Zabrina Johal is a former U.S. Navy officer who, among other jobs, managed nuclear operations on the carrier USS Carl Vinson. In this episode, Johal talks about her work at General Atomics, including the firm’s work on fusion, the supply chain issues that must be overcome for fusion to be commercialized, thermo-nuclear propulsion, TRIGA reactors, and why the Navy plays a critical role in projecting American power around the world. (Recorded March 28, 2023.)

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce  0:04  
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast, we talked about energy, power, innovation and politics. And we’re going to talk about a lot of those on this podcast with Zebrina. Joe Hall. She is the Senior Director of Strategic Development at General Atomics, and a recent acquaintance of mine. Zebrina. Welcome to the power hungry podcast.

Zabrina Johal  0:24  
Hi, thank you. Glad to be here.

Robert Bryce  0:26  
Now, I didn’t warn you. I don’t I warn some guests and other guests. I don’t guess on this podcast introduce themselves. So imagine you’ve arrived somewhere you don’t know anyone. And you have about 60 seconds to introduce yourself, please tell us who you are

Zabrina Johal  0:41  
60 seconds, okay.

Robert Bryce  0:43  
I’m not timing it, by the way. So 60.

Zabrina Johal  0:49  
So I started my career as a US naval officer. I joined the Navy as a nuclear engineering specialist. And with that I had the opportunity to go to two different wars deployed to the Persian Gulf. One was working on Tomahawk strike missile, and guided missile destroyer driving the ship. And then the second one was on an aircraft carrier, operating the nuclear reactor, I would say that experience really brought me out of the situation where I’d grown up, which was Montana, which wasn’t, there wasn’t a lot of exposure, I would say to the geopolitical stage, and the defense arena. And I learned three big things that I think have driven me now through my professional career. One is the importance of nuclear technology to our national security. The second one is that we live in the best nation in the world. And I am a huge Patriot for our country. And then the third one is the extreme sacrifice that our military service members and their family make every single day, and the importance of that to the United States and our national security. When I left the Navy, I joined a company called General Atomics, it’s in Southern California. I’ve been there now for 17 years. So I have done very, a lot of different types of things. But we’re really looking at innovation, and those technologies that can change the world for a better I spent a long time working on the fission side. And you know, really on that intersection of technology to business, and how you would commercialize we started on the small modular reactor side, worked through that for a good decade. And more recently, I’ve been working on the fusion side, which is really interesting and a lot of developments in that area.

Robert Bryce  2:53  
Yeah. Okay. That’s somewhat more than 60 seconds, we will let you go. No, that’s great. Well, I want to talk about all of those things. I think your experience and being in the Navy is is interesting, especially operating reactor. So one question I’m dying to ask since you just mentioned that. So if the President of the United States went on board a Navy ship, could he get into the reactor room?

Zabrina Johal  3:16  
Oh, I was never in that situation? I can’t tell you, I assume yes. But there are many people who always want to go to her the reactor room. And of course, there are not many people who can the President may get a pass for that. Well, I

Robert Bryce  3:34  
assume the president because he’s the president could say, well, that’s what I want to do. But I don’t know. I’ve just heard this rumor that he you know, he’s not qualified or something. There’s only a very select few people that can go into the reactor room. But let’s talk about fusion first, because that was when we we met some couple years ago. I knew you’ve been working on fusion. And I’ve talked to only talk to Ray Rothrock. He’s been on the podcast, we talked about fusion some, but you have a front row seat and General Atomics has been working on fusion now for decades. So the first question is, how important was this December announcement from Lawrence Livermore National Lab about their that they had achieved a breakthrough were slightly more energy out than energy in How important was that?

Zabrina Johal  4:20  
So there’s a lot of backstory to this. Okay, want to get into detail. So to answer your question, as put it was significant because it basically showed that the physics behind more energy out than N is possible. You know, they were a lot of people have equated it to the Wright Brothers moment where they realized the physics of flight were possible. And now it’s up to engineering and design and all these other things to actually make it economical. If we continue to talk a little bit about that experiment, that facility the National Ignition Facility, is not A fusion energy facility, it is operated and or it’s owned by the National Nuclear Security Administration. It is a nuclear weapons facility. So the laser itself is meant to simulate conditions that you would see inside a nuclear weapon. It was never intended to make energy, if that makes sense. So when people ask, but isn’t there so much more energy that went in to the whole system versus just the energy that went into the plasma, and then the energy that came out, that facility was never ever intended to actually do that. But the fact that it said physics were possible that you could get certain phenomena inside, that would actually cause this alpha heating in this game, that was significant.

Robert Bryce  5:46  
So it was two mega joules in I remember reading about that. I actually did a short video on two or two mega joules of energy and three mega joules out. But I’m reading this as a piece that will just came out from JPMorgan read this what it says here, because I was familiar with these numbers as well. But it took 300 mega joules of energy to power the lasers, which produced the energy inputs and even more energy to power cooling systems and computers. Also, the experiment was fired once at a single target and can only be done once per day, it required equipment housed in a building the size of a football field, and it generated enough energy to boil a tea kettle or run a hairdryer for 15 minutes, and then goes on and talks about it. And the bottom line with this assessment was, you know, it’s interesting, but the prospect here, prospects, not in my lifetime. So I’ve heard about fusion, you know, I’m older than you are. But I’ve heard about fusion since I was a kid. I mean, does this really bring us any closer? Is fusion still 20 years away?

Zabrina Johal  6:42  
So I would say fusion is more like 10 to 15 years away?

Robert Bryce  6:47  
Uh huh. By What do you mean by 10 to 15 years wait for what I mean, for let’s talk about commercial production of power was that 10 or 15 years are you think it’s further out than that.

Zabrina Johal  6:59  
So I would say a fusion Pilot Plant, right, which actually generates electrons from fusion energy is 10 to 15 years away. And then just like on the fission side, you would have a foe UK a first of a kind plant. And then you would eventually get to scale with an nth OF A KIND plant driving down costs to be able to make electrons cost competitively.

Robert Bryce  7:21  
So that pilot project, you’re saying a fusion pilot project in 10 to 15 years. But then what about I mean, this is the holy grail, right? We’ve heard that the Wright Brothers moment, the Holy Grail. But it seems to me that Wright Brothers task was easier than fusion, how it okay, we get a pilot plant, let’s say in 15 years. So let’s say that, we’ll call it 2040. Then how long after that to be producing the juice on the grid?

