Anicet Touré

Product Manager SMRs and Advanced Technologies

Tractebel ENGIE

May 17, 2021

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Ep 309: Anicet Touré - Product Manager SMRs and Advanced Technologies, Tractebel Engie
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Bret Kugelmass
We're here today with Anicet Touré, who is the Product Manager of SMRs and Advanced Technologies at Tractebel ENGIE. Welcome to Titans of Nuclear.

Anicet Touré
Thank you. Thanks for the invite. It's a real pleasure to be here today. I look forward to talk to you about these marvelous things.

Bret Kugelmass
Yes, of course. I mean, listen, I've known you for years, we've sat on panels together. It's a real pleasure to be able to have you all to myself for an hour and be able to get to chat about, I think, what is probably both of our favorite topic in the world.

Anicet Touré
Right. That's right.

Bret Kugelmass
Let's start off by learning a little bit about you. Where did you grow up? And how did you get into the energy space?

Anicet Touré
Well, I grew up - well, first of all, I'm Belgian - so, I grew up nearby the border of France with a nice family. My dad is from Africa, from Mali. I grew up with him for a few years, then he went back to Africa. It was quite a journey.

Bret Kugelmass
how old were you when you were in Mali?

Anicet Touré
No, I was never there. I lived in Belgium my whole life. But he came here to study, met my mother, and that's how I came about.

Bret Kugelmass
I got it. And what did he study? Was he an engineer as well?

Anicet Touré
He is an architect. So, not far away. Actually, my passion for engineering came from my grandfather. He learned engineering in the army. I mean, when my dad was gone - my dad was gone when I was nine years old -so, my father figure was a bit my grandfather, and we spent a lot of time playing with computers and so on and that's where I got into got into engineering.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing. And then when did you begin to study? And what was that process like?

Anicet Touré
Well, actually, initially, I wanted to become an astrophysicist. That was my dream when I was probably 14 years old. I was like, Yeah, I want to do hard science and basically do equations to calculate how the stars move. Then, when I was a little bit older, I realized that I wanted to do something to have a real impact in the world. And doing equations on the blackboard doesn't exactly fulfill that vision. So, that's how I got into engineering. In the mix between my passion for physics, and engineering, I think energy, especially in nuclear energy was the right and obvious choice.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. It's like the type of engineering I think anyone who just gets a little bit mesmerized by how it almost takes you to a different universe, right? It's got some new rules of physics, still the same type of stuff that we're all used to, basic equations, but then all of a sudden, there are some orders of magnitude differences that can really like capture the curious mind.

Anicet Touré
Yeah, that's for sure. And, I think what's crazy about how I got to study nuclear engineering is that I started my specialty in nuclear engineering in 2010, so, right before Fukushima. My first year was during the Fukushima accident, which is kind of amazing because, in a sense, you get to learn about nuclear engineering in another way and you get to think about things differently. But at the same time for a young man going through this, you really question, Is that what I really want to do with my future? And in the end, I think this is how I really came to I'm pretty sure that I want to do my career in nuclear engineering because of that, because I looked into all of the aspects of nuclear waste, safety, everything. And I'm pretty convinced that nuclear energy is actually a great form of energy, safe. When you get to know things in the details, you realize that people are afraid of it because they don't know it that well. I'm really convinced that this is what got me as passionate and as dedicated as I am today.

Bret Kugelmass
Just one more second on this, because you know, I wasn't in the industry during Fukushima, I can only look at it in hindsight, and that maybe has informed my beliefs. In in the moment, what did your professor tell you guys was happening? You probably had a couple different professors. Were there differences? Were some saying, Listen, you know, this proves the safety because nobody got hurt. And others were saying, Well, we have to wait a few years to see what really happens. What were the different conversations?

Anicet Touré
I think there was a bit a bit of both. I definitely remember one of my professor was really analytic about the accident and how things went down, how the tsunami flooded the diesel generators. We got to learn about all the backup systems, which you normally don't do, traditionally, in the course of your nuclear engineering training. That comes later on, even probably when you are in the job. So, that was really interesting. Some of them took it as an opportunity to teach us about what was going on, what are the safety systems in the nuclear plant, and also our plants. The plants operating in Belgium can be different from the Fukushima plant. For sure, there was a bit of interest from that point of view. Now, I also had a course in, what are the impacts of the radiological impact of an accident. This was really interesting, because there were people where, Yeah, we need to wait a couple of years to know exactly what was the impact. Yet, we do see that it's very- at the same time, there was already this feeling that this was a very different accident from the Chernobyl accident, and was not of that magnitude at all, which was kind of the feeling in the media landscape, if you look back at it.

