Adrian Bull

Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society

The University of Manchester

September 27, 2021

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Ep 332: Adrian Bull - Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society, The University of Manchester
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Bret Kugelmass
We're here today with Adrian Bull, who's the Chair in Nuclear Energy and Society at the University of Manchester and Director of External Relations at National Nuclear Laboratory. Adrian, welcome to Titans of Nuclear.

Adrian Bull
Thank you, Bret. It's great to be here. Well you've obviously run out of Titans if-

Bret Kugelmass
No, it's great to see you again. I mean, we've been running into each other for years. So it's great to finally have the opportunity to interview you.

Adrian Bull
It's nice to be here.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me - where are you based out of and where'd you grow up, actually?

Adrian Bull
Well, the answers are almost the same. I was born and brought up in Manchester in the northwest of England. My dad worked in the nuclear industry - you may want to remember, we'll come to that later on. I still live in the northwest of England. I've always lived either around Manchester or around the Preston area. Always, whichever roles I've had, I've always been a northwestern England resident.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell us about your dad. He was in the nuclear industry, you said?

Adrian Bull
Yeah, my dad, he retired on health grounds when I was 11 in 1973. But he'd already clocked up more than 20 years in the nuclear industry by then. He did 25 years in total. I have his silver tanker that he was presented in his days with British Nuclear Fuels for 25 years service to the nuclear industry. He was my route in. And I wouldn't ever say it was a conscious choice to join the industry, but because he worked there, even when he- after he stopped working, he had colleagues who came to visit and they reminded him as I was passing through school that the NFL - the company he worked for - did sponsorships and sponsored students through university, being the science and engineering subjects. So I ended up going to university to study engineering and applied for and got a sponsorship from the NFL, which meant they gave me 500 pound a year, which I thought was a huge amount at the time. And I thought it was free money. I think they've had their money back for that over the 40 years since I've worked in the industry, repaid several times over. But I did a couple of stints with the nuclear sector in my vacations while I was at university doing some stuff that I needed to do to qualify for my engineering degree. And then when I got towards the middle of my third year, there's a phase where everybody who's coming up to graduation starts to run around looking for who's going to pay them and keep them gainfully employed when they leave. A number of my friends were doing that with big companies and smaller companies. And because I was sponsored, I kind of got first bite of the cherry. I got an interview for a role with the nuclear industry at the NFL and they were looking to fill two jobs. One of them was a computing job and the other one was in the design office. This is back in the early 1980s. This is drawing offices with big drawing boards designing bits of kit. I'd always avoided computers at school, at university. Going back to those days it was big machines with tape and cards and whatever. Certainly in school I'd always kind of never really got into that, so I said, I think I'd much prefer the other jobs. That was the focus of the interview. And then they rang me up and said, Ah we've decided not to fill that job, do you want the computing one? Well, okay. Ended up in the nuclear industry, joined in 1983, in a quite technical role doing computer modeling of nuclear fuel behavior while it's in reactor. Some of that was around normal operation, but the majority of it was around predicting how fuel behaves in accident conditions and so on.

Bret Kugelmass
When you say accident conditions, what do you mean? Do you mean like normal transients or do you mean fuel melting behavior?

Adrian Bull
Both, it was all, it was about doing the modeling that supports the safety case. So some of it is around demonstrating that the fuel remains intact, some of it is around understanding, if the fuel fails, how much fission product gets released, where does it go, etc., etc. My specific role was more around the modeling of the fuel and the cladding. At that time went on to look more at some of the mechanical integrity of some of our components in the advanced gas-cooled reactors we have in the UK. In particular, there's a component called a tie bar, which is like an incredibly long, thin metal pencil that runs through eight fuel assemblies, right down the middle of them. And then when you lift these things out to do refueling on either onload or part load, you're carrying a huge stress on that very long, thin pencil at high temperature. It's been irradiated for some years while the fuel has been in the reactor, and you have to hope very hard that it doesn't fail and crack, so doing a lot of integrity, modeling of the behavior of those particular components, all the time thinking, why did they not just make it twice as wide. We could all have saved ourselves the bother, it would have been so much easier if they've made it a bit thicker.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, so this is actually a very, this is a more philosophical question that I'd actually like to get into with you. Because I've actually seen that- I mean, it's just so funny you said it that way. Because I've seen 100 examples like that in the nuclear industry, where they're so worried about everything, but then they run things, like they try to optimize things that they don't really need to optimize. It's like, the fuel isn't that expensive. You don't need to run- you don't need to pack the cores as dense as you do. It's like, I don't get it. Why are you running so close to your DNB ratios? I understand you're trying to optimize trying to get more performance out of it. But then you also can't complain about how overburdened- or like, how much of a safety hazard everything is. I say that kind of like tongue in cheek, because it just seems a huge contradiction. Either you're like totally concerned about safety and then you shouldn't try to over-optimize the performance of every component, or we're not actually that concerned about safety and we should back off on some of these restrictions.

Adrian Bull
I think it's a really good question. And I think there's a sometimes a little bit of a mismatch between the amount of effort we put into demonstrating that something is safe to meet the regulator's satisfaction and make the safety case, but it's just the reality that you're always looking at a very infinitesimal risk in the first place.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, exactly.

Adrian Bull
And I guess, however you design a reactor, you end up with a piece of kit that is designed that way. And then for the next several decades, you're operating that piece of kit. Once it shifts from a design project, it's had its safety case stamp of approval to operate, then it goes over into an operational phase. And the job of the operator is then to squeeze as much money out of that piece of kit and as much lifetime out of that piece of kit as they can do. You only have to think how much the value of the electricity that is generated in a day or an hour by a nuclear plant, pumping out all of that power down onto the grid to think, if you were to just turn it down a couple of percent, that's still a huge amount of lost revenue. And it dwarfs the amount of human effort that goes into demonstrating the safety case to upgrade it by that little 2%. That 2% could be years of work for somebody.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, that's a good point. I guess I forgot that at a large scale, you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of extra performance in person salaries, almost only- whatever, so it's like- Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Okay. Yeah, so you were doing some of the tie bar stuff?