Zabrina Johal  7:47  
So then you would have to actually build and construct a plant that was meant for electricity generation? Right? Oh, you could, you know, call that five. And by the way, there are many other players in this field right now. Sure. That have more, I would say aggressive goals, targets. So there are and there, there might be a little bit of a history lesson required here. But there are folks that are just now getting in with private fusion, venture capital venture funding, right. And these folks obviously want to see something happen very, very quickly. If you were to look at just a walk through, if you don’t mind for a minute, the history of fusion to understand, because everyone’s always said it’s 20 years away. And I think it’s helpful to understand why this genealogy has happened. So it was a 1920s, when a British astronomer looked at the sun and actually thought that it operated through fusion energy, otherwise it would have burned out. And we knew within a decade later that he was right, in the sun and other stars in our universe actually use fusion energy. So this is a combination of the lightest element that we know known to man and the periodic table hydrogen fuses together to create energy. But the sun does it using gravitational fields. And so for many decades, General Atomics started getting into fusion energy in the late 1950s. People were trying to figure out this really, really hard physical phenomena, because we don’t have the gravitational fields that you would have up in the stars. And so it wasn’t until the mid 1980s, that General Secretary Gorbachev approached President Reagan, and offered to pool all of the World Resources, the people the money into a project, a big scientific project to actually prove feasibility of fusion. And that went forward. So that is eater which is now being constructed in the southern part of France with 35 Different nations as seven partners but because the EU is one of those, it’s 35 nations. And now Yeah,

Robert Bryce  10:00  
Oh, just and just interrupt eater Eater is it er International Center? Well, I don’t know what the acronym is here, I’m sure I could

Zabrina Johal  10:06  
have an acronym. But now it just goes by eater means the way in Latin. Okay, got it. So very, very large, arguably one of the largest, if not the largest scientific collaboration in history in the world. And we’re now almost 100%, complete with construction, and we’ll start operation. But the whole point of it was to show that fusion is feasible, they obviously had to stop the design at some certain point in time in order to construct either. And so you know, there are many out there, they’ll say, well, either is an old design, and it’s not relevant. But that is not true. It’s going to show that fusion is feasible. And then that is sort of like a demonstration facility, which from that point, it’s up to each individual nation to develop their own roadmap to commercialize fusion. So we see the Chinese doing it very quickly, actually. We see the Russians, we see the Koreans. And now the United States has gone through a community planning process, where they’ve actually laid out a roadmap. And there was a White House decadal vision that was put out last year, looking at how to get fusion to the grid and 10 years. Right. So

Robert Bryce  11:20  
it’s like an interrupt just quickly, just real quickly on eater. So this technology that’s being developed, they’re assuming then all the glia I don’t know, like, this is one of the reasons why I do this podcast, I get to learn about all these things I don’t know about and ask questions that are maybe elementary for you. But is the technology then at eater than any country that’s contributing can then use that same technology, that same engineering that’s going to be open source, is that right? That’s right. Okay. So that’s the benefit in theory of the of all these countries and coming together on this was that they can then use that technology and bring it home and develop it in their own in their own nation.

Zabrina Johal  11:56  
Exactly. Okay, United States is paying 9% of construction costs, but we get 100% access to the intellectual property. Gotcha. Okay. And we also for the funds that we’re spending that’s coming back in country for technology development. Gotcha. So for example, eater, which is it’s called a tokamak, which is a Russian acronym that basically think of a doughnut shaped device. It’s a vacuum chamber inside the doughnut, and they put magnets around the outside and through the center, and then they put in isotopes of hydrogen, and they cause the hydrogen to fuse. General Atomics was commissioned many years ago. It’s been 10 years now, to build the central solenoid magnet, which is a magnet that goes down the center of eater. Some people call it the heartbeat because it is a pulsed magnet, it stands 49 feet tall. It can run 50 million amperes of current when it pulses, it will provide enough force to lift an aircraft carrier out of the water. And so this is a superconducting magnet that General Atomics has made it’s the largest and most powerful superconducting magnet in history in the world.

Robert Bryce  13:15  
It’s 15 million am so so just don’t want to interrupt because the standard household plug will run out you know, five amps 10 amps maybe right? You know, a hairdryer would pull a couple or three I’m testing my memory here but no more than a single digit amps, right? We’re talking about saying with a refrigerator right? Then you’re just said 15 million. I just want to put that into scale. So amps amps, if correct me if I’m wrong. Am I got my electrical terminology? This is equivalent to what you would call water pressure, right? That that is the the equivalence in electrical terms. Is that right? Or is it is a pressure flow? I’m trying to remember, volts and I get my volts and my amps mix step. Hello. Okay. It’s flow. So amperes amperes are two water is our as if you convert electricity terms into water terms, it would be equivalent to water flow. Right. Okay. So thank you. Yeah. volts or pressure and watts or gallons. That’s how I think about what right I mean, that’s the common way to think about electricity in water terms. But anyway, I’ve interrupted now and for this diversion on 15 million amps, which is an enormous amount of electricity

Zabrina Johal  14:25  
flow, enormous amount of flow. And actually, I appreciate that analogy, because when I was at nuclear power school, when they started teaching electricity, I just understood it so much better than I ever would by thinking of water. Yeah, right, right, a diode and a check valve, all these things. Okay. So the way that this magnet will work is it gets stacked down the center of either like Legos. So they’re circular, and there will be six. And so we ship them independently. We we put them on a Truck, we take them down to the port of Texas, put them on a barge and send it over to eat or so we’ve done that with two of them. So far, the third one is getting ready to go. And they’re going to put these down the center of the tokamak of eater. And it’s enough force that the top five magnets physically separate from the bottom magnet when it’s pulsed. So it is this amazing feature, right. But what it’s done is it’s allowed so much technology development in this cutting edge space to occur within General Atomics and the United States. So that’s one example of what General Atomics is doing from a component provider perspective in either and these

Robert Bryce  15:43  
are superconducting magnets. So they’re operating very low temperature, then is that close to absolute zero? How close do they have to how cold do they have to be

Zabrina Johal  15:52  
for Kelvin. And so these are, these are low temperature superconducting magnets. There are others in the field that are looking at the high temperature superconducting magnet types, when the design for either was frozen, that was not as much in vogue and there have been a lot of enabling technologies around magnet materials that are also part of the reason why, when going back to your original question, why we think we’re closer today to fusion. So when you look at certain enabling technologies that allow this extreme physics problem to become easier, materials, technology is a big one. Because you have to withstand, you know, very high neutron radiation and absorption from the new the neutrons and a fusion system or more like 14 MeV. Whereas a neutron and most of what we think of fission reactors, their thermal, so they’re around one MeV. And then a fast reactor gets up to two MeV. Gotcha.