Bret Kugelmass
After you completed your studies, was it a foregone conclusion that you'd work for Tractebel? That's one of the largest companies in your country, right, that specializes in nuclear, or were there other- did your classmates go different places? How did you transition into the workforce?

Anicet Touré
Well, that's a great question. Actually, I think Tractebel and the ENGIE group were quite an obvious choice, because they have a great nuclear traineeship program, where you get to learn about practical stuff about how you operate a nuclear reactor, and you go in the field, you really see things hands on. Starting a career in Belgium, in nuclear energy, this is the place to go. For sure, I wanted to go there. At the same time, the first year I applied, I was a little bit late. Because of that, I had to do one year, where I basically supported a PhD thesis in economics, also, applying Monte Carlo tools, which were complete over here. This was really, really interesting. And I listed it at the time, I had the interviews with practical and I knew that there was an opening there for me if I was willing to wait for one year. I was pretty confident that this was the right choice and I was learning so many amazing things on the side that, it wasn't a question.

Bret Kugelmass
What does Tractebel do, for those who aren't familiar, especially with the European context of nuclear? Walk us through, what is this organization?

Anicet Touré
Tractebel is kind of the engineering branch of the ENGIE group. The ENGIE group is a worldwide big, big company utility operating about 100 gigawatts of assets in the world. They own also the six gigawatt of nuclear power plants in Belgium. In Belgium, I would say ENGIE is divided in many sub companies, but the two most important ones are Electrabel which is the operator of the nuclear plants and Tractebel, which is, historically speaking, the architect engineer of the plants and now the responsible designers. So, really, all the engineering. For example, we were busy with the designer grades after the Fukushima accident, the lifetime extension of the plant as well.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me about the history of nuclear in Belgium. I mean, it's a small country, I've walked around, so I know you've got these beautiful palaces. How did it get so much nuclear?

Anicet Touré
Well, it's actually a great question. I mean, nuclear energy in Belgium became a topic really early on compared to the other countries. The first Pressurized Water Reactor to produce power in Europe was operated in Belgium was the BR3, and this is because - I don't know if we need to be proud of that, or not, probably not so much - Belgium, at the time of World War II, was one of the countries that provided the uranium out to the Americans. In exchange for that, we received nuclear technology. So, this is how it started very early on in the 60s. And in the 70s, during the oil crisis, Belgium decided to invest massively in nuclear energy. We built several nuclear reactors in about 10 years and they provided up to 50% of the electricity in Belgium for about forty years. Quite a feat.

Bret Kugelmass
Does that mean that the public sentiment recognizes the value that it's created, all the clean air, the stable electricity, do people know?

Anicet Touré
I don't think so. It depends when you will be asking the question. I think in 2003, actually, in Belgium, the Green Party came into leadership, and they decided of gradual phase out of nuclear energy from their own. This was revisited a couple of times, I think the Fukushima accident cemented that reality into the minds of people, especially because Germany, which is our neighboring country, was doing it so obviously, as well. Now, in 2015, this course we discussed, because the question is - the very big question in Belgium is - how are we going to move on from nuclear energy without going back to fossil fuels? Basically, there is no, I mean, there is a bit of wind in Belgium, there is not so much sun, as you can see right now. We're in a very dark place, this just because the sun coming from the window is not so much. This is what strikes me as a challenge that we do face in Belgium, in Europe, and worldwide, in fact, is that, when you look at the place, first if you occupy the worldwide energy landscape, you realize that we need all the assets that you can to get to zero carbon, which is really the goal. And so, the plan in Belgium, unfortunately, has been shifted a little bit away from that. I mean, the political discussion right now is, as is the case in Germany, to boost the presence of renewables, but to do it with a partner that, as of right now is gas. We are trying to see if there is still an opening for that, but that's the reality right now.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's interesting, just kind of the tug of regional politics. And I mean, it's just hard to imagine, I'm not from Europe, but just to see so many countries that had so many successful stories. You guys had as many reactors combined as the US does, so to see people want to phase it out, and especially when you have all these cultural differences, you would hope that there'll be one or two countries - and there are I guess, you know, some in Eastern Europe - that really stick out for it and say, No, no, you guys have it all wrong. But it does seem that Germany has this undue influence, which I just think it's just so crazy.