Adrian Bull
Yeah, so I ended up in a very technical role and then I realized after about seven or eight years, looking around me in the office, that I had a choice. That I would rather spend the rest of my working life doing that very niche technical role and getting more and more senior, perhaps within that same office, or I had the chance to broaden out and do some different things. And whilst I enjoyed doing that, I felt that wasn't what I wanted my entire working life to be devoted to. I ended up moving to a different part of the organization looking at some emerging technologies. It was a completely different role, looking outside the industry of technologies that were sprouting up elsewhere. This was partly in the aftermath of the- I don't know if you remember the cold fusion news story from about 1980- it's about 1990 where a couple of guys thought they'd discovered cold fusion on the breakfast table with some experiments and the civil- the fission industry was rather caught on the backfoot not quite knowing how to respond. So there was a desire to just understand what is happening technology-wise in the big world out there that might be relevant to nuclear. We were looking, going into universities, going to talk to other research organizations, finding out things in areas like biotechnology and robotics and digital and AI and micro engineering and so on. And micro engineering was the era I got involved in, looking at sort of chemical plants on sort of the size of a shoe box, almost rather an impressive plant. A really interesting area of technology we were looking at, could we apply that to solvent extraction, fuel reprocessing, whatever, on very small-scale pieces of kit rather than massive buildings. That ran its course for a little while and I ended up doing kind of an R&D research management role in BNFL at the time that gradually led to me drifting into the policy and then into the kind of external communications role, partly because I realized that I enjoyed, and I had something of an aptitude for talking about technical stuff than non-technical people. And originally, that was within the company. The BNFL was a big - because you're probably aware - a big state-owned, state-run nuclear company in the UK. We would talk to commercial departments. We talked to our publicity department about what our success stories were from the science and research area. And I found that I was quite enjoying, I quite enjoyed articulating some of those technical stories into language that our publicity people could understand and how we could put these into our newsletters and so on, that we shared outside of the business.

Bret Kugelmass
And is there a specific structure to how you do it? Is there a formula in your head? Like, okay, when communicating something, first try to identify what they know. Then try to break down this topic by- or do you just naturally do it?

Adrian Bull
I think, for me, I always try and look for an analogue somewhere else. What is the somewhere else in in real life that we can, you could explain that in the same way as and use it as a reference for people. So if you're talking about making a piece of safety kit safer, look at something that people have in their homes, or their cars or whatever that they're familiar with. If you're looking at, whatever the message might be, for me, just try and think about something that is a parallel in someone's everyday life so we can just- I was saying to somebody just the other day when we were talking about radiation, and you sometimes hear this message, There's no safe amount of radiation, or no amount of nuclear waste is ever safe, no matter how low level it is. When you just think, well, surely we all understand if we go out in the sunshine in the summer, or we go on holiday to somewhere really hot, like Africa or whatever, you put sun cream on and you plaster yourself with that. And yet, if I go outside in Manchester in November, it's still daylight, there's still radiation there. But I ain't going to put sun cream on my arms, because I realize that it would be stupid to do that. We're all- we have those acknowledgment of those things in our personal lives and mapping that across to when we talk about the nuclear world, I think to me is an effective way to do that.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, though, on that specific topic, I mean, I think the nuclear industry itself is pretty much the worst abuser of the myth that any amount of radiation is dangerous. So you kind of understand why other people totally misunderstand and are confused, because if the nuclear industry itself is saying that then how could they believe anything else?

Adrian Bull
Absolutely, we go to great lengths to squeeze even the tiniest amount of risk or radiation or whatever out of our processes. But that's partly because we're driven to that by regulation sometimes. Certainly in the UK's regulation approach - and this is, again, something that you wouldn't accept in our everyday lives - but we have an acronym that our regulators use called ALARP, which is as low as reasonably practicable. Operators have to make sure that the risk to the workforce to the public to the environment is as low as reasonably practicable. That means if you could spend a little bit more money and make it a little bit safer, you should do that. Now, that's irrespective of where the level of risk might sit.

Bret Kugelmass
That's crazy.

Adrian Bull
And it sounds like a sensible approach to regulation. And perhaps part of the problem we have is it served us very well for 70 odd years, 65, 70 years, so we've never felt any reason to change it, because we've got an excellent safety record in the UK, but you wouldn't accept that in your personal life.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, also, it's served us well, it depends on who you're considering us. Right? You consider just the people in the nuclear industry, fine. But like, if you think about all the people who are dying from air particulate because they don't have access to nuclear, the nuclear industry has kind of screwed them over.

Adrian Bull
Yeah, in a way. There's some interesting work that's been done to look at, if you have a million pounds of public funding, what can you put that into that delivers a benefit to society? And actually decreasing the amount of nuclear radiation that comes out of reactors or reprocessing facilities or whatever is way, way down the list. You want to be doing things like providing street lighting on roads at night, or preventative testing for early-stage things like breast cancer is one of the most cost-effective health benefits that you can do by testing women who are not yet of an age to go for routine tests. You pick up things earlier. It's only a small number of people, but the cost to society of avoiding that treatment, as well as obviously the massive benefit to those individuals is huge. That analogy of the regulation again, the way I would explain that to people is if I'm driving on the motorway in the UK and our speed limit is 70, and I'm doing 68, I don't expect the police to pull me over and ask me why I'm doing 68 because 50 would be safer and safer.

Bret Kugelmass
You are good with your analogies. Boy, you said it, and then you whipped out like three or four that are just really excellent.

Adrian Bull
Well, you set that limit and then I'm okay to go up to the limit, because someone who knows what the heck they're doing has set a limit. And that's what it's for. And we trust the people who set the limit. We don't always go, couldn't you do that? 60? Couldn't you maybe get down to 30? If you spend a bit more you could do 25? Yeah, I could, but we value people's ability to operate within the constraints of limits that are set. Now I realize in some other countries it's a hard limit. When you work up to, as long as you're below the limit, you're fine. That was one of the pieces of fun we had when I worked for Westinghouse and we were licensing the AP-1000 reactor in the UK. And we'd already been through that in the US and in China. We just brought the US safety case over, gave it to the UK regulator, it's all in there, and the reality was, that met a US approach, but it didn't meet a UK approach of can we demonstrate the risk is as low as reasonably practicable?

Bret Kugelmass
And how come the answer to that is just, it is as low as reasonably practicable and here's my definition of practical. You might have thought practicable means keep going lower, but my definition of practical is different.

