Bill Ostendorff

Ep 172: Bill Ostendorff - Former Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
00:00 / 01:04

Shownotes

Bill Ostendorff’s Start in the Naval Academy (Pt.1)

Brett Kugelmass: Tell me where it all began.

Bill Ostendorff: After graduating from the Naval Academy, Bill was a Rickover Air Submarine Nuclear Officer. He came into this role back in the 70s during the Cold War. Bill’s career includes 16 years of sea duty in the 26 years he was in the Navy, including the time he served on a ballistic missile submarine and five attack submarines. He found it exciting to have the privilege of working with a lot of great sailors and folks during these times.

Bret Kugelmass: Tell me a little bit about what it means to be a Navy nuke?

Bill Ostendorff: At the beginning you learn the engineering fundamentals on how to safely operate and maintain a reactor plant. You also train the sailors that operate and maintain it how to carry out casually procedures and emergency procedures so that you can keep the submarine at sea doing its job. Whether it be on a ballistic missile submarine patrol, it's part of our nuclear deterrent mission, or conducting carrier battle group operations or independent surveillance reconnaissance operations as an attack submarine so the propulsion plan is there to provide the enduring forward deployed capability and women now that are serving there or trying to make that happen everyday safely

Bret: What are the differences between operations on the submarine versus at a nuclear power plant?

Bill Ostendorff: The basics of reactor safety and design are very similar but the operating mode is quite different. The operating mode for a commercial nuclear power plant will be more static; after they finished an outage in three weeks they'll start back up and be a hundred percent power for perhaps a year or a year and a half. A submarine is a dynamic environment where you're changing the power, you're going from a head one-third belt to a head flank bail. So you’re rapidly maneuvering based on your operations and you're operating in the sea environment, which could be under the Arctic ice, the mid-atlantic Ocean or Pacific Ocean, or even close enough to another country's coast (for conducting intelligence operations). The environment of operations is radically different from the two.



Video 2

Q: Who's in charge for the nuclear portion of the submarine?

A: It's different between the United States Navy, the Royal Navy and the French Navy. In the United States Navy, the commanding officer of the submarine has complete responsibility for everything including the reactor plant navigation weapon systems and so forth. In the Royal Navy and the French Navy, they have dedicated engineering officers who are strictly responsible for the reactor plant. were there French and British commanding officers to not have responsibility for the nuclear side The United States is all one element of about 15 - 16 officers on the submarine. In the United States Navy, all but the supply officers are trained in nuclear power so all of them are expected to play a role in the operation and maintenance of the plant. Bill had the privilege to command the USS Norfolk of Los Angeles class attack submarine for three years to other 700,000 miles during that time period. He used his prior experience as a weapons officer and as an engineer on different submarines to deal with problems as they came up.

Q: and what kind of problems would come up you don't have to say anything about it enemy is a it's a secretive but are there like technical issues that come it could be simple things such as a small steam leak on a high-pressure drain trap that comes up it's not infrequent it's not a reactor safety issue would you have to deal that could be things such as the smell of a possibly burning insulation that might indicate the potential hot spot in an electrical switchboard you need to de-energize a switchboard and conduct an inspection I mean I can only imagine because like being in a submarine environment it's almost like being in a space ship right because like you're cut off from the rest of the world and the rest of the world is right outside of a metal wall

A: is hostile to you though is the first question that comes up to mind like oh my god do we have to surface if there's any problem and so the first thing you need to decide well there's times when you might need to have contingency plan to certainly take the ship to periscope depth to allow you to called benlate bring fresh air into the ship and if you had a fire to get rid of the smoke in the ship by running a very high-powered fan call it called a blower there are other circumstances where it might be appropriate to surface if you had a significant flooding casualty for instance so in the back of your mind you're always thinking about how to process the information you have about what's happening and if there's a casualty what kind of actions to take to ensure a ship's survivability







Video 3
Q: It seems like these submarines are the epitome of human design and engineering?

A: Oh absolutely. If you think about it from a more simplistic level, than from an engineering perspective, the submarine is just a great applied physics platform. You're using Archimedes principle when talking about submerging the ship. You're talking about sonar systems that are processing sound waves to analyze where other submarines are and you have the nuclear physics involved with operating the reactor plant. It's just a tremendous physics engineering complex instrument. Each submarine is designed differently. Back when Bill entered the Navy in the 1970s, the submarines had a Westinghouse design also a General Electric design plant. Now, Westinghouse is no longer producing that technology for submarine systems so it's just General Electric technology. However, the operating features and the design characteristics have a lot of commonality between the different submarines.