Robert Bryce  16:56  
So just just a backup, I’m sorry, just want to be clear on that. So that the you said four degrees Kelvin, so this is four degrees above absolute zero, so it’s minus 250 degrees F, something like that. Am I Am I remembering my scale correctly? Very, very cold. Right. And so that’s, that’s cool. Then with liquid nitrogen, is that the standard way to make that happen? Or is there another technology that you use on that or does that

Zabrina Johal  17:19  
standard? Okay,

Robert Bryce  17:21  
so but then, so what I’m hearing you say, but it just an interrupting a lot, because that’s what I do, but it’s the in. So General Atomics here is acting as a technology collaborators and manufacturer as well. Right? So this is your technique? So is how do you describe GA as a manufacturer or a technology company? All of the above? What is the and tell me a little bit about more about General Atomics as a entity? Where does it make its money.

Zabrina Johal  17:46  
So this is why I think I’ve stayed at General Thomas for so long is it’s all of the above. So we got our roots back in the 1950s, basically spun out of the Manhattan Project, in a way. It was Edward Teller that developed one of our first devices, which was the trigger, which you’ve probably heard about. Then we started working in fission and fusion at that point in time. Within the fusion space, then we went through actual models of earlier devices prototypes, that then led to the D 3d National fusion facility, which is a Department of Energy owned, General Atomics operated facility in San Diego, California. This is the largest operating magnetic fusion facility in the United States. It’s been in operation since the mid 1980s. And it’s really operated impeccably. And it’s been it’s a, it’s a very different model, because General Atomics is a private company that’s been operating this, I think some of the private tenants that we take into operations and maintenance have helped that. But so from that point, we’ve understood how to maintain a fusion system, how to operate a fusion system and how to design a fusion system. We also understand what goes into being able to actually see what’s happening inside the reactor. And those are the diagnostics which are extremely important in an experimental environment, if you’re trying to do experimental science and learn something that then would have form a future generation design or even a feedback loop into the system. So I would say the major areas that that we are into right now within the fusion space is design a fusion reactors, component technology, which includes diagnostics and magnets. And then the theory and computational modeling that goes behind how you would go into design. And you know, all of the advances that we’ve seen in high performance computing within a fusion system, they’re just massive amounts of data. You know, it’s a plasma inside a fusion system. So a plasma is basically the fourth state of matter. Or it’s when you strip the electrons from a nucleus, and now they are in separate states. And there’s zinging. And they’re moving all over. And you’re generating all this data, but you need to be able to understand the data, make sense of the data, and then put something in place that could actually provide a feedback, or something that would make the reaction operate differently if you wanted it to. So this is all the control, modeling control system simulation.

Robert Bryce  20:41  
Gotcha. So if I can stop you there for a minute, because General Atomics, you said, you’re a manufacturer, you were manufacturer, component provider, and you provided some of the components that were used at Livermore, as I read, in fact, I think you tweeted something out about that, if I’m not mistaken, or was on LinkedIn. But you also make drones right? Is it the Reaper drone, that that DJI makes? What What What’s your what? What do you make in that actually flies? What what what do you make that in that in the air in the aviation world?

Zabrina Johal  21:10  
So we and I want to get back to your Livermore comment, because there’s any big distinction there, but okay. General Atomics is a corporation has over 15,000 employees and 8 million square feet of manufacturing and office space

Robert Bryce  21:25  
15,000. Well, I didn’t realize it was that. And we

Zabrina Johal  21:28  
are a private corporations. So we have an owner. He’s a very big Patriot for our country. And part of what we do is, as you’ve suggested, we make unmanned aerial systems. And so these are planes that fly. But there, there is a pilot, but the pilot is not onboard the plane, right? The pilot is operating the plane from remote control in a place very far from where the actual battlefield may be keeping the operator safe. This was a product line that we started getting into and developing in the 90s. And then it was really the war on terror in the early 2000s. Where we realized that we are not at these big nation state wars at that point in time. But we really needed to go root out a terrorist somewhere, and you wanted to have something that could stay on station for a long periods of time, and be cheap, right. And that was really where and as you hear about them in the news are called drones, where that technology got started. And General Atomics was a pioneer in that era. And it really changed the face of warfare. You hear a lot about drones in the news and controversy around drones and right, but it changed everything by being able to take the pilot out of the cockpit, put them somewhere safe, have long station times. And you know now you’ll see a lot of various entrance. So we do the Gray Eagle, we do the predator, the Reaper, the MQ nine Reaper. And we’re constantly innovating in that space and trying to, you know, and it’s not just obviously, the airframe, but it’s all of the sensors that go on board. So we specialize on a lot of the sensor type. And again, aggregating the data and computing the data and understanding the data. That’s why we have a hall and that product is very much vertically integrated, because of the need for supply chain, right, and being able to have a reliable supply chain. So through that process, we’ve just had amazing additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing 4.0 principles that really go into the efficiency and optimization of making the product

Robert Bryce  23:48  
4.0 principles I’m familiar with six is this in the neighborhood of Six Sigma,

Zabrina Johal  23:53  
manufacturing industry 4.0, looking at all the CES from a systems perspective, the temperature, the pressure, the humidity, everything that goes into manufacturing and aggregating it in a digital way to make sure that you understand exactly what you’re making taking paper copies off these types of things. Gotcha.

Robert Bryce  24:14  
And so do you make your own jet your own jet engines for your for your drone? st do you make your own reciprocating engines? Or do you outsource those?

Zabrina Johal  24:23  
Those are mostly outsourced, but we have done that when we’ve had to.

Robert Bryce  24:27  
Gotcha. Okay, so um, you give I’m glad to get the big picture on GA because it’s an interesting company I didn’t know was that 15,000 And it’s privately held. That’s a big, a lot of workers for a privately held company. But back to the component then that GA provided for Livermore that was involved in this in this fusion experiment that got so much attention in December. What was that component?

Zabrina Johal  24:50  
Okay, so, the United States used to test our nuclear weapons underground. Before that, we tested them above ground, but we signed a moratorium In the early 90s, where we stopped physically testing our weapons, however, we still need to validate and verify and update the nuclear weapons stockpile. So in order to do that the government set up a network of national labs and lasers and facilities. So Lawrence Livermore has a National Ignition Facility. There’s a Z facility Sandia, there’s a laboratory for Laser Energetics that are Rochester, there’s a dark facility at Los Alamos, what all of these facilities need is they need a target, they need something to actually shoot with the laser or the Z facility with the pinch with the accelerator, General Atomics has been providing those targets. They called it for inertial confinement fusion, Since the program’s inception, on a sole source basis. So here we have over 30 years of engagement between General Atomics making the target and all of the national labs and the NSA working together in order to understand how our weapons are aging. And that’s not an area that we talk about frequently. However, it is a very, very important national security aspect to it for the United States. So what this means is, when I say a target, right, it, there are many different types, there’s indirect drive, there’s direct drive, this specific component that we made for Lawrence Livermore, for the National Ignition Facility, was it was a target that had about 35 components, believe it or not, okay, and at the very center is a hollow BB. So a two millimeter spherical object, we call it a capsule. And you have to, we drill a hole in this capsule with a laser, and then we attach a fill tube, because we have to get the isotopes of hydrogen inside this little tiny hole, right. So the fill tube, the end of the fill tube is anywhere from two to five micron. Okay, the exit is anywhere from five to 10 micron, depending on the design, the human hair is 100 micron, on average. So we have to attach this fill to into the capsule, then we put it inside all this other machinery when a whole ROM, thermo mechanical package, we put it all together, we have a team of about 35, up at Livermore, that do final assembly and work with the lab to put it in the experiment.