Anicet Touré
At the same time, it's counterbalanced by the French example, on the other end, which is the country most reliant on nuclear energy in the world. I do think that there is this dual view, which is not that easy and, in my opinion, is there because the public is a little bit misinformed about nuclear energy. I started this interview with you by saying, Well, I learned about Fukushima that convinced me that I was gonna do nuclear energy. People don't understand that and, this is what's the most crazy thing about - I don't know how it is to be a nuclear engineer, outside of Europe - but in Europe and in Belgium, for sure, when you're sitting at a table dinner table, Well, I'm a nuclear engineer, you always have that weird look like, But why are you doing that? People see you as an evil person, which is kind of crazy. What I'm seeing, and I've managed over the years to debate, even with people from the Green Party, I have a couple of friends working there, I can say, Well, I'm really convinced about it. I do feel the reason why I'm working for in the nuclear industry right now is because I deeply believe that the world needs nuclear energy to succeed in its energy transition. And people don't really understand that.

Bret Kugelmass
It's interesting. Some of the things that you were saying, were just like, a classic engineer mindset. You just get to look at the facts, be analytical about it, change your mind if you read different facts, but not everyone takes that that same analytical approach. Okay, so tell me, as you kind of started moving in your career, how did you take- you've taken some real deliberate choices, like you specifically, to become very involved in the SMR space, the advanced technology space. I mean, I see you putting in the extra effort, I see you around the world, like I literally run into you in this country or that country. So, how did you decide this was going to be the thing that you were going to take some young leadership action on?

Anicet Touré
Well, actually, when I started at Tractebel, my first assignment was to review a technology watch study on SMRs. I fell in SMRs when I was really, really young as a nuclear professional. From the onset, I was really convinced that there is something interesting about what SMRs are. I think I met the right people. In Tractebel, we have so many great experts and people you can exchange with and they will tell you their opinion about the concept. From the get go, I realized that there is something beyond the business model of SMRs that is really attractive. I felt like people in the industry were not putting the right word on it. So, my journey on SMRs started from that, started from trying to understand why I was so deeply convinced that there is a kind of beauty behind it. And in the end, over the years, I materialized that into, the reason why I believe so much in SMRs, is because it is a business model that starts from the right questions.

Bret Kugelmass
Yes. Ah, you are speaking my language now. Okay, so tell me, what are the right questions?

Anicet Touré
Well, I do think, if you look at the global energy landscape - because the right questions are not exactly the same in every country in the world - but you should look at the global energy landscape, I usually put them in four categories. The first one is, How do you recreate trust in nuclear safety again? Because I don't think it's a problem of nuclear safety we're facing, it's a problem of the trust of nuclear safety, and you need to be able to tell a different narrative about how nuclear safety is achieved and how it's done, and I do think SMRs bring something to the table that is really amazing, going from more inherent safety, so, not trying to engineer solutions against the problem that you might face in case something goes wrong, but trying to make sure that nothing can go wrong in the first place, which is a great mindset. It's a great approach. The second question, I would say is, How can nuclear energy play a role in the zero carbon transition? And for that to be a reality, I think the mindset that has changed is that nuclear energy - I mean, SMRs at least - are not anymore baseload generation that don't really look at what's happening beside their own power production. It's more becoming something integrated into an energy ecosystem. We've built in flexibility to complement intermittent renewables, with the ability to decarbonize industries with process heat and with hydrogen. Those are the kind of questions that SMRs are addressing to say, Well, we want to be part of the fight against climate change and we need to be thinking about in what environment are we going to evolve? So, this is one big difference. Then there is the question of why going small in the first place. I feel that the industry as a whole, not people working in SMR, specifically, misunderstand them. I don't think that going smaller has to do with real better economics or anything of that nature, but just because, when you look at nuclear endeavors right now, there is no more private actors and there really never were private stakeholders in the world that could afford the nuclear plants. We know that the world energy context is that, at least when you look at Europe, there are more and more private stakeholders in the energy market, so you need to de-risk the nuclear projects. We've seen Westinghouse struggle just because of of the difficulty of building the AP-1000. That's where SMR gets to be right, going one of those magnitude below in terms of capital investment. Yeah, I think that's really cool. And then, of course, they're all those ideas of how you streamline delivery, how you modularize them, or how you make them built in, more at least, factory than on-site construction, but this is to get back, I would say, the economies of scale that you lost in economies of mass. The real benefit is, because you're going to de-risk the projects, you're going to pay lower return rates at the bank and in the end, for such capital intensive project, that's where you're going to regain the margin.