Q: Why don't they put every high school student in a submarine at some point during high school? Wouldn't that just make engineers out of everybody?

A: Well I think certainly this makes starting things to show off Most of the American public is not familiar with or exposed to the technology issues. When Bill was a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner, he visited a nuclear power plant in Switzerland. By swiss practice every middle school student in Switzerland visits a commercial nuclear power plant to become exposed to technology, to learn more about it and to have more than just an emotional reaction to it so they can understand a little bit about what's involved. This rigorous design safety and so forth amazing and what would it take to get something like that instituted today

There are a number of utilities who on their own, not as a direct result of any government action, have very innovative visitor centers and encourage school tours and people from the community to come in and see what's going on.

Video 4
Q: So what came after your 26 year career in the Navy?

A: Bill retired from the Navy as a Captain and then went to work on Capitol Hill with the House Armed Services Committee.

Q: And how do you get that job, I assume that the hill and the military a lot of common connections?

A: Bill didn't have any connections on the hill at all, so it took him almost a year to land the job. He was interested in with House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and became the lead staff person for his call the strategic forces subcommittee The portfolio was about fifty five billion dollars worth of Defense budget at that time (2003 to early 2007) and included all of the atomic energy defense activities that the part of energy Sall nuclear weapons nuclear non-proliferation nuclear waste clean up the naval reactors program also included missile defense agency all strategic and tactical missile defense capabilities and a number of strategic delivery capabilities Air Force submarines and then furthermore some of the intelligence programs
Bill had to prioritize this portfolio and his military background was very comfortable to clear weapons nuclear reactors on this submarine side was a big help. Bill hired a couple of great people to work with him on the space programs in this portfolio as he didn’t have much of a background in space. So he leaned heavily on his two employees for their expertise and analytical capabilities.


Video 5

Q: What are the types of questions that come across your plate, are they general or specific?

A: In the nuclear weapons arena there were discussions about whether to develop a safer, more reliable nuclear warhead and there was a program called the Reliable Replacement Warhead program (RRW) that was being discussed and debated around the 2005 to 2007 time period. Bill worked with others to Rick draft legislation establishing what the criteria of those programs would be in consultation with the Department of Defense and members of Congress and their staffs.

The missile defense portfolio. After 9/11 there were a lot of investments and different technologies for missile defense whether it be ground-based or space-based missile defense or boost phase terminal phase different logos to describe the type of missile defense capability. we were looking at the viability for an oversight perspective or these programs worth continued investment so one of the programs that we established some pretty strict milestones on from the Congressional standpoint was the airborne laser with the thought that if this airborne laser program does not meet performance milestones we should not continue to throw defense dollars at it and the long-run outcome of that was that program was terminated

Q: yeah so how did you how did you look at it how did you decide or how's the decision made it where did these milestones age

A: yeah before it's an awesome meeting you know sometimes you're talking a new technology that's never been developed much less ever implemented and so we had actually had great cooperation with Department defense with the operational test and evaluation part of the department defense with the three-star general in charge of missile defense agency with US Strategic Command to look at here's the capability that we think we need but it the system needs to be able to perform produce results consistent with this design objectives if it doesn't mean those design objectives and if after you know a good faith effort over X number of years to develop this capability if you can't do it then the program should not be continued and the idea is then you free up resources maybe yes yeah and the money spend that was not wasted you know I think there's learnings that occur anytime you try to develop new technology and there's some very good lessons learned

Q: well I think I had a buddy who is going on to do amazing things in the robotics world who part of his PhD thesis was funded as part of this program you're working on chemical lasers
A: I guess well this is this was a chemical oh yeah okay so I think there's a lot of iodine based chemical laser there's a lot of good of the facts that come out of at least funding a lot of research and the fact that the program did not was terminated I don't see it as a failure I see it as a worthwhile investment national security things were learned and then appropriate decisions made to terminate further funding after it looked like the performance criteria could not be met yeah and then it can open up things for like Iron Dome promising a joint project with the Israeli government for missile defense which is a successor yes yes there's a lot of spin-offs a lot of bleeding over from one technological area to another that makes the other program better even if the first program perhaps are not achieve success