Robert Bryce  27:44  
And this BB you’re talking about I read that it has to be super the exterior of it has to be super consistent, very, very finely ground or is. I mean, this is this is the ultimate and precision manufacturing, as I recall, and am I remembering the details about this, this this object out how smooth and it has to be?

Zabrina Johal  28:03  
That’s right. So and they have they call wire?

Robert Bryce  28:06  
I don’t know why I remember this, but I do. But these targets, as you’re called these are not you don’t go to Walmart and get these these are very hard to make. And you can only use them once. I mean, this is one of the challenges though, isn’t it in terms of the longer view for fit for fusion is you’re going to have to make a lot of these or you’re going to the let me ask the question this way. What are the biggest obstacles as you see them now to fusion? Is it this? Is it the material science? Is it the you know, getting those components that are able to withstand all that? That neutron flux, as you talked about the temperature? What are you What, what are the key hurdles as you sit as you sit there and and explain all of these, the science behind this? What do you think are the biggest hurdles now?

Zabrina Johal  28:48  
So there are two different types of fusion and each have very different challenges. So the first one where we were talking about either, that’s magnetic fusion. Okay, it’s one that I’m talking about now is for inertial confinement fusion. But when we start thinking of energy, it’s generally called inertial fusion energy. Okay. I fe, okay, within an inertial fusion energy plant, you are absolutely right, you would have to be able to make these targets for cents, not not 1000s of dollars. And you’d have to make them very quickly. Because the whole idea is that you would get some sort of insertion system, think of maybe a target inserter. Or maybe you’re shooting these things into a laser chamber, and you’d be hitting them with a laser causing fusion, extracting energy, that energy would go into a steam cycle.

Speaker 3  29:49  
But you have to do this, but you’d have to do it. But you’d have to do it over and over and over again over and over and over and over and over. So then it’s

Robert Bryce  29:57  
a manufacturing I mean, it ultimately comes back To the supply chain manufacturing capability for the super, super high precision manufacturing, then is that when am I hearing you correctly?

Zabrina Johal  30:09  
Well, I think that and so you from the event, right where we achieved ignition, and there were a series of experiments leading up to that that showed some gain, right, they didn’t technically achieve ignition, but they had showed some gain, we are now seeing private inertial fusion energy companies interested in this. And so when they, you know, we, we are talking with several of these, because we have been the target provider for many, many years. You’d want and they’re all looking at different types of designs for their systems. But you’re what you’re right, you would need to be able to create a target, that you would have a manufacturing process in place that would redo it, you know, the economies of scale would absolutely have to be there, you’d have to have some sort of way of making these things quickly, with high precision, hopefully not the type of precision needed on the NIF design, because keep in mind, again, that that NIFT design was specific to experiments that they’re doing to validate and verify our nuclear weapons stockpile. Gotcha. Not not create energy, right, per se.

Robert Bryce  31:25  
So sorry to interrupt again, because I think one of the things that’s interesting is that the the amount of money and I’ve been tracking this, I think, I don’t know what I forget, keep lose track of what I’ve written about and what I’ve just talked about, but you have TA, California company, they’ve raised over a billion dollars Commonwealth fusion out of Boston, they’ve raised memory serves two or $3 billion. I mean, there’s a lot of money going to diffusion these days. And more than then I can recall in my lifetime, so there was a lot of excitement and a lot of investment in fusion to in start up fusion companies before this experiment was made public at Lawrence Livermore. So there is a lot of of excitement, but in a lot of meat and a lot of money chasing this idea. But I just want to make sure I’m hearing you right that you’re saying one of the key obstacles, is this supply chain, is this manufacturing capability for these components that are going to have to be used in any kind of deployment, commercial deployment of fusion is that is that is that right?

Zabrina Johal  32:24  
So for the for the Livermore experience. So fusion, ta Commonwealth, General Atomics point system design, that’s all magnetic fusion. So depending on who you talk to, there are certain people that think magnetic fusion may be closer to reality than inertial fusion. Gotcha. Mothers may have a different view, from General Atomics perspective, the Department of Energy. So let me backtrack a little bit, I mentioned that there was a bold decadal vision that came out of the White House. And they were talking about achieving fusion energy in 10 years, that then promulgated a series of actions where the Department of Energy is now there is an open solicitation right now to build a fusion pilot plant. So the government’s idea is that we’ve seen greater than 4 billion being put into magnetic fusion over this short period of time, right. Because of that, they now want to generate a public private partnership, where the Department of Energy will pay a certain percent of costs. And they expect private industry to pay a certain percent percent of costs to get to conceptual design of a fusion pilot plant. So that is an open procurement right now. General Atomics is leading a team, one of the bidders on that procurement. And that idea is very much in line, which with what we saw on the vision side, if you remember, right, you look at vision technology development from a global scale. Well, US company companies are competing with member states. So we’re competing with the Russians because they’ve chosen to design their back by their government, we’re competing with the Chinese and the Koreans. Same with us fusion. So the government within the United States decided to follow the same approach. So right now, they are really expecting private companies to put together teams to provide cost share, to develop a fusion system.

Robert Bryce  34:37  
Gotcha. And so if you were going to so but if I’m hearing you right GA and it’s been your bet is on magnetic not inertial confinement.

Zabrina Johal  34:47  
So, on the magnetic side, we are a systems designer and a major component provider. On the inertial side we provide targets and target injection systems and diagnostics,

Robert Bryce  34:59  
right? But are you but in your bid and what you’re trying what you’re doing, you’re saying, TA and Commonwealth? They’re their magnetic fusion companies. And are you is that your path as well? Are you magnetic or inertial confinement?