Adrian Bull
Well, the regulator gets to define what practicable means.

Bret Kugelmass
Does anyone ever push back against the regulator? Or is it just what they say is law and that's the end of that?

Adrian Bull
There comes a point where you have to kind of meet in the middle sometimes, and you have to say that it isn't practicable to change the reactor design in such a way, because that then makes it a one of a kind rather than part of a global series.

Bret Kugelmass
And one could argue that makes it less safe.

Adrian Bull
Exactly.

Bret Kugelmass
Because less people understand the nuances of it if it's unique.

Adrian Bull
But we had to bring some of my former US Westinghouse colleagues, when I worked for Westinghouse later in my career out of their retirement and get them to explain and articulate the thought process they went through not just- we have the design, that's in our files, but what we don't have a record of your thought process. And what else did you think about while you were designing it that way? Why did we end up designing it the way that we did? And tell a narrative to the regulator, rather than just go, here's the drawings, it comes under the bar for safety criteria. Sorry, I've got divergent from my career path now, but-

Bret Kugelmass
That's the whole point of this conversation, I love to get diverted. And I'd love to just hear a little bit more about what happened there with bringing the AP-1000 to the UK. Is that dead in the water, or are there chances that might surface again, or what's gonna happen?

Adrian Bull
I keep hearing stories. I'm not close to it now, because I no longer work for Westinghouse. But I think if you looked at the reactor designs that are available in the kind of current wave of large power plants, for me, the AP-1000 is a really good design. It holds a special place, because I worked with some of the people who- I was lucky enough to work with some of the people who are involved in actually designing it and had a very close involvement with it. I think the passive safety aspect of it is a massive step forward. Why design more complicated safety systems when you can rely on the forces of nature to keep it safe?

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me about that a little bit more and how and how you might have explained that when you were at Westinghouse. Passive safety: what does that mean with respect to the AP-1000? Does that mean that it doesn't require energy to keep cooling itself?

Adrian Bull
it means that you have- and I think the time was at least 72 hours between, in any credible event, that the design of the reactor means that if the core starts to overheat, then you get evaporation in the cooling systems and that evaporation drives a recycling of steam and water around the reactor building, reactor containment, and that in itself removes any heat that you would generate. It's powered by the forces of gravity and natural circulation, rather than any external power system. And obviously, after Fukushima, that became something that the publics and local communities were very keen on, rather than relying on the technology of the reactor or electricity or diesel-driven systems to keep reactors safe.

Bret Kugelmass
Here's something I never understood. Why is it just 72 hours? We've all seen that decay heat chart where it's like, at the instant that you lose your moderator, you're at like 6%, and then within a minute, you're at 1%. I's like an exponential decay, loss of new energy being added to the system. Wouldn't that mean if you can survive the first day, you could survive forever, because there's just less and less and less heat being and presumably heat is still flowing out through these natural circulations. Why is it just 72 and not forever? Wouldn't that even be a better thing to communicate to the world?

Adrian Bull
I think the logic is that within 72 hours of any credible event you should be able to get auxiliary systems in there to do whatever it is you would need to do.

Bret Kugelmass
But why would you need them at all? If it could go 72, why couldn't these natural circulating forces just keep it going for-

Adrian Bull
I'm not sure exactly where the decay heat thing crosses over. There's still a certain amount of decay heat, obviously, in a spent fuel pool. When you take the fuel out and it's sitting there, it's generating a significant amount of heat for a certain amount of time. There's a point where you have to remove some of the energy, the water tanks, for instance, that are powering that sort of recirculation, only a finite size. It may well be that you could design it- so there comes a point where you have to allow for some of that to escape, vent out of the building.

Bret Kugelmass
Got it, got it. There's a water amount component to it, or something.

Adrian Bull
From a regulatory point of view, those first 72 hours are by far the time where things are most critical. And actually, part of the- we've seen it in examples like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, where there's a situation that happens that needs a response. But if it's outside the scope of what people are trained to do, all the starting conditions were different from what people understood. Just learning what is happening within the reactor you can't see and you can't go and look at is, there's an element of assumption that has to be made in doing that and planning the response, whereas if you have 72 hours, you've got time to fly people in, they can be rested, you can dial people in from anywhere in the world. You can get all of your experts and all of your thinking to think how do we respond to this, and we can get the physical systems that we need to in place to connect up and sort stuff. It gives you a much stronger window than having to respond in a control room when there's an alarm going off in your display, dials or instruments are telling you contradictory information.

Bret Kugelmass
Right? Right. And how come- once you're able to prove that, once you're able to prove how it can survive 72 hours without any power or anything, why would you need to prove anything else? Why are the safety cases for these reactors like bookshelves upon bookshelves and add in so much complexity that no one person can understand it, which to me seems like that's a safety hazard in and of itself. Why not just present that one 15-page document that lays out the simple physics of how this 72-hour circulating water works and show some basic structural calculations that any civil engineer could look at, or any mechanical engineer could validate, and just submit a 15-page document like research reactors do.

Adrian Bull
I mean, I guess that's because you're dealing with one extreme kind of event and you want to demonstrate the safety case over a whole range of not just accident events, but kind of normal operations.

Bret Kugelmass
But why is it? This is what I've never understood, and maybe this is more philosophical than anything else. But like-

Adrian Bull
I'm not a licensing specialist.

Bret Kugelmass
No, but you're are a communications guy, so I'm sure this has come up. To me this is an issue near and dear to my heart, so I've never understood this. What- for instance, if you were able to show that you had a device - it doesn't have to be nuclear, but it's any device - and there's no practical way that anyone get hurt with that device - that device does not need a regulator. It doesn't need people inspecting it. It doesn't need people- it doesn't need to cost billions of dollars worth of state effort to understand that system, if you can demonstrate very clearly that it really couldn't reasonably hurt anybody. And so the minute that you get a nuclear power plant to a point where there's no basis by which you can say anyone will get hurt from this, even in the case of a meltdown, I don't understand why they have the right to even look into the rest of the systems, to make the company spend all this money, to make them all separate, if we've demonstrated clearly no one's gonna get hurt. But why does the regulator have the right to like bud into the design if it is not a dangerous design? I'm not saying it's safe. I'm saying it's not dangerous.