Video 6

Q: do you remember any kind of your time working with Congress it's something that maybe was just like a real challenge to either get your mind around or dead the Congress people's mind around something you remember kind of struggling to solve

A: well I'll use the example of the reliable replace of warhead program that was became a little bit politically charged and I think well-intentioned people in both sides of the aisle I was working the Republican staff at the time there is a debate about is this going to be considered this r:w program this considered a new nuclear weapon capability whereas most people in the department defensed a part of energy myself with some background of nuclear weapons thought this is not a new warhead capability it's a more reliable a more safe more secure weapon in the ven of a terrorist attack that we ought to have it did not provide a new nuclear weapons capability so to speak now that was a tough debate over many many many months yeah yeah I bet there were some political ramifications that whenever you say something like new nuclear I can imagine people are worried about how that might come off and the semantics make a difference and I think you know well-intentioned people my experience on both sides the aisle was these are members of Congress who are all well-intentioned very serious but national security well-intentioned well-informed people might come to different decisions yeah I respect that

Q: so how did you was it straight from Congress to the NRC

A: well no I went I was asked because I was doing a lot of the oversight work of the National Nuclear Security Administration in NSA which is the semi-autonomous part of the depart of energy that runs nuclear weapons complex I had a lot of contact and interface with the part of energy officials I was asked by the head of NSA in the fall of 2006 ambassador Linton Brooks who was administrated NSA to come down and be his deputy his number two person and so he forwarded my nomination over to the president george w bush white house and went through that process and was confirmed service principal deputy administrator basically the XO number two person chief operating officer I'm really and so what's under the what's totally under the shirts a is exports also so we were involved in basically the part of energy side of the nuclear weapons stockpile so had eight different sites around the country the nuclear weapons laboratories of Los Alamos Lawrence Livermore in California Sandia other sites the pantech site in Texas the y-12 national security site in Tennessee Savannah River Site in South Carolina the Kansas City plant in Kansas City and Nevada Test Site which is now known as a Nevada National Security site so all those eight sites were under the overall even though they're operated individually by management and operating in Manoa contractors they're under the overall management of the depart of energy through NSA and so anything with nuclear weapons nuclear non-proliferation programs with the Russian Federation with other countries worldwide the naval reactors organization was part of our administration so there's pretty broad ranging piece with like nuclear weapons my obliteration there were actors

Q: and then what you listed a lot of sites there what are they all doing is it mostly maintenance is it or is it with computer monitors

A: that's a great question so it yes all the above so some of the sites are directly involved and was called life extension programs that is conducting material upgrades for existing nuclear weapons called le Pease life extension programs because when some these weapons were designed back in the 60s 70s and early 80s and trying to take advantage more updated electronics materials you know 50 40 years ago and had a whatever they call the computer chip back then has that chip and swapped out with them all that's that's exactly part of the life extension program process Sandia National Laboratory which is kind of the Center for Excellence and Albert for electronics and non-nuclear physics package the non warhead materials has a lead for those types of efforts there's also dances of material science over the years trying to take advantage of less potentially dangerous materials beryllium silicon or examples of materials that early on in the history of the nuclear weapons program could cause some environmental hazards for workers so trying to back away from the use of those materials so that effort to maintain the existing stockpile with some life extension programs is ongoing at many of these sites other sites involved in basic science research and development a lot of computer simulations some of the high-speed computers fastest computers in the world reside at some of these sites Los Alamos Sandia launched so the reason you need computer simulations is because we're not allowed to do underground testing exactly what's a big deal for yeah so long history there the first effort to stop testimon eine teen 63 limited test ban treaty which prohibited above-ground testing which had been occurring in the 40s 50s until 1963 that was followed by an effort with the comprehensive test-ban treaty to outlaw all nuclear weapons testing now the United States has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but we have observed a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing in this country since I believe 1991 or 1992 and in the absence of testing to see if the actual bomb would go off modeling and simulation is used to use predictive tools to see with all this work as planned yeah that's the purpose for the simulation programs

Video 7

Q: in command you get to look over all of these different organizations

A: I mean it's the first order of business just go visit them all and then there's a bit of them and I was in charge of the budget process to develop the annual budget goes to OMB into Congress I also served as a chief technical authorities so any nuclear weapons safety technical issue that required a decision by a federal person I was that final say on nuclear safety issues