Zabrina Johal  35:15  
So when for our path for our team on the bed, we are magnetic. Gotcha. We are doing the tokamak design, which is basically it was a prototype for Easter. Gotcha. It’s what our D 3d National fusion facility is. It’s what we’ve been working on in decades and decades,

Robert Bryce  35:31  
right? So what is it going to? What’s the ante for the companies that are bidding on this? What do you how much money are you gonna have to raise to make this to get the DoD money is hundreds of millions, billions of dollars? What’s the what’s the price tag?

Zabrina Johal  35:43  
So there we’re doing it in chunks, right? So the first chunk is conceptual design, then it’ll be final design, then you’ll actually get to construction. There are some facilities required along the way. So it’s, you know, hundreds of millions initially up to billions to write it fusion is very much like fission, it’s probably a $4 billion venture to get from concept to commercialization.

Robert Bryce  36:08  
Gotcha. So let’s back up then about just want to talk about are the correct pronunciation pronunciation trigger or trigger dri GA, understand training research. Isotope General Atomics. These are reactors that General Atomics has pioneered? Am I pronouncing it right? And what are their micro reactors that are used by mostly by universities? Is that am I remembering my my history? Right?

Zabrina Johal  36:37  
Yeah, so, trigger trigger. Okay, because that Yep. So that’s how you say it. That was General Atomics first product. So when I talked about Edward Teller, yeah, this is out, you know, says mid 1950s era, during Atoms for Peace. After Eisenhower gave his big Atoms for Peace speech about taking nuclear technology, and now using it for peaceful purposes. There were several Manhattan Project veterans, like 30 of them that came to San Diego and Frederick Hoffman to build and design a friendly nuclear system. You know, nuclear technology. Wasn’t that old at that point in time, right. Yeah. And so they went from concept to prototype and three years on the trigger. And they actually have four different ideas. One was the shipboard reactor, one was power reactor, this specific reactor, they wanted to be able to train high school students, so it wouldn’t even it would never melt down, they’d be able to train students and then do isotopes as well, Edward Teller led that they eventually brought it to the second Geneva Convention in 1958, an actual prototype of this thing, but General Atomics went on to build 63 reactors in over 20 countries in the world. Many of them are still in operation, many, as you say, at universities to train students.

Robert Bryce  38:06  
And did you seem to remember a headline that you had? you’re deploying more of them? Or you’re you’ve got some? Oh, no, here it was it? Well, you’re you’re doing fuel production with framatome for the trigger reactors, and that was a fairly recent announcement, if I’m correct, what what is I’ve been looking very interested, you know, I’m pro nuclear been pro nuclear for a long time, but I see a lot of obstacles. And I was in Japan for two weeks or last month and got a front row seat and what’s happening in Japan are made me more sober about the prospects for nuclear and one of the reasons for my increased sobriety as the is the fuel cycle, tell me about the fuel cycle for for the trigger reactor and how it’s different from Hey, Lou are the low enriched uranium that are used in commercial reactors.

Zabrina Johal  38:49  
So the project that you’re talking about is a joint venture between General Atomics and it’s gone through different names. It was originally circa now framatome, where we have a fabrication facility in France that makes trigger fuel for these reactors around the world. And they just went through an upgrade to their facility, I think about $14 million upgrade to the facility to bring them back online to continue to provide the fuel. This fuel is very different than power reactor fuel. So these these reactors are, you know, hundreds of kilowatts,

Robert Bryce  39:28  
less less than a megawatt thermal.

Zabrina Johal  39:30  
Yes, very, very small, and they’re

Robert Bryce  39:33  
not producing and they’re not producing power. They’re only thermal reactors.

Zabrina Johal  39:37  
They are not producing power. And they have a different they’re not uranium oxide fuel, the uranium is or conium hydride fuel. So it’s much different than what you would think of for nuclear waste from you know, fission reactors producing power around the world.

Robert Bryce  39:55  
Gotcha. And then the other thing that I saw that was it interesting in terms of the headlines with, with General Atomics was a contract. I believe it was with the DOD for thermo nuclear propulsion. What is that? What is it? I like saying thermonuclear propulsion because it’s got some, some certain ring to it. What does that? How would that work? It doesn’t do we have thermonuclear propulsion. Now, what is that?

Zabrina Johal  40:23  
So, so NTP, right nuclear thermal propulsion. So this was a contract that General Atomics originally won with DARPA, which is an a DOD agency looking at next generation technologies. And the project specifically wanted to develop a system that could get to the cislunar space, so the space between Earth and the Moon. And specifically for for this design, it’s basically using uranium or plutonium, that’s fission and to create heat, that heats up hydrogen that goes through a nozzle that can provide thrust for a system. Okay. And most recently, which I think is super interesting, NASA and DARPA teamed up to pool their resources and really come up with a joint program on the next phase of this. We don’t know yet where that’s going to go. But, uh, you know, ultimately, I think if humans want to colonize other planets, we absolutely have to use nuclear power. And this is a really exciting project, moving us toward that space.

Robert Bryce  41:35  
And we have to use nuclear because you just can’t get enough kerosene together to get a rocket that high up into the into space that would last travel, the end of the further reaches. Is that what you’re Is that another way to say what you’re saying here? Why we have to use nuclear?

Zabrina Johal  41:53  
Well, so when you think of fossil fuels, and chemical energy, right, think about the electron cloud that surrounds the nucleus making bonds with other electron clouds. And you split those bonds and you create heat, right? Nuclear power, whether it’s fission, which is the heaviest element, or fusion, which is the lightest element in the periodic table. It comes from the neutrons and the protons inside the nucleus. It’s a fundamentally different reaction than the chemical reaction of the electrons making bonds. And it’s a million times more power dense. Right? So you could have a million times less fuel for the same output. Put it another way. Gotcha. And so if you want to design a system, that’s actually going to get far enough, quick enough and sustain long enough, I believe it has to be nuclear.

Robert Bryce  42:51  
Right? Because they’re just not enough. The the mass of the chemicals that would be needed, is just going to be too big, right, that the rocket would have to be too big. Yeah. Well, that’s, I like the way you explain that. So let me talk let me get turn this back to you. Because, you know, we’ve met a couple times, and you have an interesting history. You were a female officer in the Navy, this was about two decades ago, if I’m remembering my history, right? Well, I’m not trying to betray your, uh, your age or anything here. But the you know, the numbers of the numbers. And I read, I believe it was that you were one of the first female officers to deploy on a warship out of Pearl Harbor. What it was it like I, you know, I can’t imagine it being a guy, right? I can’t imagine a lot of things. But being one of the only females I don’t know how many other females would be on board the ship in a ship full of hard heads. I mean, it’d be one thing to be on land, but you’re on a very confined space.

Zabrina Johal  43:51  
What was that, like? So I would say is very, very challenging.