Adrian Bull
That's a good question. And I guess part of it relates to the ways in which the different parts of the design interact. And it's easy for us to think, well, it won't be a dangerous design, because it will always do this and do this and you'll have coolant there and fuel there or whatever. What if you suddenly didn't have coolant where you thought you were going to have coolant? What if suddenly your fuel was in a different place from where you thought it was going to be? What if your reactor pressure vessel would have failed and things are- the alignment and the physical alignment of the components in the reactor is not the way you expect it, for instance. Or you get some debris in there, so you have a- it's not just you don't have cooling here, but you have overheating somewhere else. So it's thinking about all of the different things that can happen. And I guess you're also about reassuring the public. The public will want to know that the regulator has done a pretty thorough job. Not just that, we set an expectation to ourselves, so we can only start from here. Power plants in the past have, we know, had accidents and incidents and had external consequences that we understand and we recognize. Public knows that as well. So I think the public would feel less reassured to know that the safety case was 10 pages long and to know that it actually took the regulators a certain amount of time to study and investigate.

Bret Kugelmass
Let's look at the psychology of that, like with the sunscreen thing. We can come back to your previous example. It's like if the regulator mandated that in Manchester on a cloudy day everyone had to put on sunscreen and you had to prove that you did it, people might actually start feeling like that was necessary. They would be really scared of the sun in that case.

Adrian Bull
You might and that's a point. If you start to overlay lots of protection measures, then people feel uncomfortable without it. We have to get that balance right in terms of understanding how it makes people feel, as well as perhaps the scientific logic of adding another layer of safety. And an example from my experience is when I was fortunate enough to travel to Fukushima and go into the exclusion zone. We were stopped on the way in and we had to put on overtrousers, jacket, gloves, facemask, hairnet, overshoes to go into an area that was probably no more radioactive than Cornwall. And then the aim of that from the policymakers or regulators was to reassure visitors that - even if there was some contamination - it will not get on your person, because you have this extra layer of protection. The psychological impact of that is you feel like you're going the most dangerous place on Earth, because you're having to suit up and then get back in the car before you travel the next five miles to get close to the plant.

Bret Kugelmass
Exactly. And so I presume that you went after, let's say, the first three months after the incident? You didn't go-

Adrian Bull
I was there for around the fifth anniversary.

Bret Kugelmass
Fifth year.

Adrian Bull
Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay. So after three months, we know the physics alone that 99.9% of the iodine-131 is gone, right? It's only got a half-life of eight days. So where did they end- we also know that in any nuclear accident that's ever happened, whether it be Chernobyl or Fukushima, whatever it is, anything, no one has ever hurt anything except iodine-131. So where did they have the right to make you suit up given that there's no radio hazard? This is just madness.

Adrian Bull
Correct. And we were partly there, I was there as part of a BBC broadcast to demonstrate exactly that. So I was there with a lady called Gerry Thomas from the Royal College in London, who's a fantastic communicator around low level radiation and its impact, particularly in relation to the nuclear industry. She'd done a lot of work on Chernobyl and so she ended up, as you would expect, dealing a lot with the Fukushima event. And she and the BBC journalists actually, when we got into the village, took off the protective clothing and walked down the street to exactly prove the point.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, exactly.

Adrian Bull
But our host who was with us - we had to take in a former resident in order to be allowed back in - he was quite uncomfortable about the idea that they were taking this off and filming, because that kind of reflected on him. But it was- I think there's always the- Fukushima is a great example of the way sometimes society's desire to do more and be seen to be doing more in the interest of safety can be completely counterproductive. And when we saw many measures that had been put in place with good intention in Japan, in and around the evacuation zone, which were actually soaking up huge amounts of money, and worrying people far more than they would ever reassure people. So a great example was the - and I don't know if you've seen it, either been there or seen pictures of it - but if you're familiar with the kind of real time speed indicators you get as you drive along, sometimes the LED displays on the side of the road that tells you your speed, they have these in the Fukushima evacuation zone. They give you real time readout of the radiation dose. So as you drive in, it's - I can't remember - it's like 2.7 microsieverts per hour or whatever, and then you drive a bit further and it's four, then it's seven, and it's 12 and a half, and it's 18, then it's 22. Those numbers mean nothing to anybody. They mean nothing to me.

Bret Kugelmass
Except you see them going up, so you get scared.

Adrian Bull
Exactly. All you know is it's now 10 times more dangerous than it was when I started. And now you feel worried because you've seen that data. It's data without context. So it's like 10 times more radioactive here than I was at home, I should probably be worried about that. Should I actually though? Because it's 10 times virtually zero is still virtually zero. The other one that struck me was they had a program there, when we were there, of - again, implemented I'm sure by a well-intentioned local politician or national politician who wanted to be seen to be doing something- but they were scooping up all of the topsoil from the fields in Fukushima and putting it into these huge black sort of industrial bags that they didn't have a disposal route for. So every field had a row of black bags along the side of it, which had the vegetation and the topsoil from that field. So you went from a field that looked normal to a field that now has got a clear, visible problem running along the edge of it, that you haven't got a route to solve. And in fact, we were saying to the journalist while we were there, if in some quirky way nature had produced a field where there was a row of soil along one edge that was ever so slightly more radioactive than the rest of the field, the perfectly sane thing to do would be to spread it thinly across the field and go back to where you started, rather than do that.

Bret Kugelmass
Exactly. What they've done is they've created- they've taken the entire collection of radiation - even though we know it's negligible - and what they've done is they created a point source out of it instead of a plane and so the magnitude next to that point source is going to be greater than across that plane. I mean, this is- it's madness.

Adrian Bull
It's sort of scientific madness, but it's also psychological madness, because you've now created a visible problem where you didn't have anything before. Now every time people drive past they see that thing that they know needs to be taken away and there's a problem.

Bret Kugelmass
I've heard so many stories like this around Fukushima how- and also like during the evacuation how more people were hurt in the evacuation than would have been if there was no evacuation. But I don't see a reckoning. Like, for an industry that is so concerned about safety, they do not care about anything except radiation deaths. They don't care about deaths due to stress, they don't care about deaths due to displacement, like I just don't get- I just don't get it.