Q: and when you say nuclear safety for weapons what does it actually mean because isn't the point of a nuclear weapon to not be safe

A: well now that we want to make sure that they're safe and 100% safe when until and unless called upon to be used yeah and so the safety aspect also included the operations at our sites if there's a safety issue or safety concern with handling of nuclear waste or with experiments called subcritical testing about a site and I was involved in looking at how to ensure we can continue this operation safely

Q: you've obviously collected this incredible technical background and then also this ability to kind of see the big picture was it the combination of those two things that led to your appointment at the interstate

A: I think so I had been blessed to have a great technical foundation in the rickover Navy they continued my entire time the Navy and I've done hundreds of reactor startups have operated hundreds of thousands of miles at sea under nuclear power and of operators nuclear weapons so I had had that grounding as many other people in navy had as well so I think that was a key part of it then the NSA Hill experience I understood how Congress worked I understood how to deal with some potentially volatile issues and I think those are factors that were considered yeah and so what actually happens so I was at you know asked to go put my name they had to be a commission of Nuclear Regulatory Commission was confirmed in early 2010 to serve the remaining term of former chairman Dale Kline so he had 15 months left in his term when he left the agency and then I was confirmed subsequently for a five-year term after that suspend I guess six years and three months of the NRC

while there's a busy time yeah yeah what was happening during those yeah so that right when I got there this was still during the what some people would call the nuclear Renaissance oh I'm sorry listen so I know that you you Bret you've talked a lot of folks about that topic it's a term I don't really use but that was used by others I want your purse yeah so

in April 2010 first of April and I was sworn in as a commissioner the NRC staff was reviewing license applications for 26 reactors 26 the Me's and the new reactor office which have been stood up a few years previously by mail client as chairman to handle this influx of applications from loon licenses had hundreds of people and then I think I'm going to sound overly simplistic but the shale natural gas phenomenon was the key factor in making the economics of commercial nuclear power not stand up in this country compared to gas generation plants

Q: can we just pause I'm not sure because I want to emphasize yeah you say economicS. yes it's the economics it's not safety because I can't tell you how many people I talk to you something even within the nuclear industry who are like oh people just don't want nuclear any more I'm like no they were about to build about 30 yes economics it

A: you know from I I've had lots of conversations you spent a lot of time looking these issues and I visited a lot of plants around the country and talked a lot of people and I you know here in 2019 a more convinced than ever that the sole reason for where the nuclear is today United States is strictly economics thank it is not a concern on safety it's not a concern on the technology it's the dollars

Q: yeah you know alright so I'm gonna put a pin in that because later I'm gonna make you I'm going to challenge you to solve the economics issues before we do that let's talk a little bit more about some of the other things that were happening here

A: sure so the other thing in the first month that I was there I'll go back a second when I was official at NSA I go to a weekly meeting with the Secretary of Energy that time was secretary Sam bodman now is there other senior leaders in the organization and I'll never forget in June of 2008 when mr. Ward Sproat came into our meeting and announced that later that day he as the head of the office of civilian radioactive waste would be submitting the formal license application to the NRC for the Yucca Mountain geologic repository I thought it all began so and and we were excited to see that the nuclear waste Policy Act of 2009 teen 82 had very clear processes and procedures for site selection in their sauce 1000 2008 less than two years from then I show up with NRC as a commissioner and one of the first issues before us is this the part of energy request withdraw the Yucca Mountain license application from the NRC I voted against the depart of energy I felt like the law was very clear and it's not that I was a sellout for nuclear nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain but I was a selling them follow the law if you don't like the law go amend it and so I consistently spoke out in favor of continuing to review the license application because the law mandated that politics played a role in that and over the next several years Yucca Mountain consumed quite a bit of our time fast forward to January around January 2015 very proud of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff the technical staff evaluated that the safety criteria approved and in place and the code of federal regulations for geologic repository were projected to be met to comply with all safety security and environmental standards for out to 1 million years

