Mark Nelson, the managing director of the Radiant Energy Fund, joins the podcast for the fifth time, tying the record held by Meredith Angwin. (Mark’s last appearance was on March 3, 2022.) In this episode, Mark he talks about Germany’s expansion of the Garzweiler lignite mine, how warm weather has given Europe’s economy a “stay of execution,” Belgium’s plans to close its nuclear plants, and why it’s “almost impossible” to build new high-voltage transmission projects in the U.S.
Robert Bryce 0:05
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 back for a record tying fifth time. My friend Mark Nelson, he is the managing director of the radiant energy group Mark. Mark, welcome back to the power hungry podcast.
Mark Nelson 0:23
Thank you, Robert. What is it? They say? You always remember your fifth?
Robert Bryce 0:29
No, no idea. But yeah, you are tied with Meredith Angwin for the
Mark Nelson 0:34
state, that means we are going steady.
Robert Bryce 0:36
Okay. Well, there you go. I thought you were gonna say that familiarity breeds contempt or something like that. But no, no. Glad to have you back. There’s a bunch to talk about. And you’ve been on five times now. But the rules still apply. You have to introduce yourself, please introduce yourself?
Mark Nelson 0:53
Sure. I’m Mark Nelson. I’m from the great state of Oklahoma. But I’m living now in Chicago, where I run and manage Radiant Energy Group, a consultancy focused on the opportunities and pitfalls of the great energy transition.
Robert Bryce 1:09
That’s a good summary right there. Well, you’ve spent a lot of time in Europe. And the reason I wanted to get you back on right now is because of what is going on in Europe and a lot of change. Especially since the summer when nat gas at TTF, the trading hub in Holland was at $100. I just looked, it’s trading at $19.24 on the front month. What’s What’s the latest in Europe has Europe dodged a bullet now, because they’re having warm weather their gas supplies are essentially full gas, gas costs are way down. What’s the situation now?
Mark Nelson 1:44
Yeah, actually, the mood among really sharp and informed folks in Europe is positive. But we’re grading on a curve. It’s positive because they thought everything might collapse, and an awful anarchic, whirlwind this winter. And instead, it might not even do that next winter. So yes, they’re losing their industry. Quality of life is declining. And countries around Europe, there’s a lot of hopelessness and despair. Things are looking very grim. But that’s a lot nicer than say, thinking that your energy supplies might be rationed or cut off this winter.
Robert Bryce 2:28
Or that people would be freezing to death because of a harsh, harsh winter. But, but we’ll talk about that about the mood because this is important. And also, I was surprised to see that Germany’s GDP actually grew something like 2% Last year now is that a? Is that a real number? Is that a fake number, your your eyes are rolling around, they’re indicating you maybe not believing this
Mark Nelson 2:51
fake ish, and that there are lots of swords, hanging over heads, and you can see the strings starting to unwind. But if you’re, if you’re measuring against thinking the swords would fall, then it feels you’re thankful just to be alive. Right, right. Think about how good even a bad meal tastes if you’re at the edge of starvation. Yeah, right. In terms of how real the number is. There, this is kind of crazy. The mood is more positive in Germany than in other countries that are struggling worse, certainly things are quite grim in the UK. And although the numbers seem okay, on paper, I’ve seen some people call this a vibe session, the vibes are off, but the numbers look okay. And they look stronger in Germany than they do in a number of other places where, although there are companies that will not be able to operate past this year, as their as their contracts, from the before times get used up. They operated through the winter, or they were shutting down, and those numbers will show up later.
Robert Bryce 4:01
And so I’m sorry to interrupt. So when were you last in Europe and where were you?
Mark Nelson 4:05
Well, two weeks ago, I left for London and was in the UK for about 10 days.
Robert Bryce 4:12
And today we’re January 20. So you were you were there this year? This This the first
Mark Nelson 4:17
two weeks of the year basically. Okay, in the UK,
Robert Bryce 4:19
but you were you you were in Estonia before the end of the year as well or?
Mark Nelson 4:23
No? Well, I was in a lot of places in Europe dancing around before the winter properly hit. So it was several cities in Germany was in the UK also. And yeah, I visited Estonia and then I spoke in Poland first time visiting Poland. So you mentioned the mood, the mood was very bad. And it got worse as there was a cold first half of December without wind. But then the wind came so everybody started feeling better. Then there were a few other things that went well. For example, The gas burn in Germany would be much higher right now, except for the life extension of nuclear plants through currently April 15. So nuclear plants are not necessary except for wintertime, but only this winter, not next winter. That’s the current scenario in Berlin we’re making, we’re making crucial energy policy decisions based on day to day or even week to week weather conditions. If the weather had been colder in December, we might have a longer stay of execution for the nuclear plants. If the weather were warmer at the start of December, they might have been closed already. Let’s talk about particularly serious or responsible leaders who have been put into control of the nuclear situation. And that fact that policy sort of goes back and forth based on the current today’s storage levels, up and down, and in the underground storage facilities across Europe, almost unthinkable. But if you thought you were going to collapse this winter, and you got a stay of execution, you can go one of two ways, Robert, you can learn from it and say, I never want to feel like I was in that position. Again, I never want to be shocked and never want to be surprised, never want to be up against the wall. Or you can say see, it wasn’t so bad. The people who explain all these complicated numbers to me, all those experts and economists, they were wrong. We can live without nuclear, we can live without Nord Stream.
Robert Bryce 6:28
But you said something about the weather there that to me, I just I this is the part of the whole equation that I just can’t square, which is that we’re looking at climate change. And we’re looking at more extreme weather hotter, colder, or both more extensive, you know, more extensive periods, more gyrations? If this is the situation, why in the world, would we ever make our most important energy and power networks dependent on the weather? I mean, this just seems like me, you know, I’m from Oklahoma to I’m slow. I’m cutting out the sharpest pair of scissors in the drawer. I don’t, why are they? Why isn’t this obvious to policymakers? You’re talking about the policymakers, and particularly in Germany, what I wrote when I wrote this question, why can’t Why can’t Germany arrive at any kind of sensible policy? That’s one of the questions I wrote down here.
Mark Nelson 7:12
You’re saying why don’t we think in terms of really long term things that take longer than elections, instead of gyrating back and forth in ways that, you know, with the weather blowing back and forth, that makes immense amounts of money for commodity traders? It’s a very exciting for the economic theorists to theorize the market functions and to watch everything work. It’s very exciting. Get your pulse moving. If you’re in politics, why would you do long term things to smooth this out when you can do short term things to take advantage of any chaos that that being caused by it? I don’t I don’t understand why you would want this boring world of just operating always bar from emergency margins. If you’re riding the edge, come ride the edge with us, Robert, makes money, make fortunes lose fortunes, but out stable, I mean, it’s great excitement we can live for instead of this boring modernity where everything’s just the same every day where the weather changes, but it’s the same temperature inside the house. Why live like that?