Bret Kugelmass
Wow, okay. You said a lot of important things there. I want to unpack them, because you just went through so many things, I think all of them are so important. But you laid out a bunch of good cases for SMRs that aren't necessarily the obvious ones. You laid out being able to shift the narrative. You laid out how the market of electricity itself has changed,. You laid out how there is this advantage of economies of scale that you can make up for when you do. Listen, everyone knows you're gonna lose something when you go smaller in terms of the efficiency of your system, but you can make things up in terms of quantity of production. Also, that last point that you touched upon is from de-risking from the capital perspective, as well. I just wanted to kind of highlight those things, because I think everyone who's interested in this space needs to really dive into each one of those things pretty deeply to understand where these many advantages are coming from. It's not just one, you just laid out four serious advantages there. That was just so well articulated. How did you come across this information? I know that you guys published a big report recently. Was it that you were instrumental in putting together this report and you just really took these things to heart? How did you discover these advantages?

Anicet Touré
It's been a process. Basically, if I step back from the journey on SMRs of being practical, my first study on SMRs was in 2015. About 2018, I went to my management and said, Well, look, we really need to investigate SMRs as a business case for Tractebel in the future, and really, from the get go, because we have such a great management structure really open to new ideas, they were like, Okay, go for it. Kind of, prove us that there is something there in the market. We have a small team of people who are actually the people who wrote this white paper, The Rise of Nuclear Technology 2.0 that you were talking about, and we started deep diving a little bit the concept of SMRs looking at every aspect, and what was really the strength of this is that we built it on people who were not believers of SMRs, were like SMRs is not something that is going to work. The process was, Why are you saying that? I mean, what is it in the SMR business model that you think is not going to work? And we were starting from that point, trying to go through, again, trying to ask the right question and doing studies, basically market studies, technical studies on SMRs, to see if those worries were right. In the end, I think, after spending two or three years tackling every of these issues, we were like, Well, there is something real there. Now the question is, Can we get stakeholders of the energy market convinced that this is the solution they need? If we can do that, there is something there is definitely something that is going to happen in a revolution that can be centered around renewables, SMRs, and other solutions, but where SMRs would be integral.

Bret Kugelmass
Where does Tractebel play into this? First, literally, what would you guys do? Is this just the engineering services for SMRs? And then, the second question would be, what is your responsibility in terms of convincing these other stakeholders, like industrial purchasers of energy, does Tractebel see that they have to both create the market to also serve the market, or just talk to enough SMR players so, once they sell their systems, you guys can come in and help them perform it the best they can?

Anicet Touré
Yeah, I think there is a little bit of that. If you're looking at the SMR market right now, especially if you're looking at Europe, there are a couple of projects only that are in the starting blocks and I wouldn't say that they are even far. The market as it is, there is not much money or business to be made in SMRs as we speak. One of the beliefs we developed, especially with the core team I was talking about, is that we need to create the market. It's not about sharing a small pie, it's about making the pie so much bigger, that there will be enough for everybody to eat at the table, and in the end, I do think that this is something that the nuclear industry has to realize is that it's not about wanting to get it, sure, I mean, the real enemy right now is fossil fuel.

Bret Kugelmass
It's just so crazy. I saw this in my previous industry, the drone business, where there's so much - especially when you introduce a new technology - your biggest challenge is actually customer education. It's not competition on any given individual contract. It is just so important, I cannot stress this enough, for the various vendors to get on the same page, work with - you don't have to work with each other directly - but like, help each other succeed, help break down roadblocks together, because that'll create a huge market. Even if you're not the best technology, just by creating a huge market, the slice of your pie is going to be better than if you went off and just did it on your own.

Anicet Touré
Yeah, definitely. And so, that's why we started, I would say, canvassing stakeholders outside of the traditional nuclear market, actually. We are also going to industrials right now and saying, Well, you need to decarbonize your footprint by 2030, 2040, 2050. What are the solutions that are out there, as you consider SMRs? And what are your requirements? Look, we are going to work with you. What can SMRs bring to the table? And that leads me to the second question you were asking, which is, What's the role of Tractebel in that? Yeah, indeed, we are an engineering company providing engineering services. I would say that Tractebel is a bit of a weird beast in the nuclear industry, because we were the architect engineer of the nuclear power plants and working so close to the nuclear operator, which is from a sister company, we've really developed competencies that you would find in a nuclear engineering company. That goes from even things that are normally more found within vendors themselves. I mean, we have competencies in core and fuel studies, which is quite rare for engineering companies. And so, the idea is really, How can we help stakeholders bring that market about? I do think that, on that note, there are two type of clients that we are helping. There are the vendors who need engineering to get them past the finish line or at least get them advanced or conceptual design to a detailed design and incorporating that into a supply chain, this is definitely something that we've been doing and for which we can help. And there are utilities or future operator owner of the plants which don't always know how to be the nuclear plant and this is, for me, maybe the most, from a conceptual perspective, the most interesting case. You have in this world, we say, Well, okay, your SMR business case sounds interesting, but our core mission is not to operate a nuclear plant, we are producing whatever goods we are producing. How can we build a model where, basically, the plant is going to be operated or built without us, where we are okay to invest, but we don't want to operate it. And we are trying also to go with those stakeholders, to go with those industrials, think about how the business model around nuclear energy can evolve in this concept of SMRs.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing. Can we talk about some of these industrial stakeholders? Can you maybe rattle off a few industries that, either you guys have spoken to or that you think might be applicable for this type of technology?