Adrian Bull
I think it's- some of it is a cultural thing. There was a very strong sense of the Japanese culture wanting to put things right. And however many hundred years it takes and however many million, zillion yen it might take to do that, a lot of that money that the economy couldn't really afford. There was a feeling of sort of societal guilt that this bad thing happened on our watch and we will put it right for you. And it was very much directed. So it wasn't a question of saying to people, Yeah, the first three months, we're going to evacuate you, but then we will give you the information to allow you to make an informed choice as to whether you want to go back for a weekend and clear your belongings sensibly, or whether you want to move back permanently and make that judgment. It was, You will not go back. It was I think two years before people were allowed back for 30 minutes in their homes to protection to collect whatever belongings they could get in 30 minutes. I mean, you think of the psychological disruption of that. And, you know, we've all been through sort of the different flavors of being locked down over the last couple of years. But if you imagine you go to work or you're in a meeting or you're away from home on business travel or something and then all of a sudden, you're not going home again. You don't get to go back and get a different change of clothes. You can't go and get the laptop you didn't bring with you, all the photos of the kids or whatever.

Bret Kugelmass
But nobody stood up to them. I didn't even hear a whisper of anyone standing up to the Japanese regulators and telling them that the regulators were hurting more people than the power plant ever could. Nobody ever stood up to them. This is what drives me crazy. I've been collecting stories, I mean, hundreds and hundreds of stories now, across experts across the world. And no one has ever stood up to the Japanese regulators.

Adrian Bull
And it's heartbreaking and you're quite right. And it contrasts so much with perhaps the experience of Chernobyl or other in different cultures where it was almost a question of, We'll seal the area off, we'll rebuild a city somewhere else. We'll just evacuate everybody and we'll forget about the power plant, rather than let's go back and make it right. I think the Japanese felt, in order to make it right, they have to keep people out of there before they made it right, rather than do that, as a conversation with society and with conversation with those who live there. But you know, you're right. People will never go back, because having been evacuated now for 10 years, who's gonna then uproot their families again, and go to go back into where they used to be. It's the relationship I think, between the industry, the nuclear industry, and the communities where it operates is not one that we collectively manage very well sometimes. Even in the UK where we have the decommissioning authority, whose business model and strategy is about airbrushing nuclear industry out of history and saying we will remediate everything back to kind of Greenfield or a best Brownfield site and everything will be gone. Now, that's not returning it back to a state that anybody who's alive today ever remembers, because in virtually all of those communities, the people were born into a community where there was a nuclear facility that way. And they have a sense of cultural identity with that facility and with the industry. And so simply saying, as a, We will get rid of everything when we're gone, to me is not the right approach. We should be having grown-up conversations with communities and saying, What kind of legacy do you see beyond the operational phase of whatever is there today?

Bret Kugelmass
Yep. Yes, tell me more about the UK. Do you see that happening? Are people going to have those adult conversations?

Adrian Bull
I think they're starting to happen. I think the NDA are mature enough to start to think in that way but it's a different shift from where they have historically been and where the business model is. And part of the challenge is today, the people who are alive today who might start that conversation will probably not be around when the NDA gets to the end of its mission and those sites are completely returned to what you might whatever an end state would be. I have a slightly weird analogy for it, but it seems to work with some people. It's like going to Nevada and saying, We're going to fill in that canyon thing, because before that river came along you had a nice flat plane of ground here. So let's fix that for you folks. Whereas, the reality is those communities identify with that part of their cultural heritage. You ask people where they live, they live 10 miles south of the Grand Canyon or such and such land or whatever. That is where they grew up and removing it is like airbrushing their past and their childhood out of history. And we shouldn't be doing that. We should be celebrating, reflecting, honoring, at least remembering the industry that these people grew up in, in the same way as if you grew up in Pittsburgh or Sheffield. The steel industry may be gone, but there are memories around and markers for the fact that those communities grew up around a steel industry for instance. We don't pretend it wasn't happening just because the industry isn't there anymore.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, absolutely. Another good one is the golden hills of California. That type of grass, that golden grass was like an invasive species that was brought abroad, that's not natural to California. Now California assumes that as part of its identity so i think that's a good story in my case. Yeah.

Adrian Bull
Yeah. And cultures evolve and heritage evolves. It's an additive thing. You lay one thing on top of another. It doesn't mean we disown the thing that was there before, we might adapt it and build on it. It's like creating a painting in layers.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me what else is happening in the UK right now. I was actually just out there a couple weeks ago to catch up with the industry for the first trip after COVID.

Adrian Bull
Oh, wow.

Bret Kugelmass
And it was good. It was good to see people, good to see what was going on. But from your perspective, you're there. You're part of it. Tell me how do you see the UK nuclear industry moving forward?

Adrian Bull
Ah, it's in a kind of point of decision at the moment. We need to decide as a country, as a society globally, but certainly in the UK, how do we reach our net zero commitment? Government has committed to net zero by 2050. We have the big COP conference coming up in the UK in a few weeks time and-

Bret Kugelmass
I hear nuclear isn't even invited to it.

Adrian Bull
There'll be some nuclear around the edges, but less nuclear than I think we might have hoped to have. Carbon technology-

Bret Kugelmass
The one thing that's gonna save our planet from climate change isn't even invited to the premier climate change event. This is freaking bullshit.

Adrian Bull
I can't argue with you. It should be a big part of that conversation. But one thing that's going to be interesting is the government putting out a - they haven't produced it yet - their kind of strategy for net zero, or how we're going to get there. And it's fair to say government have been, over the last few years, they've invested significantly in nuclear research for the first time in a generation through the nuclear innovation segment of the Energy Innovation Program, which is really welcome. There's significant real money that's come in to fund a lot of real work and to support a lot of researchers in academia and in industry. So that's a really good thing. We've seen government support for advanced modular reactors and small modular reactors. So that's good as well, alongside trying to create an effective financing model for larger scale plants. As you well know, we've seen a couple of big projects, both the Moorside project and the Horizon project at Wylfa in North Wales, have fallen by the wayside over the last few years, because the financing pictures weren't there. But I think there's- or the financing structures, I should say, couldn't be made to work. And it just needs the government to come to a real view as to what is their role and stick to it. Because changing the financing model for every project doesn't give you any of that continuity. It's like the first of a kind again. Nobody wants to go down the risk, the financing commercial risk of testing and testing an investment model. You want to go down the route of an investment model that 10 people have been down before, the same way as you want to build a reactor that many people have built before.