Robert Bryce 8:13
Okay, you’re being facetious here, but Meredith Angwin was on another one the other record holders on the podcast. She said we want a boring grid. But why wait, what is it is I want to plumb this thing about Germany because I am truly stumped here. And it goes back to the guards while they’re mine. I want to talk about this issue because you had 15,000 According to the police 15,000 protesters descending on this small village on the edge of the gars Weiler coal mined lignite mine, because the mine is being expanded by RW E. They’re going to bulldoze a local village, they are bulldozing an existing wind project. And in three months they’re closing a nuclear plant as I look at this, I this is I did a short video on this. This is crazy town. This is so insane. I can’t form the words for it.
Mark Nelson 8:59
It’s not insane. I can explain it. Well,
Robert Bryce 9:02
then please because I think it’s full on crazy.
Mark Nelson 9:05
First of all, this soul expanding minds eating villages, that sort of thing. That’s been happening for well over a century. For a century and a half. This is just how you mind lignite and we’ll come back to lignite. But this company sees that the Earth itself is made out of fuel. The only fuel available in Germany if you’re not willing to get the gas, and you’re not willing to mine deep to get the coal, right so and you’re not willing to make uranium from German formation like I did. That’s what’s left in Germany. That acts like fuel to stabilize. You just said you want a boring grid. Okay, fine. So let’s take that seriously. You want a boring good grid that stable it’s going to take some fuel. lignite seems to be the fuel they’ve defaulted to, because it’s the one that had the most of the earth. is made out of it. All you have to do is scoop it, wheel it away, turn it into briquettes, dry it a little bit and burn it right there in some of the most modern coal plants in the world, some of the finest coal plants in the world and you just have to scoop it out of the earth and put it in the earth is made of fuel, you need to only eat it. The villagers know the score. They knew it gars why they’re mine. There’s no gars while there anymore. That’s that used to be a village where now there’s a what 19 Square Kilometer mine right there where there used to be a village gars why other people have moved on Heck, they may have helped dig out the village themselves. It’s a mining culture. They’re mature people they know their pluses and minuses. But as I heard from a from an old mining hand in Germany when I visited in 2017, and in the east, past Berlin, where they have similarly gargantuan minds over there. He said, Look, it’s our homeland. This is our fuel sources, what we’re based on nuclear audits suspicious, weird new, we don’t need any nuclear but my own grandfather came to this part of the world, from from Far East Europe to mind this material. All the villagers are happy, they get brand new houses on this location. They give up the ones in that location. What’s and when we’re done eating the Earth. We’re gonna fill it with water and you’re gonna have a recreation Lake. What’s so bad about that? What’s so bad about that?
Robert Bryce 11:30
So let’s talk about lignite because there’s a lot of lignite here in the US. It’s a low rank coal and high ash. Talk about that you’ve you’ve done some research on lignite. Tell us about that, because this is the fuel that is being this is the coal that’s being dug out of the guards while they’re mine to fuel the power plants nearby that are going to they’re producing on an annual basis just a little bit more 37 terawatt hours a year, whereas the nuclear plants that are being cut shuttered, slated for shuttering in April, producing about 30 terawatt hours. So talk about the lignite itself. What is this? And is the German lignite different than other lignite and other countries?
Mark Nelson 12:09
So rank of coal is referring to the relative carbon content of the coal. And you think, Oh, isn’t coal all carbon? Nope, some coal is extremely high purity, nearly black shiny, almost pure carbon from being cooked in the earth at high temperatures. That’s the key thing. It’s not even the time spent cooking. It’s, it’s the temperature because things tend to happen slowly and Eric, you get to a certain temperature, you’re probably going to finish the process, right? The highest ranks of coal are have been cooked at hundreds of degrees in the earth, and the anthracite and if I can throw aside Yeah, like the metallurgical coals that have extremely high carbon contents, very low period, or very few impurities, very low moisture, they when they burn, you’re burning, almost entirely carbon. So you get all that, you know, it’s not like nuclear waste, where you’re stuck with this waste true. You’re stuck with a bunch of ways but a bunch of it you get to just put in, put in the air, it’s kind of a score that and even in Germany, they’re, they’re better with, they are more comfortable with that then went nuclear waste so far. lignite is coal that has been baked at temperatures under boiling temperature of water. So temperatures are not high enough to you might say, purify into the bitumen, so the subbituminous coal and then finally the anthracite which is the the black shiny coal that we think of when when we think of Appalachian coal mines, right, right. Ignite coal is kind of brown and sort of like a really stiff Taffy kind of
Robert Bryce 13:52
right. And it’s generally higher moisture Higher, higher ash
Mark Nelson 13:56
much higher and moisture higher and ash, which means you have to burn more of it to get the same amount of usable energy compared to other types of coal. That’s what ends up giving you the higher carbon numbers the higher carbon intensity, right so just for those who are interested in this little area, coal plants depending on their efficiency, which partly is dependent on the rank of coal they’re burning are anywhere from say the newest finest coal plants in the world, which are often in Germany to are about 850 to 900 grams of co2 per kilowatt hour. lignite plants in Germany are going to run from a bit above 1000 to 1300 or 1400 grams of co2 per kilowatt hour usable energy and natural gas runs from the very most efficient plants run in stable baseload mode is going to be down in the 333 4350 range, I believe is the is the current standard for combined cycle natural gas plants in terms of grams of co2 per kilowatt hour that In open cycle gas turbine is going to be 500 grams of co2 per kilowatt hour. So you can have these lignite plants that are running in baseload mode at three times or more co2 per kilowatt hour.
Robert Bryce 15:15
Well, soon this is the part again, that just I just can’t get my mind around it. I, you know that why would the Germans do this? I mean, why would they continue to persist with this and shut off their nuclear plants? So addressing? We talked about the coal? So is it that the Green Party is that strong that the despite all the facts that we’re seeing, despite the fact Nord Stream has been blowing up, despite the fact Europe is saying we’re not going to go back to Russian gas, despite the fact that they’re burning lignite, which is the most carbon intensive method of electricity generation? Why in the name of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, are they closing their nuclear plants?