Robert Bryce  43:59  
So I would imagine that with that, I think that might be the understatement. So I’m just guessing here, but the understatement of this podcast thus far, 44 minutes in very challenging and what was the most challenging of the challenging?

Zabrina Johal  44:12  
So I would say that, growing up in Montana, I grew up in a very much equal environment didn’t matter if you were male or female, we were all sort of treated the same, believe it or not. And we’re in Montana, and Billings, Montana.

Robert Bryce  44:28  
Okay, so you lived in town, you weren’t in the ranching business, or your family wasn’t an egg you were in you were you grew up in the city.

Zabrina Johal  44:34  
If you call it a city, it had about 100,000 people. Okay, well, our nearest neighbor was, but I was not on a farm or ranch. Okay. So you’re right, that might have been different. I don’t know what the what the gender inequalities or imbalance may be on a farm or ranch, but when I first joined the Navy, and you know, went Through officer commissioning, and at Officer commissioning, or OCS, they should they did shave my head, which they told me that they would not do. And then the next experience I really had was being, they were going to send me out to a ship in Pearl Harbor. But at this point in time, these ships, you know, so they were all guided missile destroyers at that point that they were trying to integrate. So you have about 220 people. And, you know, maybe 25, or 30 of those are officers and the remaining crew are enlisted personnel. And so their idea was that they would send two of us newly commissioned officers to a ship, they wouldn’t just send one they sent to, right. And the idea is that we would be the first women on board and we would integrate the ship, and that, you know, they would start sending more more personnel later, right? So,

Robert Bryce  45:57  
so two out of 200, to

Zabrina Johal  45:59  
220. Okay, and so we got there, there were two of us. By the time that we deployed there were, there were four. So we have four women in a three man state room, and we would basically just hot racket, and they did not

Robert Bryce  46:17  
change hot racket, meaning you didn’t have a bed of your own, you would sleep in one of you would sleep rotate in a bed with someone else.

Zabrina Johal  46:25  
That’s right, or you’d sleep on the floor. And they did not change the restroom facilities. So there was they didn’t actually put in female restroom facilities. So instead, they you know, they put a flip sign on the door. So if one of us were in there, right, then all four stalls and four toilets were taken up. So it was. So I would say that the integration process was not smooth, that there wasn’t a lot of pre planning for heart is putting us on board. And I think that then cause a whole cast of difficulties and challenges for everyone. I think a lot of people, you know, so before we got there,

Robert Bryce  47:11  
and how long were you deployed? Then how long were you at sea, then when this because you’re, I can’t, I’m gonna use the words thrown in the deep end right? At the deep end onboard a ship for how many months?

Zabrina Johal  47:23  
So this was, if you remember, President Bush saying Mission accomplished, right? Abe Lincoln, it was that it was actually that tour. So as a one year anniversary of 911. We were deployed to the Persian Gulf, I was a tomahawk strike officer, I was there for six and a half months, because I left to go to my nuclear power training. The ship itself, I believe, remained out there for nine to 10 months.

Robert Bryce  47:52  
That’s a long time to be away from home a long time to be in at sea. And then also, but also just dealing with those politics. I mean, well, I’ll ask you directly. What were your harassed hazed? Was that I mean, how, how welcome, were you? Or how unwelcome were you?

Zabrina Johal  48:10  
We said, before we got there, the crew went through sensitivity training. And I think that everybody, you know, there were different reactions to it. Some folks, were completely terrified to even talk to us or approach us. And I don’t know what they learned at the sensitivity training. But some folks were just bitter that we were there because we were inconveniencing and already hard lifestyle. Were some I would say sort of the minority that wanted to be our ally, and reach out and assist.

Robert Bryce  48:42  
So you were in all four of you were officers as well. That’s right. So then you have a power dynamic, not only do you have the gender challenge, right, but you have a power dynamic and that your officers dealing with a lot of enlisted men, who are you know, they’re going to be they’re doing the grunt work there may have some resentment toward officers in general, but officers and female officers would make that doubly so or I don’t know if it’s double or triple or what those percentage rate would be, but significant in any case, I have also done a little homework on you. So now and I think we talked about this when we ran into each other in Washington, DC I think last fall, you’re getting a PhD from the University of San Diego in gender studies. You’re maybe pretty well equipped for this, aren’t you? Why? Why are you pursuing a degree in gender studies? What why? I know you have experience with these issues around gender and power but why why now? You’re a mom, I believe you’ve got a full time job and you’re getting a PhD in this field. Why?

Zabrina Johal  49:45  
That’s funny, because that’s exactly what my husband said.

Unknown Speaker  49:50  
Dear, what are you doing, dear?

Zabrina Johal  49:55  
So I think because after the me to movement bye I suddenly felt like I could talk about some of these hard things that we deal with the unconscious biasing just the relations between different genders. You know, ever since I’ve been a General Atomics in the field of nuclear energy and the field of fusion, there are very few women, but they’re very few women in certain areas of STEM engineering fields and physics are probably the lowest represented by women. And so I felt like I was finally supportive enough, and that there would be a voice and Ally ship, to listen to the possibility of changing the situation. I think that no matter what situation you’re in, if there’s a huge gender difference, or race difference, or ethnicity difference, whatever it is, it will never be the same as just having equal representation where everyone has a voice to bring to the table. And it’s really, really important. And so, you know, it’s, it’s always been a passion. And now I just felt like I had the time and the space to be able to actually make a change, because I don’t want to, it’s sort of like ripping off an old wound. It’s, it’s, it’s really hard to talk about some of these things,

Robert Bryce  51:23  
to revisit that the challenges that you had well, in the Navy on board, where was it on board, as well as on land that the challenges were there? Or was it just more intense on board,

Zabrina Johal  51:34  
more intense on board, because the working environment and the stress levels are so high, right. Even in the civilian sector, I see the same types of things gotten this, they’re nicer. There may be, you know, they’re not as overt, but they’re still happening. And so I felt like an obligation to go back and do something to help improve the situation.

Robert Bryce  51:55  
Well, it’s interesting, because, you know, there are very few female nuclear engineers, I’ve had Maria corps, Nick has been on the podcast, right. And she’s a nuclear engineer. And obviously, she’s the head of, of Nuclear Energy Institute. And I’m guessing, you know, a peer of yours, or roughly, I’m just guessing the same age as and you don’t just not supposed to talk about women’s ages. But um, you know, you, she’s a mom, working mom as well. So you I, when I looked at you the fact that you’re, you’re getting your PhD in philosophy from the University of San Diego, what’s the title of your dissertation? Are you there yet?