Bret Kugelmass
It's such a good point. I think this is one of the often looked over successes of the renewables industry, in a certain sense. It's not just that they build the same solar panel over and over and over again. and they're able to bring down costs that way. But they also have built out these financing tools, a toolkit, that's common, everyone understands. And this allows for more capital to come into the space, because it's just less unknowns. Then that brings down the cost of capital because it's more competitive, which makes the whole thing cheaper. And so we need to start doing that in the nuclear industry as well.

Adrian Bull
Because investors don't like risk and anything that looks new and different is risky. No matter how attractive it might look, it's less risky when it's been done a few times. And that's the finance model as much as it is the technical side. I remember when I was with the BNFL and we acquired the Westinghouse business, a guy called Howard Brushy, who was one of the leading architects of AP-1000 coming over and saying to the BNFL guys, I've got some good news and some less good news. And he said, The good news is that I've sold the second, third, fourth and fifth AP-1000 reactors, and everybody's thrilled. Then he said, And the less good news is I just can't sell the first one. And it's that. Everybody wants to be the fast follower, but nobody wants to be the person who picks up all the grief and the snagging and the issues of doing the first one. I often think of that quote, and I related back to Howard a few years ago when I bumped into him in London. He said, I can't believe you remember that. I said it's just so true.

Bret Kugelmass
I love that.

Adrian Bull
But again, if you take a real-life analogy - and again, most of my analogies for some reason seem to revolve around the motor cars, even though I'm not a petrolhead in any way - but I just sometimes say if you were running a mini cab company and you have a fleet of 20 vehicles, you don't want to have each car in the carpark. You may have 10 seven-seaters for bigger groups or whatever and 10 regular cars for your regular journey. But then you know if one's off the road, the guy usually drives that and can just hop in another one the same and he doesn't need to go through any training. You get those economies of scale of mini fleet in a motorcar set. So why as a nation would you end up looking at building a couple of EPRs and a Hualong over here and some AP-1000s there and some boiling water reactors there. Effectively, the UK model is because it looks like we won't be building all of those, because some of them are projects that have stumbled But we don't have a national indigenous design that is the design we build in this country and look to export. It's like we are the place where other people come and export their designs to us. So we'll get a couple of those and a couple of those and a couple of those and from a supply chain point of view, that means UK suppliers can't really be- it's a much bigger hurdle for them to skill up to serve this one reactor or two reactors. Far better if they had a fleet of 10 or 15 that they could-

Bret Kugelmass
And so isn't this some of the advantage of the SMR idea where you have, even if you instead have a one gigawatt, you had ten 100 megawatts, you can all of a sudden now sustain a fleet of operations and maintenance people and factories that are going to keep producing them. So even if the economics don't look as good just on paper for like comparing one unit against one tenth of one unit, then, in the whole system, you can actually see some real economic advantages.

Adrian Bull
Absolutely. I mean, I think there are a number of ways in which those smaller designs - whether they're the kind of nearer term SMR, or longer term advanced reactors, but again, most of those are lower output designed - just the scale of things like Hinkley C are so difficult to finance. You get a company like EDF that is backed by the French state and even they couldn't build Hinkley C on their own. They actually have to get the Chinese into take a 1/3 stake. If a big G7 nation can't fund a reactor build, things have got too big and too expensive and too difficult.

Bret Kugelmass
Then why did they go that way? They're not stupid. The people who run these companies, like they had to have known, when they were saying, Okay, we have our French reactor, it's about a gigawatt. Do we want to go slightly bigger or like - not slightly, they went like one and a half times bigger - do you go one and a half times bigger, or point five times smaller? And they've got a bunch of smart people in a room, smart finance guys, smart engineer guys, and no one raised their hand and said, Well, if we go bigger, I know that the energy economics is better, but nobody in the world is going to pay for it. Like nobody did that? I don't get it.

Adrian Bull
Well, to their credit, they've sold some. They've got it over that first hurdle in a number of countries, so the challenge has been getting the repeat orders in.

Bret Kugelmass
Right, so maybe they won a battle but lost the war, because the other way, maybe we see 100 of their power plants, instead of like one struggling here and one struggling there.

Adrian Bull
I think you're right, I think by going so big, it actually excludes some countries completely from ever having one, because you'd have to completely rebuild the grid to be able to accommodate 1600 megawatts, if you're looking at some of the countries that are developing countries or Sub Saharan Africa, for instance. The climate challenge is a global challenge. So that means not just doing more in the countries that already do nuclear, but it means taking nuclear to countries that haven't had nuclear before. And there are some communication challenges with that. But there are also some technical challenges. If your grid isn't up to gigawatt scale reactors, you've got to have something smaller that people can A) invest in, B) have got the time span to be able to build and see the benefits within the scope of their planning horizon, and C) the infrastructure can cope with it. I think if we do get to the point where SMRs are really established, that opens up nuclear on a global scale, so much more than it's just dominated by massive, huge infrastructure projects that would just completely dwarf the economies of some of those countries to invest in them. The Hinkley C project is, I think, five times the capital cost of the Olympics, when we had the Olympics in London. They're just massive. And it's great from the kind of machismo engineering point of view that you can stand on a hilltop and oversee a construction site that stretches right out into the far distance. But actually, the world just needs nuclear that is on a smaller scale that is more investable, that delivers quicker, where you can actually- you haven't lost your infrastructure when you have to shut it down for an outage. So you might have three of them running, but the other- the fourth one's shutdown, for instance, if you only had a group of four. So you've always got that reliable output, rather than zero to 100 but nothing in between. And actually, siting wise it opens up a whole lot more opportunity in the UK. That's a particular consideration that we've historically put our power plants on the coast. They've used sea water. But there aren't a lot of nuclear sites left around the coast with buildable land. So if we want significant rollout of nuclear over the next couple of decades, that means either taking other coastal sites and looking to put stations there or maybe taking other industrial sites that might be inland and looking at whether you could put smaller reactors on some of those locations, maybe closer to the grid lines as well.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, that would make a lot of sense.