Mark Nelson 15:52
Look, because they were told they wouldn’t have to sacrifice anything, they could turn off the nuclear, turn off the coal, have as many renewables as they wanted, take it as long as they wanted in the transition. If it was a more aggressive green oriented government, they could say our transition will only take 10 years, if they were a less aggressive, more, I don’t know business oriented government, German government, they could say it’ll take a little longer, don’t worry about it. But as long as that Nord Stream pipeline came in, Robert, they were building enough gas plants and planning to import enough gas from their best buds Russia in order to have everything phased out. And if you combine natural gas with tons of renewables, you can get those co2, grams of co2 per kilowatt hour numbers, you can get them pretty low, not low, like France or Sweden or not low enough to meet your climate goals. But you could get the progress that seems like it’s headed in the direct correct direction. And you could just keep squeezing it more and more and more and more renewables, fewer and fewer bursts of gas power. That was the plan. Right? So they built the pipeline and started closing the nuclear reactors. Yep, got it. Right. Yeah. With closing their hard coal mines, that’s the black coal but keeping the lignite then they started taking coal plants and putting them out on say, mothballing and just putting them on like a five year storage plan where you wouldn’t just get rid of a nuclear plant, just because you’re sorry, you wouldn’t get rid of a coal plant just because you’re closing it. That’s for the poor countries that can afford to just keep up a bunch of plants that they’re not using No, Germany’s rich. So while they were urging other countries to turn off their nuclear and coal, they were keeping their coal plants and building Nord Stream right? North Stream 55, BCM 55 billion cubic meters per year of gas doubling nordstream. One that’s up to 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year, you could turn off the coal, you can turn off the nuclear, that’s enough. Then the worst. Now, somebody blew up the pipeline. So
Robert Bryce 17:59
but now the world has changed. And yet they still haven’t they still haven’t done it done an about face.
Mark Nelson 18:05
Has it really changed? Robert, they can survive this winter. Maybe that means nothing’s changed at all? Well, Germany is not like Germany isn’t poor, like the UK is or, or Italy or Spain or those other poor countries Germany’s proper rich, which means that they can rapidly build a bunch of liquefied natural gas terminals, LNG terminals, super fast, no issues with environmental permits. Now, times have changed, right? So they got that Bill real fast, they’re going to build five import terminals. And they’re going around signing expensive, relatively short term deals compared to cheaper, longer term deals, because, you know, climate change, they’re gonna phase it all out, right? It’s just temporary measures to replace their gas pipeline from Russia, they got blown up. So they’re building these LNG terminals, and then they’re finding plenty of natural gas. It used to be headed for poor countries, but poor countries don’t need it Germany can make with those countries need, right. So Germany is taking gas supplies that the market had expected to send to developing countries because German
Robert Bryce 19:13
Pakistani institutions were in Bangladesh, or those countries were among them, right? Exactly. So country effectively priced out of the market for that LNG that’s now going to go to Germany. And you mentioned the LNG terminal, they built one that was in like three months, 100 days or something, they built one incredibly quickly, which
Mark Nelson 19:32
is why you can never count out the Germans. Other countries are much more likely to suffer from German policy mistakes than Germany is. Wow, they’re that organized. So that’s part of the answer to this puzzle. I’m being a little bit facetious sometimes, but seriously, let me let me be devil’s advocate here. When the Germans find a direction to move in, they move until something makes them stop and nothing has made them yet.
Robert Bryce 19:59
And what would be the thing that would make them stop?
Mark Nelson 20:02
I don’t know. I don’t know what somebody was thinking blew up Nord Stream. Honestly, there are people who say it was USA dab a good argument, people who say it might have been one of the Baltic countries that would be next to be invaded if if Russia was on the march. That’s a decent argument. I know some excellent reasons why it could be Russia that blew up the pipeline. But whatever it was, it didn’t take out all the pipelines, it merely showed that it was possible to take out all the pipelines. Well, it didn’t take out the ones that were sanctioned, right. So just that unsanctioned gas pipeline in Scotland.
Robert Bryce 20:33
Well, so is this does it all for the moment, then come down to the price of gas, because I mentioned then, you know, earlier, we were at $100, at TTF, in August, and now, so I said, the front month, today, July, January 20 $19.24. Henry Hub is sub $4 Here in the US. So is this all coming down? Fundamentally, there are a lot of factors in play.
Mark Nelson 20:56
But think about it this way, Germany does not have to pay unlimited high prices for this gas, all they have to do is pay a little bit more than anyone else can afford. And as other countries run down the economy, growth starts slowing. You know, as as things get worse for the rest of the world, the price that Germany has to pay to beat them out on the market gets smaller. It’s perfect. Markets working as intended. And remember, the World Bank, an institution where a lot of the policy is set pretty much by like USA and Germany, and the money comes from USA and Germany kind of and the IMF, same, same sort of thing. They haven’t really allowed funding of anything but renewables and natural gas for a while. So you have a bunch of countries that aren’t rich yet, and cannot outbid Germany for this fuel that Jeremy is now buying.
Robert Bryce 21:54
Well, let’s talk about you mentioned in renewables and gas, but the EU has agreed on this new taxonomy to include natural gas and nuclear, which is a big about face. So let’s talk about nuclear in Europe. You had some announcements that you wanted to or something discovery that you’d made about the German plants that the German nuclear plants that have been shoved had been closed? What’s the status of those three plants that were shuttered last fall? Am I remembering correctly,
Mark Nelson 22:19
Germany appears to be hedging. As of December 31 2021, six nuclear plants were operating in Germany making about 60 terawatt hours per year, or, you know, another 40% More than that giant mine that’s been the subject of protests and makes any year, so 60 terawatt hours per year carbon free, but I don’t think Germany cares about that, if ever, they definitely don’t now. And from six giant, ultra modern ultra high performance reactors, arguably the finest reactors in the world. Why do I mean by fine, it means that they were built to have almost unlimited upgrade paths, like big hatches where you can easily insert and remove equipment, that’s been something that’s taken out us plants where errors and substituting out the big equipment from cutting through containment has destroyed entire plants, like in Crystal River, Florida, got knocked off length or in California, issues in replacing parts was used as a reason to kill a plant by the California leadership back in the middle of last decade. So that isn’t an issue in Germany, because the quality of their parts the quality of their steel quality of their operation procedures. Also, they design these plants to operate with a minimum number of employees. It’s astonishing what they did. They, they designed the plants to be able to be accessed and maintained internally in containment, during operation which us plants do not. They’re not not set up to work that way. what it all means, Robert, is that these plants are set up for another century of life at least, with about 300 to 400 employees per reactor, and each reactor among the largest in the world between 13 115 100 megawatts, very high up time, we’re talking about 20 euros per megawatt hour for the fuel, or for the operating expenses, including about a quarter to a third of that being the fuel. Here’s what I wanted to say about the German nuclear. The fact that they’re hedging is partly just the economics were. In German nuclear plants, they’re required to keep the full complement of staff after shutting off. Whereas at Indian Point, they laid off you know that they got rid of 80% of the staff the day after the plant lost its license and they started to start ripping it apart straightaway, right. No vaccines. Well, in Germany, there’s some vaccines there’s there’s some room to take it back and the plant has to keep a full complement of staff until receiving official decommissioning permission, that’s the official permission to start doing irreversible damage. And irreversible is a little bit of a funny term because if Germany had the same attitude towards a half deconstructed nuclear plant that they do towards the LNG term, who knows, they can get back into shape very quickly. But for these for these three nuclear plants that were shut down as of January 1 2022, that was about half or about 30 terawatt hours, one of these has start at already had permission to start doing deconstruct deconstruction, that’s going to be harder to repair. The other two, however, are in mint condition, ready to go.