Anicet Touré
Sure. And I do think there are a couple of people that we've met also together at a couple of events, I'm thinking for example, in Eastern Europe, a well-known industrial in the rubber industry is looking at SMRs. I think there is an interesting thing happening in some of the countries in Europe, where basically actors are seeing the energy markets evolve. And industrials are seeing their rules and themselves evolve with the market and saying, Well, we are a consumer of the electricity market or the heat market, what about being prosumers in this market?

Bret Kugelmass
What is prosumer mean? Define that for us.

Anicet Touré
Producers and consumers at the same time, then having kind of a hybrid role, because you play such an integral part of the of the market being such a big consumer, that issuing of your own production that can also serve some of the challenges like balancing the intermittency of renewables. This is a win-win situation for everyone. I think that the realization is that the integration of the market is going to bid to become more and more performance. The market has become more and more complex with different solutions, really integrating themselves and not something adding up on top of the other and a grid operator doing the dispatching. That belief has changed. We see the nuclear industry, we see also other actors, one that I'm very proud to work with is Fermi Energia and, actually you did an interview of Kalev Kallemets on your podcast.

Bret Kugelmass
We're very proud of them, and we were an investor in that company as well, so, we're very proud of the work that they've done.

Anicet Touré
This is for me, maybe one of the most brilliant companies to work with, and bring in people to work with, because they have the same vision that we have in our core team that we need to change the energy markets. They are sitting ahead of everyone and basically want to set up that first-of-a-kind project SMR in Europe and we're really glad to be part of their team to advise them, also because, while we know that building an SMR on paper is a great adventure, when you're doing it, it takes it takes a whole lot of skill. Building that with them, but with the vision and the drive of a CEO like Kalev Kallemets, it's been an amazing journey. There are a couple of other companies. Because companies in Europe are still in the phase where they are looking at it, but trying to see what's happening on the European Commission level, for example, with questions such as the taxonomy and what is about sustainable finance with nuclear energy be included in that? How nuclear energy will be perceived in the near future? I think there are a lot of actors that, right now, don't want to publicize too much about the activity there, but we have more and more stakeholders saying, Well, SMRs look really promising and we are going to go step by step, see if there is a market, if there is a business case, and if we see that all the licensing is possible, and if we see that all those steps can be can be fulfilled, we are all in for SMRs. And that's quite great to see.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing. Can we talk a little bit about economics, though? What do you think that the SMRs have to be able to produce electricity at to be competitive? What do they have to produce heat directly at to be competitive? I think, at the end of the day, it's great to engage the stakeholders, yes, they definitely see benefit, okay, great. But at the end of the day, I think when they need to convince their boards, it comes down to dollars and cents, I think you're gonna be very hard pressed to find an industrial stakeholder that is willing to do it just to advance the industry and is willing to take a loss on the first unit. So where do these SMR vendors have to come out on in terms of dollars per megawatt-hour in order to really make their case?

Anicet Touré
That's actually a great question. Because, I do think that, from an investor point of view, if you can produce electricity at $50 per megawatt-hour, then everyone will be saying, Yes, let's do that, it's the solution.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, 50 is very competitive, 50 is what you'd need to compete on the grid itself, I thought you would say a much higher number when it comes to industry that has to pay for it at the end of the grid.

Anicet Touré
I was getting there.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, sorry.

Anicet Touré
I think 50 is the obvious number, 50 is where you start having the discussion and saying, Well, okay, how can we align on this project, when can we make it happen as soon as possible? Now, the reality is also that production costs, which is traditionally the traditional measure of energy costs everywhere is not the right metric to study SMRs. And, of course, it depends on the market you're considering. I'm going to talk about the electricity market for a minute just for me to be able to exemplify what I've placed. On the electricity market, what you see - and we've done in this white paper, The Rise of Nuclear Technology 2.0, an analysis that shows that, basically, production costs in tomorrow's energy market is not the right metric anymore. Because when you have a lot of intermittent renewables on the grid, which is going to be the case, and it's already to some extent, the case, in countries like Germany.