Adrian Bull
It creates a lot more opportunity.

Bret Kugelmass
I guess, where are you on it? Are you optimistic about how things are going to move forward with the UK nuclear industry? Are you pessimistic? Where do you sit Personally,

Adrian Bull
I've seen so many projects come and not quite get over the line to be delivered. But I'm still naturally optimistic. I think if we're, as a nation, serious about demonstrating continuing leadership in the climate challenge, then we have to find ways to go down the nuclear route. We have to find ways to be more than just an intelligent, informed customer of other people's technology. So that means whether it's some of the UK pedigree, smaller designs, as well as investing in the capability to design future designs and fuel cycles, we've got huge amounts of knowledge and experience across virtually the whole nuclear fuel cycle in the UK. We've got tremendous academic network. We've got tremendous lab facilities. We've got a wonderful supply chain. I don't think we understand how well respected we are elsewhere in the world for our nuclear credentials. As a pioneer, I was talking to some of the new university students about this just the other day and reminding them that the UK was there at the very beginning of civil nuclear. One of my favorite kind of nuclear trivia facts is when Calderhall was opened in 1956 as the world's first sort of commercial civil nuclear power station. It was Her Majesty the Queen who opened it. And she's still doing the same job today. So we think of our industry as being massively mature and having been around forever. And yet, all of the world's civil nuclear industry exists within the time span of one individual doing the same job with no cross promotion. So it's more of a testament to the Queen than it is to the nuclear industry.

Bret Kugelmass
I love it.

Adrian Bull
Which is exceptional, and she opened Calderhall very early in her reign, and she's now - I think even she would probably concede - towards the tail end of it. But we've seen so much change over that period of 65 years, but we all just assume the industry has been around forever. And we've learned a lot, but actually, compared to a lot of other sectors, it all has to be seen in contact. But we do have that kind of global leadership. And I think the rest of the world sometimes sees us as having- sees our credentials more clearly than we do ourselves sometimes, because we're so used to- you take for granted your own strengths.

Bret Kugelmass
I guess that's also a very British thing, to like not brag too much about or be a little bit down on yourself. Is that right?

Adrian Bull
Yeah, I think it is. We're not always the most sort of vocal, singing our own praises and our own credentials. And there are countless times in the world when you have to do that, when you're competing with other people. But I think we've a lot to be proud of. We've even- from a communication sense, a lot of it is some of the mistakes that we made and the lessons that we've learned. And that gives you a lot of experience and knowledge that we can go and share with other people. We've done some things very badly in the past, through being quite technically arrogant as an industry and thinking that if we just gave people enough facts and data and figures, that they would be reassured, because we're the smart people who know about nuclear. And don't worry, it's okay not to know, but we will point you towards some graphs and data that demonstrate it's okay. And that just doesn't work. I think we're learning from that and becoming more open to listening where people are coming from. One of my mantras in communication spaces is, before you start telling people stuff, listen to what their question is, what they're concerned about. A great example of that from when I was involved with Westinghouse and we ran the nuclear fuel factory at Springfields in Preston. We used to have- I think every five years we had to do a little community survey to find out what the local community felt about the plant. So there were a lot of tickbox questions, one to five about you know, do you support the plant? Do you do support the site's continued operation, etc, etc.? And then there was a free text thing at the end, tell us anything that bothers you or anything you want to know about. And we genuinely didn't know what to expect. We thought we'd probably get questions about testing of alarms on the site or steam that people thought was smoke from things being on fire or radioactive releases or the safety of the plants or whatever. You know the single thing that most people wrote in the box? It was the speed people were driving through the towns and the villages on their way into work in the morning. Because we had a couple hundred, couple of thousand people working on the site. Many of them each day driving in, starting at about the same time. And the time that they were going to work was the time that families were getting their kids out to school. So their biggest factor - they'd all grown up around the site, they knew what it did, they were comfortable with the economic benefit that the site brought to their community - but the thing that really p'd them off every morning was the fact that we've got our people speeding through their streets past the end of their driveways while they're trying to get their kids to work, or while their kids are walking into school. Sorry, their kids to school or walking.

Bret Kugelmass
It's such a beautiful story, because I think it just encapsulates- I think what it does is it says, Hey, I think we should give people a little bit more credit for them to make their own risk decisions.

Adrian Bull
Exactly. And I think the other aspect of that is, don't go on the defensive telling people all about the safety stuff or whatever, how it's not as dangerous as you think, how we've made it "x" times safer, how we only produce this tiny amount of waste if that's not what they're bothered about. Have all of that information there for when they ask you. But we should give our elevator pitches about jobs. It's about safe, secure, low carbon electricity. It's about the economic benefit that we bring, etc, etc. Talk about the good stuff and let them ask you about the things they're worried about. I used to do a little 15-minute talk that I do very regularly at sort of dinners and things around the UK for various events, and I got quite used to doing it because I did it so often. So I started off with a little one page bullet point list. And then it got to the point where I didn't take that out of my pocket, because I knew what I was going to talk about. And I remember driving home from one of them and thinking I missed out the bit about - this was pre-Fukushima - I missed out the bit about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. I never mentioned it. Nobody asked me about it. So why was I putting that on the table as a conversation point, when actually that wasn't in their heads. So I deliberately left that out afterwards. And sometimes people would ask about it. We'd talk about it, and other times they didn't. Sometimes the nuclear industry is really bad at instigating a conversation around reactors blowing up or around nuclear waste and how dangerous it is, or how- you know, just all of the negative stuff, because we give people the reactive lines when they didn't ask about it. And quite often what they want to know is, Can my nephew get a job with you guys, because he's just about to leave school? And we tell them all that. By the time we finish telling them all of this stuff, they don't want to work there anymore. And I think we also don't recognize - I remember having a conversation with some Japanese about this - that even a really good message, badly delivered, or even a good message can have a bad impact. So we give people good safety stats, but we're still talking safety to them. And they worry about the fact that we keep talking safety to them. I met a Japanese Minister in London a few years ago. And I got invited to go meet him because I'd been out at Fukushima and we've done some of this sort of engagement on our communications with Japanese colleagues over there. So I got sent to meet this guy and he was the minister at the time charged with the public engagement around Fukushima. And I was trying to explain to him that talking about safety was not a good idea. And he couldn't seem to think- we were talking through an interpreter, so it was difficult, but we were having our conversation just because the only time we could meet was in the foyer of a hotel where they were staying in London. So we'd all sat down around the coffee table and the staff had brought the coffee and the biscuits or whatever, we're having this conversation. I said to him, Imagine if when the waitress brought our coffee over, she went back to the kitchen and she then came back with the food hygiene certificate for the hotel.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh my goodness, perfect.