Robert Bryce 25:44
So the punchline here is that what you’re saying without saying is these plants can be brought back online. And they the way that they’ve
Mark Nelson 25:50
evidently applied for permission to deconstruct the other two of these three that were shut down on new years last year, and they haven’t received permission. So the gut is that it’s not like a deep state survival instinct or why, I don’t know, but it means that somehow something and I don’t, I doubt that it’s just lost paperwork. The Germans are incredible at paperwork, they are just the best. They’re the best filers of paperwork, the best adherence to arbitrary paperwork. They are incredible at paperwork. It’s just a talent of the people. It just doesn’t feel like it’s a paperwork issue. It feels like it’s intentional. And I like to see it because it means there’s time for the coalition in charge of Germany to break apart on the subject of nuclear. Why is that necessary, is because it is fundamental to the identity of the German Green Party, the leading Green Party in the whole world because it was sort of the Flashpoint between Eastern Western the Cold War, it was a it was a was lavished. attention from the intelligence communities, both east and west, were lavished on Germany and a really good mood that move that Moscow did is they of course, love nuclear, they don’t even need it to be particularly safe if you saw Chernobyl, but they they needed, they needed other countries that were not part of the Soviet orbit to not do nuclear. So it was a very important thing to help get really strong green movements supported all over, especially in West Germany, where Germany still provides majority of the global funding for Greenpeace, for example, which employs my professional antagonists like the guys I would go up against in TV debates and stop there. Some money’s still coming out of Germany for that, right. So it’s us and
Robert Bryce 27:31
this is one of the biggest in climate NGOs in the world, their budget, the last time I checked over $300 million a year. It’s very
Mark Nelson 27:37
lame, it’s probably a weird way to put it. I don’t know if they’d prioritize it quite like that, Robert, but certainly, most of them one of the most important anti nuclear
Robert Bryce 27:45
things. Fair enough. Okay. Anti nuclear NGO. So let’s switch gears, let’s talk more broadly about Europe, Belgium, track the bell as been as I understand its own biology, and they’re going forward with the closure of their nuclear plants to is that correct? If I’m if I
Mark Nelson 28:00
know this is where there’s some cautious good news. Okay. Belgium has a phase out. That’s if anything that more suicidal than Germany’s so the about 50% of their electricity, until a few weeks ago, was nuclear. So 50%, one of the highest percentages in the world, to nuclear plants, tea hog in the in the, I guess, the poor French speaking area and Doyle in the richer northern Dutch speaking area, and four reactors at dole three AT T hunger, and Belgium was going to try to shut all those down by 2025. This is a lobbying executed from back in 2003. Just to show you how these dad policies keep rolling over and only really get enforced once you get a green party and government like Belgium has now but Belgium is in such a bad situation with replacing that energy. They literally can’t. There’s not enough, they didn’t get enough gas plants approved. They just cannot. So even though there’s
Robert Bryce 29:11
there’s no other replacement supply. I mean, this is one of the things Alexander Stael talked about on the podcast a few weeks ago about electricity and across the European continent is short and other some countries are shorter in terms of supply than others Italy in particular, he talked about Britain being another being another one very short. So you’re saying what Belgium is recognizing that without these nuclear plants, they’re going to be catastrophically short of power and therefore they have to keep them open. Is that am I I’m trying to re restate what I think I’m hearing you say
Mark Nelson 29:42
so the the Green Party in Belgium Blent. They do or either do not have the Death Wish the German greens are feel a weaker feel that they have a weaker position or they had more pressure and we’re told you will be thrown straight out of coalition government if you don’t bend on this. Like I don’t know what pow moved behind the scenes to get this change. But Green Energy Minister Tina bonders dropped in and and by the way, just the fact that the Green Party keeps getting these energy ministries and these weird coalition governments it’s it’s a, it’s kind of like the revenge of game theory if you it’s the it’s the tyranny of The Intolerant minority, where if you have a green party that says we’ll go along with anybody will go along with any politics will join up with any party in any coalition, we have one demand, one, the energy ministry so we can kill your nuclear, then that’s too tempting. It means that for the people who have spent their entire lives trying to be prime prime minister and are in one of the mainstream parties, if they can choose to be Prime Minister by merely saying yes, and letting these weirdos have the energy ministry, why not just let them have it? Robert, the polling isn’t even that great for nuclear new even understands electricity, iron law, what’s that gonna give me a college lecture, you pick nerd? It’s just electricity, what can it cost $10 Anyway, so you just you can be king, you can be Prime Minister, you can be written into the history books, if you just add the greens who will give you what you need to push to give you 50 parliamentary
Robert Bryce 31:23
majority 51% of the vote. And so you get to be in power.
Mark Nelson 31:27
And they they did incredibly well in the elections and 2020 where it appeared that we were done needing energy because everyone stayed home and there was oversupply for a year and prices went negative. Okay, well, there’s there’s a there’s a bit of a rhythm to history sometimes. And in this case, there was that that’s like the, you know, that’s the that was the downbeat that put the greens in control of major European economies in terms of that the life line the energy supply, but now that we are coming for a few more years, governments will fall if they fall out of coalition, the principles of coalition government is that you don’t do big policies unless all coalition parties agree, or else you lose, you lose government in these parliamentary systems, right? You see what’s happening here. And if the Greens if all they want is the energy minister, you just give him well, all of that sidetrack aside. In Belgium, the greens blamed Minister of under strat and who I met at a short on enlightening conversation with in Egypt at COP 27, the big climate conference, she was a lawyer with a firm that worked for Gazprom. So she was familiar with the energy issues in a way that her counterpart in Germany was not, I’m not saying she still works for Gazprom, or anything like that. Nobody in Europe really works for Gazprom now, not at least not directly, but she at least understood energy, arguably a little bit more than her counterpart over in Germany, Robert habeck. But she was also in a much worse position because Belgium is much more screwed. Because 50% is not the same as what Germany is doing. Germany is going from 12% to 0%, over about 16 months, from the end of December 2021. To at the moment, April 15. What Belgium was doing was 50% to zero from late 2022. Until Until I guess it was it’d be mid year 2025 was the schedule. So a little less than two years. So
Robert Bryce 33:29
so but just to be clear. So where’s Belgium now? Are they still saying they’re going to shutter their nuclear plants in April? Or have they have signed
Mark Nelson 33:36
an agreement to negotiate the keeping of one reactor at each of the two plants that currently supply about 45% of electricity because they shut down a one gigawatt reactor already. So I’m headed back to Belgium, here in a few days. In this same thing, as we did in any point, right, where we’ve got to mark the event, and get the attention of the public on the closure date of that reactor in the city where it’s being closed.