Zabrina Johal  52:27  
Well, so the degree is a doctorate and leadership, which I think is super fun, because and then I’m specializing gender studies. So what I would really like to write my dissertation on is, you know, they started integrating women on submarines, seven or eight years ago, maybe a little longer now. And I would love to be able to do a study around that maybe go underway with a submarine, I don’t care if it’s published or anything like that. But be able to just sort of do a climate survey and understand how they’re handling it. Because, from my perspective, when I had to go to on a surface ship, it was probably it may even be harder for them on a submarine. I don’t know, I haven’t talked with any of those women. But I just think that I would have enjoyed having someone reached out to me some way of communicating, I felt like I was isolated when I was on board and on deployment. And so trying to look at some of those issues a little deeper.

Robert Bryce  53:30  
So you so I’m gonna read this back. And I’m just challenging you here. So you haven’t arrived at a dissertation thesis then or dissertation? Title? I mean, you got to write a dissertation to get the PhD? No.

Zabrina Johal  53:42  
Yeah, you do. So I’m in year two, I fully expect this to take the full five years. Okay.

Robert Bryce  53:50  
And how and how old are your kids? I’m just curious.

Zabrina Johal  53:53  
I have twins. They’re eight and eight, and then a six year old, and they are a handful, ever.

Robert Bryce  54:00  
Right? And you have plenty of extra time to work on a dissertation. So this is naturally what you want to do. But the dissertation you’re saying would be somewhat something around the the the politics the the, the conflict of friction around women in the Navy in the Submarine Force is that that’s the general area that you want to look at. Is that in my my reading, right or hearing you correctly? That’s correct. Gotcha. And so in five years, then, or four years from now or five years, we’ll have to call you Dr. Joe Howell, then is that, that that is

Zabrina Johal  54:36  
you won’t have to.

Robert Bryce  54:40  
So let’s talk about the Navy. I’m interested in the Navy. One of the other guests I’ve had on the podcast is Gregg Easterbrook, who wrote a very interesting book called The Blue age about the US Navy and the importance of the US Navy and you had a front seat to this and talked about the dedication of the US military and how important it is, but it wasn’t until I read Easterbrook Easterbrook book, which I thought was really remarkably good. I really liked it. And I was raved about it and when he came on the podcast, but he makes the argument well, two fundamental arguments. I think that one the US Navy has been indispensable in global than the globalization that in the trend toward globalization, that eliminating piracy, making all the world’s oceans safe for navigation, that it allowed global commerce to thrive in a way that’s never happened before. But he’s also makes the same point that the following point is that we’re neglecting the Navy, we don’t have enough ships, the our capability is declining. At the same time, China’s being more assertive in the South China Sea, the nine dash map, but there’s all these other things that are happening geopolitically and that it’s a mistake. I think I paraphrase him his argument very, you know, very succinctly, you say, it’s a mistake to neglect this. Now, I’m assuming your former Navy, so you’re going to be pro bigger Navy, but walk me through how you see the Navy now. And what do you think needs to happen? And why is it not getting the love, maybe from Congress, that Easterbrook and other people think that it needs what, how do you see it?

Zabrina Johal  56:03  
Oh, wow, that’s a really tough question. And I’ll be honest, it’s not one that I’m following in terms of what the Navy needs moving forward. So I’ll just give you my perspective, the the naval power in the United States is second to none, right. The reason why we control the seven seas, is absolutely Our submarine force, the ability to go undetected for long periods of time, and patrol waters has really kept our adversaries at bay. And that all came from Hyman Rickover, right, being able to develop this nuclear technology. And then the nuclear fleet, the way that they train our officers and enlisted personnel to maintain the safety and the culture required to operate these safely. And really, in no other fleet has any capability like that. The second piece of it is how important our aircraft carriers are. So being an aircraft carrier has 5000 people, and 60 to 70 different aircraft, and they’re all nuclear powered. And what that allows us to do is go into foreign operating areas, where we don’t necessarily have to have a base. And you know, it’s absolutely those submarines and guided missile destroyers that go with the battle group of the aircraft carrier to keep them safe from our adversaries. But it’s allowed the US which is relatively geographically isolated, to go into any operating point within the world, and exert influence and power. And so if there’s an expert in the Navy, that saying that we need to do X, Y, or Z, I absolutely think that we should be listening. And that Congress, you know, obviously should be listening, because that’s part of our world dominance, I would say, the US Navy, and then nuclear weapons arsenal, are the two things that you know, and sometimes a lot of American citizens don’t want to face that fact. But that’s why we are where we are in the position on the global stage,

Robert Bryce  58:15  
that those are the key to our political and geographic and geopolitical influence that though the Navy, the Navy and our nuclear weapons. So about those, you mentioned, the nuclear weapon or the nuclear ships, and it brought me back to one of the other questions that I’m interested in, how are the nuclear then the Navy has the best record as a nuclear operator of any nuclear operator in the world? I think that’s, you know, lay down hand that’s clear. How are the nuclear reactors, who will first who builds the Navy’s nuclear reactors?

Zabrina Johal  58:43  
So they’re built so I know when I so I went through a reactor complex overhaul and Newport News, Virginia, and there are defense contractors that get in there, and they do work. You know, you hear about BW x t doing the fuel. And then there are large Bechtel types, BA Systems, these types of

Robert Bryce  59:05  
Babcock and Babcock and Wilcox, right? They’ve been one of the main suppliers, right? Is that is that

Zabrina Johal  59:12  
CVB? Right? So these are big defense contractor type corporations, Huntington Ingalls, which was a spin off of Northrop Grumman, that have technology around how to build the ships. And, you know, I would say, out of all of the information coming from the Department of Defense in the classified space, our nuclear technology information is the most closely held and carefully guarded.

Robert Bryce  59:40  
Well, so that was my next question. So how are these reactors different from the civilian reactors? They run on? They run on in plutonium they run on a higher enriched form of uranium? Is that right? Can you what can you tell me about that? You were the chief. You were manage the reactors on what what aircraft carrier Did you? Were you deployed on?

Zabrina Johal  59:59  
Carl? Ben? Son CVN 70.

Robert Bryce  1:00:02  
And so is that a single reactor vessel more than one reactor? What can you tell me about the reactors and how they’re different from the reactors that are in the civilian fleet for nuclear power production.