Adrian Bull
And it was a five star, it's a five star rating. As good as you can get, but she proudly told us they have a five star food hygiene.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, they haven't seen a rat in ten years.

Adrian Bull
Exactly.

Bret Kugelmass
And nobody's been poisoned at this facility yet. Yeah, yeah, you lose your appetite real fast.

Adrian Bull
Malcolm Grimston I think uses the same sort of analogy. You know, number of dead rats found? Zero. No, it's not a good message, still. Why are we having that conversation? But the guy got it straight away, was like, Oh, I see. Yeah, straight up. It's like we're having a conversation that assumes we're the bad guys. Yeah, let's not have that conversation. Talk about your-

Bret Kugelmass
And the Japanese are so non-confrontational. Even if he got that, I doubt he went home and spread that message to his colleagues.

Adrian Bull
That was exactly the experience that Gerry Thomas and I had when we were over there. We talked a lot about building trust with communities, about establishing these sort of stakeholder groups where people can come along and ask stuff and you answer it, and regulators are there, local councils are there ,and the emergency services are there, and the site operators are there. And anybody who has a role, a formal role is there. Community representatives are there, anybody from the general public can pitch up and listen. And we said, These work really well in the UK, you build personal networks, you've got to trust one another. And they were like nodding and nodding. So do you think you might do that? No. Why not? Because the public, the community is beating us up so much already, why would we give them another channel to beat us up with? But you kind of have to go over that pain. And actually, if you do it in a trusting way that builds a relationship, yes, they might beat you up the first time. And they might ask you 200 questions, but over time, they will come to recognize that you are doing your job and they trust what you tell them. And then you'll be in a better place. But they just didn't want to go over that pain of being beaten up. Again, when I was with Westinghouse, I used to go to the site stakeholder group around the site there. And we had a gentleman, remember the public who used to come along, I think he was very well informed. He wasn't particularly anti the site, but he was well informed. He went every meeting. He would always ask some challenging questions. And it always took longer than we expected it to at the end of the meeting while we went through this guy's sort of question and answer session. So in a short term way, it was a little bit frustrating, because these were often in the evening and you're thinking quite hard to get home soon. And, oh, he's got another three questions to ask. Okay. And then, sadly, he was an oldish guy in his 60s, I would say, and then sadly, he was killed in a car accident. So he didn't come. Nobody else came. The community were very happy to have this guy representing them. But nobody actually wanted to step into his shoes and become the voice of the public in these conversations. So we were having these site community meetings and there was nobody really there turning up from the community. And we realized actually how much we needed this guy, even though he was quite challenging sometimes to answer all of these questions between the different sessions. It wasn't the same meeting when he wasn't there. We just didn't have that challenge and that open conversation anymore. But, of course, you can't force people. You can't force a member of the public to come and sit in our group and listen and ask questions. But in a way, it was a recognition of the level of comfort at the site operations, but in another way, it meant the group wasn't doing what it was there to do. So it's always a balance.

Bret Kugelmass
Adrian, as we wrap up, any final words you have? Any message you want-

Adrian Bull
Oh, I mean-

Bret Kugelmass
You have so many, you've done so many good ones already.

Adrian Bull
I don't know. I mean, I think you'd asked us to think a little bit of our vision for the future of the industry. And from a communication standpoint, I think my vision would be that those people who work either within the industry or is working- is associated with the industry, like the people in academia, doing research or whatever, all feel that we want to talk proudly about what we do. And sometimes I think that commercial sensitivity and secrecy slash security of our industry, because of some of the nature of the work we do and the securities around sites and the materials that we deal with, creates a message with people that they can't talk proudly about the industry they work in, the company they work for, and the work that they do. And I'd love people to think of themselves as ambassadors for our business and be really proud- of our industry I should say and be really proud. I was thinking around-. I was telling somebody earlier today I was doing the Titans of Nuclear podcast and I was a little bit sheepish about the Titans of Nuclear, eh? Yeah. And in a way, we had a big thing over the last couple of years in the national health service that everybody who works in the health services is a hero or heroine because they're all playing their small part. I think everybody who works in the nuclear industry or with it is a Titan of Nuclear. The people on your podcast are perhaps just the those who were confident enough, to be gobby enough for an hour to talk about stuff, but without being too far out of our comfort zone. But there are thousands more people in the industry who are all incredibly important pieces of an incredibly important overall machine. I think we're all kind of mini Titans of Nuclear one way or another. If we're playing a part in that sector, because we all- there's a sense of camaraderie and mutual support within the nuclear world which I don't think exists to the same extent in in some others. I'd love us all to just wear our nuclear badge a little bit more proudly and shine it up every so often and speak proudly about the industry we work in. And maybe from a community standpoint, see more examples like the one in, I think it was in Sweden, Forsmark, where there were two communities who were in line for the waste repository. And there was a package of commercial benefit going along with it. And the two communities both recognized that, actually, the repository on its own was going to be really valuable. So they agreed that the losing community would get the majority of the money, which is a wonderful story. And it shows how I think communities that actually understand where you've built up a really positive relationship with nuclear knowledgeable communities, so they recognize and understand that package of socio economic benefits as well as the legacy that is being left. But they agreed between them that actually, they would both be winners. One of them would get the facility, one of them will get most of the money. And that to me is, can we get to that point everywhere, please? That'd be great. Maybe if you get to that point, you don't need the community benefit package anymore. Perhaps not the stinging argument, but so much to, I think so much to look forward to if we can get our messaging right and our engagement right, work together and learn from one another.

Bret Kugelmass
I couldn't agree more. Adrian, thanks for taking the time today.

Adrian Bull
My pleasure.

Bret Kugelmass
Your perspective is just amazing. You've obviously had a great look and yeah, can't wait to see you in person.

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