Robert Bryce 34:07
So if this is going to be a public motive, let me see a public motivation public, how do you activation public demonstrations you’re talking about March
Mark Nelson 34:18
thank you to the plant and its workers, a warning and attention gathering event for what’s happening to Europe, because it’s not just if Belgium were an isolated grid, the nuclear phase out would be canceled already. Just don’t go from 50%. So you can’t do that. But it’s not an isolated grid. In fact, I saw just the other day somebody was showing how the UK energy story is a success, because they were super low carbon for a few hours or something. And you looked at the numbers and you’re like, wait, you’ve got two nuclear reactors worth of power coming in from friends. You’ve got one nuclear reactors worth of power coming from Belgium. In fact, the amount coming in to Belgium in this sort of viral energy, Twitter We’d saying how good Britain was doing was exactly the amount is going to be shut off in 10 days.
Robert Bryce 35:08
So then they’re
Mark Nelson 35:09
gonna be able to pass the pain along this it’s a it’s a musical chairs. Really, if we want to give your listeners a really strong image for what’s happening in Europe, it’s a game of musical chairs. And Germany is never left without a seat. So the fact that they’re taking some of the chairs out, is that really going to hurt Germany? Or is it going to hurt whatever poor bastard can’t get past the Germans to get a seat before the music stops?
Robert Bryce 35:37
So this is Machiavelli comes in play with your electric grid.
Mark Nelson 35:41
I don’t know if they’re that smart or even evil about it. They’re just richer about it. You know, you know, some problems you don’t feel if you’re not poor enough to suffer the consequences of.
Robert Bryce 35:53
So let’s switch then. So you were you’ve been in Estonia, you have strong contacts there. I saw that was just a couple of days ago, that Estonia announced a deal with the State Department, the US State Department on SMRs. What’s that about?
Mark Nelson 36:07
Well, a little bit of background for people on a Sony AS Estonia it’s almost a city state based around the great medieval trading city of Tallinn once called Rebel, are EV out. So is a Hanseatic League city. What does this mean? So there’s this big fortress Castle trading halls, German polish, you know, the big entrepreneur, a big meeting point of people anywhere he wanted to do business of the staple commodities coming out of the vast Slavic wildernesses, right the oak, the honey, the furs come out of the the, you know, Moscow V, that region comes out comes down the river comes out of the Baltics, and is traded in Tallinn, for cloth, machinery, iron goods, those sorts of things coming in from the Germanic trading cities further, further west. So Tollan is something like 40 or 50% of the population and its surrounding areas of a tiny country of about a million people where there’s no other city that’s above a few, several 1000 People just to show you how this is kind of this trading town, and it’s farming hinterland. So that country was occupied. At the end of World War Two, I mean, they were just caught like many of the countries in Eastern Europe before between smashing destructive invasive armies, they were very quick to get their independence, they’ve been richer per capita than then the rest of the Soviet Union for a long time and, and remain so. And they’re doing it not from from minerals, really, because they only have a little bit of some of the crappiest fossil fuel known demand as oil shale. It’s like a yellowish powdery rock with fossils in it that can be burned. But it gives off a sort of rough heat, let’s just say. So they have this big plant leftover from the Soviet Union powering its electricity from this incredibly dirty fossil fuel. And they would like to replace a major chunk of that with a nuclear reactor. And they’re a country that has extremely rapid bureaucratic processes, that very little red tape, we’re doing something right is often enough to be legal. We’re in a lot of places like California, where I used to live, something being legal, is only the starting point for whether it happens because of the extra bureaucracy layered on top of whether something’s legal or not. So there’s an idea that if they’re nimble, quick, excellent, hire the best minds from around the world, adopt the very best practices where applicable and make their own new best practices where where applicable, they can get a small nuclear plant on the ground in operation potentially before 2030.
Robert Bryce 39:10
Well, so let’s back up then just talk about SMRs more generally, and I’ve been following the NRC I know you have as well. And we’ve talked about this before. This will nuclear succeed in Europe before it succeeds in the United States, new nuclear, I’m talking about that deployment of new SMRs or new AP when that new new gigawatt scale reactors. What Why do you believe I’ve heard you say this, why do you believe it will happen in Europe before the US?
Mark Nelson 39:40
They need it more. And they’re, they’re not distracted by novelty, even if they build a new reactor, if that makes sense. In other words, there’s a survival instinct kicking in in a place like Estonia a will to continue existing, which is not it’s like it’s a land where that’s been in question. and where they’ve had various purges back and forth from invading powers, tearing people out of their homes and killing them to reset the country, and they don’t want that again. And it feels like energy security is the strongest way to make sure they they stay independent. And their independence isn’t some Oh, freedom. I like feeling that I’m breathing free air, it’s not some abstraction like that. Physical security and independence are the same thing for a stone. So they have to have it in a way, and we don’t have to have it. We could be crappy, poor falling apart in America, and we still have, you know, our nuclear arsenal, our borders are still pretty simple. Just Canada and Mexico kind of is the big ones. We’re in a better physical state.
Robert Bryce 40:51
So our geography is better. And we have $4 gas, and they still have $20 gas right now. I mean, you know, it’s still 5x. But so is is I talked about that gas before. But this, if I’m going to read this back to you that you’re also as I’m hearing you say, or maybe I’m just reading between the lines, this is all ultimately, it’s not just about being invaded before, it’s about that fundamental, fundamental cost of the commodity that drives their economy. And if it’s $20, there’s a much greater motivation for them to go nuclear than what we see here in the US.
Mark Nelson 41:23
Exactly. And yeah, gas is going up, gas is going down. But what’s clear is that gas will probably always just for the, for our lifetimes, let’s just say, be cheaper in the United States, right? than it will be in Europe.