Bret Kugelmass
Or California.

Anicet Touré
Yeah, or California, but it's a really good example, because in the end, you see that there is a hidden cost, which is the cost of storage, the cost of transmission and the cost of distribution. And we've looked at that and we've looked at SMRs with a specific angle with that was, If SMRs can be flexible enough - and there are different ways to achieve that, hydrogen is one of them, heat storage is one of them, you can also down ramp the power. If you can be flexible, then you bring something really interesting to the market. Because in the end, you will decrease the storage and transmission cost of renewables. So, basically, you're going to improve the profitability of renewables, as well as you're producing and making a competitive offer yourself. What we show in our study, to make it specific, is that basically at $70 per megawatt-hour, you're not competitive with wind, onshore wind, for example. But at the same time, if you model the whole market, and all aspects of cost production, storage, distribution, transmission, you see that the system, from an economic point of view when we reach the optimum by investing more in flexible nuclear than in onshore wind, because of those costs. I would say that 70 is is kind of the right metric where you see real benefits. And beyond that, it just depends on the flexibility metrics that you can reach.

Bret Kugelmass
Just to be clear, I tried to pull this out for a second. Are you saying that at 70 - even if you didn't have hydrogen, you don't have heat storage, you don't have down ramping involved - can an SMR still be competitive at, let's say, $69 per megawatt hour just by selling direct to an industrial player?

Anicet Touré
The answer to the question is unfortunately complicated? But for the sake of simplicity, let's say, yes.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay. And then, beyond that, you're saying, with all of these extra things, it depends on the situation, of course, on where the electrons are coming from and how the grid is set up and how the market forces are aligned. But even beyond that, there's a possibility that it still makes economic sense.

Anicet Touré
Yes, yes, exactly. And, in fact, what I was trying to get at was that, with simple flexibility - and by simple flexibility, what I mean is, basically, what the French nuclear reactors are capable of doing - 70 is basically a good target. If you're trying to consider things like historic solutions, like, I don't know, Moltex Energy is doing, like Terrapower is doing, those kinds of things have such an interesting value in highly intermittent driven grids that you can reach costs that are beyond that. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend for anyone- I mean, at this point, what becomes really difficult is not the overall business case, because the business case, when you look at the macro economics, okay, it can make sense. But what are you as an individual investor in a specific project going to get from that? That's where things becomes become a bit more complex. Now, I want to come back on what you were asking about things like an industrial or something that would receive that power, because then you're starting to consider something completely different, which is, if you're producing, for example, hydrogen as a byproduct, or as a main product, depending on the industry you're in, then you have a business case that completely shifts, because you can say, Well, I'm going to produce hydrogen baseload and when the price of electricity reaches high value on the market - which is definitely going to happen, and is happening more and more regularly, because of the pace of renewables - then you can sell your electricity to the grid. And these are business cases that makes sense, but we will need time to convince the market stakeholder that this is where the market is going and there is a business case. Here, I would say, we need to go into the details, we need to go into the specific business case, to make it happen. But at least, let's say, under 70, you can be pretty confident that there is a good business case to be made.

Bret Kugelmass
Excellent. Okay. Any other industries? I know we talked about chemical, but just so people can brainstorm and think a little bit more, can you just rattle off a few more industries that might make use of SMRs?

Anicet Touré
Sure, actually there are quite a lot. I would say the chemical industry, in a large sense- when you see the chemical industry, there are sometimes organizing chemical clusters where you have plants basically sharing the cogeneration mean and using the steam and power. This is something where we see a lot of potential for these industries. In fact, what is also quite curious, in a sense, or might seem curious, when you look at it from the outside, is that I do feel that the petrochemical industry could benefit from SMRs. Not necessarily to produce the old fossil fuels, but to produce synthetic fuels.

Bret Kugelmass
And that's the future. That's the future. Yeah, they're not thinking about this. They're crazy right now. Yeah.

Anicet Touré
I do think so. The reality is that there are applications for which it will be very difficult to replace the fossil fuels. If you're thinking about airplanes, or boats, or even long-range transportation, basically, well, you do see that it is really difficult to go towards something else. And so those synthetic fuel ideas are something that we do believe can be a game changer, but synthetic fuels are only a game changer if you can produce them with low carbon energy, because if you're producing synthetic fuel from gas power plants, it's also making less sense. So, SMRs are good candidate for that. Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, absolutely. And any others? Steel comes to mind, data centers.