Zabrina Johal  1:00:12  
So the reactors onboard ships are smaller than the civilian fleet and they have higher enriched uranium, you have space constraints onboard. You also have reactor power and operating limits that you have to watch very closely. So, the envelopes are a little the margins are a little higher. On board an aircraft carrier like the Carl Vinson, you’ll have two reactors. And, you know, the it’s really all about reliability and redundancy if one system goes out what happens to the other. So there are safeguards in place where you’d be able to work, the machining rooms together, if something were to happen, we run casualty drills all the time in the Navy. That’s really all we do, even while at sea. It makes sure that if there’s any sort of mishap, we know how to recover the plant. We know exactly what to do. And so, yeah, so I would say, you know, the safety culture within the civilian fleet is very, very similar, very heavily regulated, as I know, you follow with the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,

Robert Bryce  1:01:22  
but these are still lightwater reactors that and they’re the the chemistry is the same as what you find in the in the civilian in the civilian fleet. And in what about the output? What are the what is the thermal or electric output on these on that? Is there a standard design for the Navy reactors? Do they have one that is a standard I know Ross atom, and they’ve used their submarine reactors are being deployed in the in Piwik. And their power ships, one of their power ships that’s been deployed in Siberia, is there a standard size reactor that the Navy uses?

Zabrina Johal  1:01:51  
Yeah, so they have different standard sizes, some like the size of an SMR, others a little bit bigger. The amazing thing with the reactor, for example, onboard an aircraft carrier, is that everything that has to do with energy or power comes from the uranium visioning in the core. So we talk about these kojem plants, right where you have generated electricity, but then you also use a process heater process theme type thing, onboard an aircraft carrier, either rhenium visions, and then it goes into a secondary heat exchanger system. And that steam, you know, goes does everything. So we pull up seawater, and we distill it into drinking water, it goes through the ship service turbine generator, city, the older models of aircraft carriers would use the steam that goes into a catapult steam system to fire aircraft off the deck. Right. So it’s just amazing the way that that this whole system works and comes together.

Robert Bryce  1:02:49  
And the new catapults I think, are electric or electric driven, right? electric magnetic system of some kind, but you didn’t tell me a rating number is this or is there a reason for this or you’re sworn to secrecy on the output of

Unknown Speaker  1:03:00  
these reactors?

Zabrina Johal  1:03:01  
I’m not going to say a writing number. Okay. If you Google something, you Google something, say depending on an aircraft carrier or submarine, you’ll get different types. Even within the submarine fleet, you’ll get different types, but they’re right around, you know, an SMR or larger. Back to your Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch. That’s a General Atomics product.

Robert Bryce  1:03:25  
Oh, really? Okay.

Zabrina Johal  1:03:26  
And that came from fusion, really, from a fusion scientists putting in a proposal to the Department of the Navy in the 90s. Being able to because we understand how to use magnets and systems to for plasma, so they promote it, or they proposed it to be used on an aircraft carrier to fire aircraft.

Robert Bryce  1:03:47  
And is there are they more powerful than the steam driven catapults? I assume they’re mechanically Well, I don’t know about mechanically more simple but you don’t have steam. You don’t have high pressure steam near the in close to a bunch of working deckhands or whatever, are they safer? They’re more powerful what it How does it what is the difference.

Zabrina Johal  1:04:05  
So what they allow you to do is dial in the amount of force more specific to the aircraft type. So we can now a lot lighter aircraft and heavier aircraft. And we also don’t put the same the high stresses that you would put from a catapult system, which really only had a few ways of dialing in the mode of force.

Robert Bryce  1:04:27  
Oh, I see with electricity, you’re able it’s much more easily calibrated than with doing that with steam. I got you. And then that would be like, Well, I don’t know about the recovery rate. But yeah, anyway. Well, listen, we’ve been talking for more than an hour my guest again as Sabrina Joe Hall. She is the Senior Director of Strategic Development at General Atomics. You can learn more about and what General Atomics does. I didn’t warn you about these questions either, Sabrina but I always ask my guests two questions. First one is What are you reading? I know You you’re doing your district, you’re getting a doctorate, you’re a mom, you’ve got a job. You’re fully employed. But are you have books on your bookshelf on your nightstand? What are you reading and in terms of when you have a few extra minutes,

Zabrina Johal  1:05:14  
so I actually read a couple books a week. That’s how are you generate? So when I’m not reading

Robert Bryce  1:05:22  
a couple books a week, now you’re leaving a lot of us in the shade here, okay? Well, you’re overachieving again here, but what are they? What’s the what are the latest?

Zabrina Johal  1:05:30  
So I read a lot of leadership books, psychology of leadership that I want to talk about those. I am reading the future of fusion energy by Percy ball, which is a really good book that talks through fusion and brings it down to a level that I think most people would understand. I also I just read Stephen King’s new book fairy tale. A horror novel. It’s not horror, okay, fantasy sci fi, which is sort of my genre, as well as psychological thrillers. I’m really into those right now. But I’m a ride of a lifetime by Iger. Okay. Who actually was just brought back right to Disney. That’s a fantastic book. It goes through all of the consolidation within the film industry.

Robert Bryce  1:06:27  
Robert Robert Iger, is that right? Yeah. Okay.

Zabrina Johal  1:06:31  
And then, you know, I don’t anything by Jared Diamond’s guns, germs and steel, anything he’s written on time, you’ve probably read a lot of him, Jared Diamond. Sure. Yeah. Or Dark Sun, the making of the atomic bomb by Richard Rhodes.

Robert Bryce  1:06:46  
You know, I’ve read some of Richard Rhodes, I need to my wife Lauren loved his biography of John James Audubon. So that apparently is one of the best biographies ever done of Audubon. So Rhodes is he’s very talented. So my last question, Sabrina, we, as I said, we’ve been talking more than an hour, you’ve seen a lot you’ve been, you know, you’ve seen a lot of the world. And we’ve talked about some things that are sobering, some that are very interesting, what gives you hope?

Zabrina Johal  1:07:13  
Oh, I guess me hope. I think that yeah, so you know, working in corporate environment, but then also having children occasionally get to go to their school, and volunteer. Every time I go in, you just hear the laughter. And you hear him running around. And I just think that the children are the future. And they’re going to do great things, as long as we’re there to guide them. And I know, there’s been a lot of conversation around scaring children about climate. I think that’s really, really sad that we should not be doing that. And instead, talking about all the great things that they have, in their future, teach them about technology. So that gives me hope, thinking about them. And 20 to 30 years.

Robert Bryce  1:07:59  
Are you aiming your kids to be engineers like you?

Zabrina Johal  1:08:03  
You know, I just want them to do what they want to do, where they’re going to be happy and fulfilled. So Well, good. Well,

Robert Bryce  1:08:12  
we’ll stop there again. Excuse me. My guest has been Sabrina Joe Hall. She’s the senior director of strategic development at General Atomics. And learn more about her and her Sabrina, it’s been great fun to talk to you. Thanks for your time. And thanks for coming on the podcast. Thank you. And thanks to all of you in podcast land. Tune in for the next episode of the power hungry podcast until then, see ya.

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