Robert Bryce 41:40
We have better rocks better, we have never
Mark Nelson 41:42
seen never weirder things have happened, Robert, who knows, but like we have so much area that could continue to be drilled even at double our price, that’s going to be something now with the liquefied natural gas connections between Europe and America, there will be a more of a linkage a stronger and stronger linkage all the time. And assuming we don’t abandon the principles of commercial contracts and things like that, when soon we don’t have a president that say, if there’s outrage about gas, and people blame the gas being exported to Europe and populace president says no, we’re going to nationalize it, or we’re going to cancel the supplies. We’re going to do something to physically force contracts to be broken and are shipping gas to Europe, it’s a little hard to imagine that I guess it’s possible. Australia is in a weird position where they’re facing that that problem in its maturation, like that problem is now coming full force in Australia where they developed a gas industry on this side, they needed on this side, there isn’t a pipeline and to get it seaborne, you put yourself directly in the path of the global market price and ultra long term contracting from Asian buyers. And that’s a very bad problem that Australia is having to face. I don’t know what’s gonna happen there. I see that as being very far away, if ever incoming to us shores. But that connection with Europe does mean that the rising gas prices will provide a little bit of I don’t know if artificial is the right word, a little bit of benefit a little bit of cushion and breathing room for America’s remaining nuclear plants. I’m feeling amazing going into 2023 about the survival of every last one of America’s existing nuclear plants at the moment, and potentially even our first nuclear Lazarus, our first example of a plant losing its operating license and potentially gaining and again that’s Palisades and Michigan we we had no hope because it closed but then Holtec the buyer that Undertaker, the US nuclear industry now I say that with love rather than with with fear or hate the undertaker decided we want to pack to being an operator, no better way than to, you know, not tear apart this plant and get it back up and running. As soon as possible. They applied to the Department of Energy, stay online, their application was rejected. And we were crushed again. Ah, great. That’s why you don’t get your hopes up. Robert Diablo was a was a one off, we’re not going to save others. No, they Holtec, the owner of Palisades up in Michigan on the other side of the lake from me in Chicago, they’ve reapplied and we’ll see if they’re going to be sort of handheld and walk through the process put together a bid that’s accepted to return on the plant. Every other nuclear plant, however, appears to be fairly safely in the money for the amount of time it’ll take to build up enough natural gas export capacity to hopefully prevent future nuclear closures from happening in the US.
Robert Bryce 44:46
Well I’m glad you brought up Palisades because that is a very interesting story and Holtec is interesting I’ve been meaning to contact I want to have Chris Singh on he owns that company because I just think it’s a very interesting story as you say that they’re you know the plant shut down. Entergy, you know, handed him the keys and said, Okay, it’s yours now and Holtec said, well, then they applied once got rejected for federal money under the this wasn’t the stimulus bill. It was not that not the IRA. It was from 19 or 2021. But let’s let’s move on. So what about coal more broadly, today, in January 20 of Bloomberg reported that China is going to build 70 gigawatts of new coal fired capacity. It’s coal and gas, not just coal. It’s on top of 40 gigawatts of new coal and gas last year. So that’s 110 gigawatts. So
Mark Nelson 45:35
this is a real headline. The real headline that’s out there is about their what I think 80 or 90 gigawatts of solar they installed.
Robert Bryce 45:44
Fair enough, and they’re also building a massive amount of new nuclear but the other the other big headline is India saying it’s going to be consuming their coal burn this year will increase by about 8%. We talked about lignite in Germany, give me your quick take on global coal because we’re seeing Newcastle, the Newcastle marker late in the last time I looked $370 a tonne. That’s the Asian thermal coal market. That’s up seven and a half times what it was in mid 2020. To talk a lot about the rise in oil and gas prices. coal prices have been far grown far faster than than the growth in in other hydrocarbons would have you read the global coal market?
Mark Nelson 46:25
Well, it could be that the way Europeans have set up electricity pricing that kind of ties together the price of different fuels. So you can sort of compare and, you know, if the price goes up, maybe an expensive fuel gets used more price goes down and expensive fuel gets used less? Well, Europe is saving so much energy by a combination of genuine Thrift, and also economic deep economic damage that will be revealed in later years at the loss of various industries. That that kind of saves a little bit of fossil fuels for some other people. So it’s, in a way, if you’re looking at emissions, Europe is finally giving back to those lucky bits of the developing world that are truly developing, while also damaging those unlucky parts of the developing world that are not or did not have whatever it takes to keep up the energy supply during this crisis. If you’re hearing the increasing capacity and purchases in India and China, it sounds like those places are going to be the beneficiaries of lower usage in Europe. But all of it raises the question, What on earth are we actually doing at these global climate conferences, including the one coming up this year in Dubai, I’m going to be making this point at a clean tech conference in Palm Springs and getting invited to fancy events courtesy in this case, courtesy of canon Brian of terrestrial I’ll be on a panel that will be do introducing hundreds of people who may have barely heard of nuclear in their life, to the coal to nuclear transition. And one of the primary messages I’m going to be delivering is, as I’ve said, with Chris Kiefer, if you don’t love what Cole provides, if you don’t learn to understand, at least love even better, what coal does, you won’t properly replace it? And if you don’t replace
Robert Bryce 48:18
what cold does is provide lots of local jobs. And I’m just reading ahead here provides
Mark Nelson 48:23
local jobs. No, I mean, don’t. The grid is for the entire economy, right. It’s for them for entire nations at a time. Sure. Some local jobs. Yeah, it’ll be harder to bulldoze your way through a landscape with zero local job providing wind and solar farms. But places are discovering that already. In fact, I’ve heard of a gentleman who’s making a list of all the projects getting canceled.
Robert Bryce 48:44
Oh, yeah. He’s very he’s very popular with the wind and solar crowd they
Mark Nelson 48:48
love Yeah, they tell me he’s an asshole. Anyway, people rejection
Robert Bryce 48:51
database. Look it up. The people
Mark Nelson 48:55
at Clean Tech. Palm Springs are not like the kind of a local job people there. You know, a conference is probably $3,000 A person or so to attend. This is, you know, serious coastal folk looking for large, big business solutions. And I’m going to point out that if you haven’t been to a coal plant, I’ll see how many have probably not many than you cannot appreciate the physical scale, the actual energy being provided by a single spot with days at a time of fuel on site that you can see with your own eyes. And that matters. That’s real. Israel. Can the coal piles freeze up if you’re not ready for proper cold weather? Yes. Are there coal plants operating in Siberia that are doing just fine and arbitrarily cold conditions? Yes, also, it’s a matter of preparation, but it’s not a matter of preparation for when the wind doesn’t blow you don’t prepare the wind turbines for the wind doesn’t blow you do prepare them for severe cold, which is how and severe cold cold conditions wind turbines can be A negative contributor to get grid electricity just to stay warm enough to be functional if the wind picks up, right? Not a lot, I’m not trying to make some big argument that, oh, they suck up energy No, no, just to stay ready, they’re a little bit negative. But at a coal plant, you can choose to be prepared to have the same production that you do when it’s warmer. That is an engineering choice, a financial choice that you get, which brings us to choice. Cole is option value for your economy, and you don’t miss option value as you lose it until it’s too late. That’s that’s the way it works. That’s so type is running almost out of all its option value. And when Germany is running out of its options, it chooses coal. That’s the lesson. And if you want to replace coal, you need something that does that acts like what coal acts like in providing the option of having energy all the time.
