knowledge you have your, your podcast tell us give me the name of your podcast again.
Hügo Krüger 1:04:19
So bookcases just see how clear you go Krueger the same name, okay, with the two dots on the user after check you can search the name without the dots the one of the dots will pop up.
Robert Bryce 1:04:28
Okay, so you check out Hugo he goes newsletter on substack He’s on Twitter he’s a podcaster we he liked me he’s a content king. You go you know I asked all my guests two questions at the end. So what are you reading these days? You’re fully employed in Paris you’re traveling Do you have time to read? If so what do you read?
Hügo Krüger 1:04:48
I was when I love my parents they strange so I can read that. I’m actually living very green because I take trains and I you know, I do the bourgeois lifestyle at this stage except I don’t eat insects yet.
Robert Bryce 1:04:58
So well I don’t either. So
Hügo Krüger 1:05:01
I’m reading at the moment, Tony Wrigley’s other book, which is called the path to sustained growth, which is a good book on energy as well, where it’s sort of a reduced version of the Industrial Revolution. And then I’ve got another book that I’m reading what I’m fitter, it’s in French, but it’s called, it’s basically epistemology, by Michael S felt was basically in the thinking of thinking of the history of science, if you will, and challenging these big scientific paradigms and dogmas and
Robert Bryce 1:05:27
very much the name of that, what’s the name of that book again?
Hügo Krüger 1:05:29
So that’s the philosophy of science. So philosophy and science, I suppose it’s Michel, Michel s field Michelle is filled is a thing of French German. I also have my podcast Epistemologists. So I’m quite into epistemology, because I believe you need to read that the understand that subject. If you want to understand propaganda, there’s so much of this brainwashing in the media these days, you know,
Robert Bryce 1:05:50
yeah. And I’ll just mention, so you speak Afrikaans, which is where I guess was spoken in your house when you grew up English, French and German. And here, I’m barely speak English. But that’s one of the things about being an American is that you can get away with it. So last question, then, Hugo, what gives you hope?
Hügo Krüger 1:06:09
Well, I think more people are challenging the narratives, the the official narrative of so many issues, not just energy and climate, which I’m grateful that I feel for my age, I was a lone wolf saying this is crazy at one stage until I met you all, and then I met you and I met others. And then I realized it’s actually so many people at the photo like that, like me, I’m not actually unique that of theirs. So these things are crazy. And look at the people challenging the COVID narrative. Look at people now openly debating public policy, and ordinary people are asking me for my substack deep questions, you know about nuclear about energy, things of this sort on Twitter. And what I find is that there’s so much knowledge, collective knowledge around the world. It’s extraordinary. And it’s not just from engineers in nuclear, you know, I put something I take somebody like BF Randall is environmental lawyer, he’s talking so much about just law and things of it. So this type of information sharing is really, you know, I think it’s going to have a profound change on democracy and a wealth going forward. And I think we’re going to have good policy coming out of it will take some time before the old media dies. But I’m quite optimistic with the information space changing.
Robert Bryce 1:07:12
That’s a good place to stop. And that’s what we will do. We will stop there you go. Many thanks for being on the power hungry podcast. This was great fun. We’ve been in touch for a long time. We’ve got our mutual friend Joel Kotkin in Glad we could finally make this happen. Oh, thank
Hügo Krüger 1:07:27
you. Thank you to Robert, and thanks for the interviews you do as well. I learned so much from him. I appreciate it.
Robert Bryce 1:07:32
And I’ve told you where you can find Hugo. He’s omnipresent. Just look for Hugo’s newsletter on substack. And then you can find all of his other publications and he’s on Twitter. So 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