Anicet Touré
Steel is also a very good business case, because through the process of DRI, which is a specific way to produce steel, you could actually produce hydrogen as a feedstock. Again there, if you look at it, I do think that nuclear is perfectly fit for that. And I have a number to give you an idea. We looked at it in Belgium, if we were to replace the steel production of Belgium, or one of the largest in Belgium, and again, through SMR, producing hydrogen and the DRI process, it would represent probably about one gigawatt of SMRs, one gigawatt of electrolyzers.

Bret Kugelmass
That's a cool market.

Anicet Touré
Yeah, it's a great market. At the scale of Belgium, this is meaningful, because the whole electricity market in Belgium is about 10 gigawatts. So, it means that there is something out there. And it's the same thing, if you're looking at, we also did something which is kind of crazy exercise. What if we work to replace all the fossil fuels produced in the Port of Antwerp, so in Belgium, by synthetic fuels produced through SMRs, and then you cannot even believe numbers, beyond hundreds-

Bret Kugelmass
Hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe?

Anicet Touré
Oh, yeah, easily. It's 50 gigawatts of power. It's crazy numbers. So, there is a market big enough. Now, the question is, can we convince these actors to go there. I want to share something with you that was told to me by some people working within the European Commission. They were saying, Well, we see a place for nuclear energy in the current context, the current political context, it's not a simple discussion to have. But at the same time, everyone right now is focused on reaching the targets for 2030. So, basically, in the European Union, it means reducing carbon footprint compared to 1990 by 55%. But getting there is only part of the problem, because when you're considering that, you can say, Well, let's replace coal by gas, that kind of works in the equation. But it doesn't work on the overall equation of climate change. And so, when you're really trying to get to zero carbon, and that's your objective, even people within the European Commission say, Well, we need to consider nuclear energy at some point, and we are glad that some of the countries are doing it.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I think Bill Gates made that point in his book, he very specifically called out, he said, watch what like your final goal is. If you just aim for the 2030 targets, you might actually make technology selections that actually make it harder to get to your 2050 targets if you don't think long term. So, I thought that was very, very smart that he called that out. Quick question on Belgium as a potential first market, since we've been talking about it. Is it a possibility? Could a first-of-a-kind SMR get licensed in Belgium? Is there a regulator that's equipped for it?

Anicet Touré
At this stage? I don't think so.

Bret Kugelmass
And why not? Why couldn't they just borrow expertise from, like what they call a TSO, technical support organization?

Anicet Touré
I do think that the capability is there. If you're looking at the Safety Authority, the TSO, the whole nuclear industry, as it is built right now, it is capable of doing that. And in fact, the Belgium nuclear industry has been a pioneer in nuclear engineering. From the very start, it's been an industry that has greatly contributed to the development of fuel reprocessing. We were one of the first countries to look at our geological disposal. I mentioned the first EPR we are now looking at transportation. We have a research center, the Belgian Research Center looking at transportation. We have fast reactors, so technically, we are equipped. The question is that the current political context, in my opinion, wouldn't allow that. We might come back on that later on, but I do think that there are other countries in Europe that will be the market initiators and where we see things moving forwards first.

Bret Kugelmass
Which ones? An example, yes, please.

Anicet Touré
Well, Estonia is one of them. We mentioned Kalev Kallemets.

Bret Kugelmass
Estonia is still further off, just because they don't have the experience. I was hoping you'd say something more like Czech or something that has a bunch of nuclear already. Other countries?

Anicet Touré
Yes, I was going to get there, I think Czech Republic, Finland, Romania, are countries that are already equipped with nuclear power that are seriously considering the SMR option. I do think also, the fact that we're seeing France with a newer initiative moving towards SMRs is quite telling, because it means that they see a shift happening there. I don't know if you can consider it Europe or not anymore, but the UK is definitely a good candidate as well, to be a groundbreaking country. And there are even some less expected countries, I think, of a country like the Netherlands, where the discussion around nuclear energies is really shifting. They might probably not as a first-of-a-kind, because it's still a small nuclear country, they have only one nuclear reactor, at least one that is operating and producing power, but they're considering for the future. So, maybe as a second or third-of-a-kind, behind a country like Czech Republic, Finland, Poland?

Bret Kugelmass
Great. Tell us about Horizon 238. I know this is something you're proud of. I just want to make sure that we spend a little time on it.