Robert Bryce 50:57
And that is a nuclear plant with onsite fuel which is inherent in the design you have to have on site fuel,
Mark Nelson 51:03
you could have a decade of on site fuel if you so choose to.
Robert Bryce 51:07
Well, then this brings up one other quick point. It’s something that I’ve been looking at it I’ve been making some slides and doing some work on it. I haven’t written much about it yet. I’ve talked about it in many of my speaking engagements. But it’s the transmission stupid that one of the things that to me makes this clear, very clear argument about if we’re going to run TerraPower is exploring this I will talk about Tara powers will in just a minute, we’re getting close to an hour here. By the way square quick station break my guest is Mark Nelson is the managing director of the radiant energy group, you can find him on Twitter at energy bands, that’s where the be at at energy bands. You can also contact them directly mark at radiant energy group.com. But the the one of the main reasons I think this replacing coal plants with nuclear plants is that they can use those nuclear plants would be zero carbon, but they also can use the existing transmission grid. But here’s the question, how have you looked at or considered how the the expansion of the grid is going to be constrained or is already constrained for a lot of the new renewables that are being promoted people saying, oh, we’ll just add this hundreds of gigawatts of new new new renewables? Is it can it be done with from a transmission standpoint,
Mark Nelson 52:13
it’s turning out to be extraordinarily difficult, extraordinarily difficult. It’s one of those things, that’s the ultimate difference between what you see as a modeler as an energy modeler, and you just draw a line on a graph or on a map and say, Ah, see that connects the wind area with the city’s done. It’s the ultimate difference between the difficulty of doing that in a model, it’s not difficult to how difficult it is, in reality, almost impossible. Because you can’t have your you can’t have your line be 99% contiguous, every single inch has got to have permission to exist. And it’s not really a matter of saying, Oh, just underground. And if people don’t want to see it, undergrounding, it might still not get you permission, right. And up to 10 times more, while having particular drawbacks that make it vulnerable in different ways.
Robert Bryce 53:09
Right. And that’s the other part of you know, the numbers I’ve been getting very good, but 1700 miles of high voltage transmission are built per year, on an interstate basis. It’s something like 200 215. And that’s since 2008 through 2021. So we’re talking about
Mark Nelson 53:25
getting that can make the difference between a profitable wind project and a worthless pilot, trash.
Robert Bryce 53:31
Right? Well, so let’s go back jump back to the issue of nuclear fuel. Because we talked I mentioned TerraPower. They said they were delaying their project by about two years because of lack of a halo, high assay, low enriched uranium, the one other part of the uranium or the nuclear. What do I call it? The nuclear sector is the issue. We have manufacturing challenges. We have supply chain challenges, we have fuel challenges. How important is this availability of Halo? And is the TerraPower claim that they couldn’t get the fuel? Is this valid? Are we is the US moving toward producing? Hey, Lou, how important is that Russian fuel to this rebirth of the nuclear sector, both here in the US and around the world?
Mark Nelson 54:15
So big complicated question, and I love the technology they’re working on over at TerraPower. Let’s just be real clear if they had unlimited supplies that would not change the in service date. I like to encourage honesty and nuclear communications. I’m not I’m not feeling amazing about that, but haven’t yet talked to the terror power folks to see what they thought they were saying or what they meant to say. But yeah, it’s yeah, I work with folks that want to make Hulu and want to use Hulu different ways and that is not that’s not the holdup with TerraPower. So I’m Not sure why they said that. Now having having put that out there is really important for say other companies that are way further along to get Hey Lou as part of offering advantages to our nuclear industry. And at the moment, so hey Lou Hi assay low enriched uranium is uranium enriched higher than the 5% or so that’s the highest use and most reactors today in the commercial sector, but lower than the 20%, that starts to make people really nervous in terms of high concentration, high purity uranium 235 that were used in, say, military propulsion or military reactors, right. So hey, Lou, it’s 5% to 20% enriched, most people designing clever new reactors like to see what they could get out of upping that enrichment to 16 1718 19%. It means you get more spiciness and pure, Scott more Spark, if we’re going to use
Robert Bryce 56:01
figurative, more more reactive? Yeah, yeah,
Mark Nelson 56:05
you just have more options with how you can design and operate your device. Like, for example, running it for longer between refueling or, or changing the design of the core to allow certain safety measures on heat removal by having a lower amount of total fuel, but higher reactivity that operates, there’s various things you can balance that are quite fun. If you have Halo. The problem is Russia. Russia has a very large amount of the world supply not of uranium, they’re not a big net producer of uranium at all. That’s not it, it’s of the enrichment cascades, the enrichment technology that we need to make regular fuel, and that we would definitely need more to make Hey, Lou, to enrich further. So with a split in the middle of the world between those who want to buy from Russia, if it’s discounted, and those who are not going to buy from Russia at any price. Because of the war in Ukraine, there’s not quite enough enrichment as far as we can see on our side, to keep prices low and meet demand. Now price is going high means you would need to mined more raw uranium to throw more raw uranium into the enrichers and not use the enrichers. So much to squeeze every last drop out of this stuff. Instead, we would need to put a ton more uranium in the centrifuges but there’s a problem there. In order to mine more uranium. That’s not the huge issue. miners have been severely damaged by the last decade of ultra low uranium prices. Partly because the importation of spent warhead material used recycled warhead material from Russia. It was supposed to be like a security argument, but it helped defined America’s fuel industry, unfortunately, parts of it that are necessary. Yeah. Details, right. I don’t think it’ll happen in the future. I think Congress is paying really close attention to this sort of stuff and unintended consequences and fuel supply. But yeah, we’ll see. At the moment, though, in order to take the uranium and put it in the heavy uranium gas form that’s needed for these gas centrifuges. There’s a conversion step, the conversion step, we’re a little short on two. And the companies are these little narrow pinch points that are we know how to do it. Pretty easy to do it. But if you don’t have it, you cannot operate a centrifuge. That’s a bit of an issue.