Anicet Touré
Sure. Well, Horizon 238 is something that I launched, I will say, outside of my professional activities, because I wanted to relaunch the debate about nuclear energy in the broad public domain in Belgium. And that's because I feel like, when I look at debates on television, I feel like the way nuclear energy has been debated is not the right approach. It's too much about even renewable energy bashing, or even just having that position where you're seeing, Well, nuclear energy is good, and we are not really going to explain you why because you're not able to understand why.

Bret Kugelmass
I hate that.

Anicet Touré
Yeah, that just doesn't work. We wanted to do something different than saying, Well, I personally am convinced that one of the reasons why nuclear industry and nuclear energy is in such a bad spot in the public debate is because, for too many years, we've not been willing to talk about nuclear energy, because we were saying, Well, it's secret, or it's confidential information, we don't want to.

Bret Kugelmass
I know, I hate that attitude I see it all the time. And I hate it. Yeah.

Anicet Touré
And basically, that's how Horizon 238 came about, with different people from different companies in the nuclear industry. We're not talking on behalf or for any of the nuclear industry stakeholders, just in our own name. I'm trying to share a vision where we're actually thinking of the real future of Belgian energy, so, not trying to look only at how to push renewables actually increase the carbon footprint, but trying to make a plan on the table where renewables can work with other low carbon energy sources, to get to the goal, to think about the real question of the transitioning to go beyond the obvious question within the political debate, and energy debate in general. And also, I think about educating people about how a nuclear reactor works. How does special handling and special management and special storage works? Because those are kind of things where people would easily say to you, Well, I'm against nuclear, because what about the waste? But if you're responding to that question, that conversation and say, Yeah, what about the waste, and really starting to get into what's being done, how much volume is represented, what's the level of danger, what is the toxicity? How do you compare it to other things? I think this is where you really get to the point where you can really have a normal conversation with people where you can say, Let's think together about our future. Let's start the conversation with the belief that, I think that you're being sincere when you're saying you want to get to zero carbon and you want a better environmental future. But let's take the other approach. And let's say, Well, we are being sincere. And this is why we founded Horizon 238 with young engineers, because the whole idea was, we have this incredible team of young engineers that are really passionate about their job, and that chose to get into nuclear energy, even though they knew that in Belgium was probably not the best career choice, if you wanted to have a long future in Belgium, but you were so passionate that they wanted still to be in this field, in this industry and fight for it to really embrace it and good fun.

Bret Kugelmass
And that's a great name, too. By the way, I have to compliment you on that. I think, you know, one thing that I've really learned to appreciate about you specifically, as I've talked to you more and more is that you're an engineer, but you seem to have like a very good business mind as well. I don't know if that's something that's natural, or something you've been working on over the last couple of years. But I think it's just like a superpower of yours that I really enjoy.

Anicet Touré
Thanks. Well, I don't know exactly. I think that it's something that I try to work on. Specifically, because, I've always said, in the back of my mind, that it's not about only building technical solutions, but making an impact. And I do feel that engineers tend to shy away from that saying, well, only techniques, we don't want to get into the business stuff and so on. But at the same time, if you're not the one doing it, are you letting some other people who might not be as knowledgeable as yourself, do the job and you might miss something in the process. So, I'm trying to get to learn from people we know about business and communication, because it's also part of the job in the nuclear industry right now.

Bret Kugelmass
Anicet, as we wrap up right now, I'm hoping you can just leave us with your vision for the future. If we were to look forward 10, 20 years, what does the world look like?

Anicet Touré
I think the world 20 years away from now looks like, first of all, a realization that we need to fight climate change with all the solution possible. That includes nuclear. And I really believe that. And then we start thinking about how to integrate renewables into a global energy landscape, not only producing baseload electricity, but flexibility in electricity to complement renewables, producing high temperature steam to feed or industries, producing low or medium temperature water to feed or cities with district heating, and producing hydrogen as a feedstock or as a synthetic fuel for all those industries that will not be able to decarbonize. I do think that if you look at the future, I have a very integrated vision of the energy landscape of tomorrow, where, when you're a nuclear engineer, you will need to work with people from the renewable industry, from people from the industry, and where you get to touch of a bit of everything. Because if we don't connect all the building blocks, I'm not convinced that we can really succeed in the zero carbon transition.

Bret Kugelmass
Anicet Touré, thank you so much for your time today. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

Anicet Touré
Yeah, the pleasure was shared. Thanks for the invite, was a real pleasure.

Bret Kugelmass
Absolutely.

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