Robert Bryce 58:34
And the companies Oh, I forgot I met them if they changed their name recently begins with the scenes not sinteres interlinking of centers. Its interest energy. Okay. Yeah. So they’ve gotten a grant from the government they’re gonna build, they’re gonna, their goal is to produce Halo. But they are they’re a couple years away, if I remember, right,
Mark Nelson 58:50
yeah, a couple years away. And some of the other options are a year or two away, depending on depending on their success, once they get the money once they get the money. If the money spigot turns on, when can we expect tons of hay, literally tons of 20% enriched material? Well, there’s a plant in New Mexico, owned by the Brits, the Germans and the Dutch. It’s complicated, but they own the main enrichment plant used in the US, that plant could get an expansion with European technology. And maybe that’s the way we’ll go. Maybe we do that. And we try to get some domestic technology up and running the centrist cascades. And then finally, we have a little ace in the hole, should we choose to use it?
Robert Bryce 59:35
Then, which is what
Mark Nelson 59:37
laser enrichment, the most advanced enrichment technique ever developed? The idea is that you make the same uranium gas as before, blast a laser through it, it’s selectively energizes just the uranium you want to take it out and you you make your batch. So that’s the only privately held top secret technology in the US that’s normally It’s not possible to get top secret you know, top secret status for stuff developed in a noisy private world. It’s just it’s not it’s not really what happens right stuff can move the other way if it’s declassified, but typically not to classified status. Well, some Australian scientists came up with a process to laser enrich, couldn’t quite turn it commercial. Heck, Australia doesn’t even have enrichment. It doesn’t, doesn’t do that part of nuclear, just the mining just the dirty part, not the really clean, profitable part. So then the US got this technology over here, got it classified. And now some private companies are working to develop it into the most advanced enrichment in the world. If the money spigot turned on, this ace in the hole could be ready by mid late 2027 or early 2028. If we went now, that would be phenomenal. I think that’d be amazing. And it might be that TerraPower wants to get America serious about it while announcing a delay that they would have to announce at some point. Anyway, again, I don’t want to piss off TerraPower doing phenomenally interesting work, cannot wait to see what comes out of the terror of our projects. But I think we could if we wanted to, gotcha an effort to get in Richmond.
Robert Bryce 1:01:14
Well, and one of the things just I should mention, TerraPower said that they’re one of their goals. And they made an announcement with Pacific Corp during the IAEA ministerial in November in Washington, you were there saying that they are exploring putting new nature in reactors that existing five existing coal plants in the west you mentioned central synergy they’re publicly traded their ticker there on the New York exchange l EU is their is their ticker. So Mark, we’ve been talking for about an hour I think a little more by this time, I don’t have my clock running. So you know, I always ask these questions. And you told me you were prepared. What are you reading?
Mark Nelson 1:01:47
Well, at the moment, I have about five books going simultaneously a real danger sign because I might not finish anyone. But um, one that I find particularly interesting is this. It’s about Cluny, one of the great monastery systems that have ever existed, one of the largest churches and largest religious complexes in the world for hundreds of years located in central France that was sort of directly under the Pope and authority and the church and acted as Kingmaker and, and economic center in the medieval era. fascinating to read about the way people organize themselves to improve their conditions in all times and places. So that’s something I’m reading. And also this this book about Dean Acheson, a name that young people don’t know about. There’s a pretty big generational split, I’ve already found and talking to people about Dean Acheson, he was a the the Wasp to end all wasps, boarding school buddy of the President Roosevelt and a lot of his administration and went into government under Roosevelt and then stayed on and off until the he helped create the world that we see now as Secretary of State under Truman.
Robert Bryce 1:03:07
So in the title there was present at what was it the creation
Mark Nelson 1:03:10
of the creation and by present at the creation that’s referencing a quote from a medieval manuscript, anyway. Dean Acheson was present at the creation helped negotiate or himself established or led the process of getting NATO up and running the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods. Let’s see. He also was there for negotiating the structure that you in. He was the chair of the Atchison William doll report. That was the first attempt to deal with the the all inspiring new power of atomic energy doing in the weapons part. Yeah, he helped manage the Korean War. And the fiasco with the eventual fiasco with General MacArthur, he was present at the creation of aspects of the world that seemed to be in danger of falling apart to date. So I wanted to feel what it felt like in his own words, to be there during decisions as large as what we might have to make in cleaning up the messes in Europe now.
Robert Bryce 1:04:24
Well, I don’t usually offer my own but I had picked this one up and I’m gonna is going to plug it here. Tim O’Brien, his book, The Things They Carried, which is I’ve heard about for many years. It’s a book about the Vietnam War, just marvelously written. I’m about halfway through. It’s not a long book, but just really brilliantly written. I don’t say that I don’t I very seldom say something as well written because I don’t see very much good. I mean, exceptional writing. I see good writing but exceptional writing is rare. Last question, Mark. What gives you hope?
Mark Nelson 1:04:54
Well, we’re going to Belgium to mark the death of a nuclear reactor. but not the death of a nuclear plant. Assuming no hitches come up, seeing a green energy minister forced to negotiate a life extension of both nuclear plants in Belgium only one reactor at each, but it’s a start. Well, that that gives me hope that’s extraordinary. It means that there’s hope even for some greens, traditional greens, obviously, the greens in Finland and a few other countries are already turning pro nuclear. In Poland, they’re almost there. But watching that means hopefully we can surround, isolate and sufficiently inspired Germany to make a big change, that the change will have to come internally, they’re strong enough to stand up to external pressure that isn’t as far as military, I mean, they will stand up for their own bad plans all the way to the bloody end. But seeing Belgium change gives me hope that along with the pause and decommissioning the recently closed reactors in Germany, we may be a year from now still same nuclear power plants online in Germany, which nobody thought was possible this time last year.
Robert Bryce 1:06:16
Well, that’s a good place to stop. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you Mark. Some, sometimes honestly, hard to keep up with you because I’m thinking I’m thinking Wait, what is he saying now? But that’s a compliment. And it’s great that you could come back for a record fifth time or record time. Fifth time, you and Meredith Anglin obviously are among my favorite people to talk about electricity, power, energy grids, nuclear and the rest of it. So my guest again has been Mark Nelson is Mark Nelson mark at radiant energy group.com If you want to get a hold of him directly on Twitter at energy bands, Mark, thanks again for coming on the podcast but great fun. Thanks, Robert. And thanks to all of you in podcast land, tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast until then, see you