Video 8

Q: I come away with two things from meeting a lot of nuclear folks one is how they are what I consider held to such an unfair higher standard than every other industry which kind of burdens the growth of nuclear industry altogether but to how they always seem to rise to the challenge - which is unbelievable I mean the best song I think the best scientists in the world are working to solve nuclear problems because how do you make anything last for a million years that's a great that is a crazy crazy task like I mean think you know practically you know I almost kind of wish you maybe when the politics were handling the original criteria they should have put it a thousand years or something because who knows what you manatees jerk like a thousand years from now I mean even thousands kind of a crazy number but to set it at a million and then to have the nuclear people live up to that these are superheroes

A: and I I agree with you and and nowise know I sang with a hundred percent certainty that everything can be definitively projected for a million years but using the best modeling simulation projection tools available they did yeah and so it's I think it's very unfortunate that the country needs a geologic repository these plants though they safely and securely store fuel on site now those plants never designed for that role to handle it in the intermediate storage facilities on the sides and I'm hopeful that sometime in the future hopefully the near future will have a change of scenery here the change of message that will facilitate moving forward with geologic repository and do we have to have a geologic repository right now as far as I've heard these dry cask storage that are above site I mean these things cost at least a hundred years as yes

Q: why not yeah why not just put it all on military base somewhere for the next 100 years put a million dollars in the bank let it that accrue interest and then 100 years from now that million dollars is going to fund whatever solution 100 years people from now technology you have which is gonna even be even crazier I mean what's wrong with it just staying above ground in some dry casks on a military base

A: well I mentioned that I was involved in voting with other Commissioner colleagues on precisely this concept called the waste confidence rule in the waste conference rule was a commission decision as to whether or not fuel could continue to be stored safely on-site in the dry cast storage and there were expectations and criteria put in place to have ongoing monitoring surveillance of material characteristics of the dry cask surveillance to ensure that things were still the Integrity's cask and the spent fuel inside was all appropriate and so they can stay on site it's safe and secure today the way it is your proposed model could work most people suggested we all just go ahead and move forward the repository and disposition of via that method method which has been the geologic repository has been the mode conceptually at least that all of the countries have embraced I just wish that we could take like a more practical approach especially since now this geological processor is proving to be a political hot that I wish we could think it's that bad don't say what's the practical option that I have that's a very fair point to make yes okay so that was one so you know that was going on about a year into my time at the NRC March 11th of 2011 the reactor action of Fukushima occurred

Q: well you were there through it all pretty much every big event

A: that heavily involved a lot of the work with other commissioner colleagues on the looking at what are the lessons learned that we should take away for this country we quickly made a determination that we thought that nuclear power plants the United States were safe and did not need to be shut down at the same time we wanted to learn lessons and where appropriate and corporate new regulatory requirements if they were needed in order to learn from these lessons and I think we did that in a fairly disciplined appropriate manner I think I'd the time I left the NRC in June of 2016 I can either 25 or 26 separate boats and Fukushima Liberatore actions as a commissioner their process was different in Japan compared to United States their process required each individual plant to obtain permission who's called the local Prefecture which is the equivalent of our state governmental unit so there is a non national government process that had to be exercised and implemented to allow a restart to be considered that'd be crazy that'd be like each state in the u.s. having a different NRC or something isn't that the point of a federal government to take the role of certain things like this under under US law under the 1954 Atomic Energy Act and the governing bases for the NRC and its predecessor Atomic Energy Commission federal law preempts state regulation of nuclear issues that's not necessarily the system that is in place in Japan so the local prefectures have had a voice I think there's a loss of confidence after Fukushima and the existing regulatory agency at that time Nisa myself and other commissioners worked with the Japanese government on how to reform Nisa into today's it's called NRA nuclear Regulation Authority and many of the commissioners had a role in trying to coach a mentor that body to get to a better place I think they're in a better place today albeit has been slow

Video 9
Q: advised beyond your beyond a role as commissioner I had in these last few years have you been advising other organizations and groups in countries as well yeah in a small capacity

A: I serve on the advisory council for input the Institute for nuclear power operations that was established after the Three Mile Island accident 1979 to provide an industry-led safety organization United States so their CEO Bob Willard asked me when I left the NRC to join that devisor II Council so I'm doing that I'm currently serving on a National Academy of Sciences committee dealing with plutonium disposition pursuant to an agreement with the Russian Federation to get rid of weapons-grade plutonium and to use I was called a dilute indisposed method for disposal this plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico were involved in that so those are examples of things I am it's mixing a chemical formula with existing plutonium and changing the chemical and physical structure of this plutonium to ensure it's not usable in a future nuclear weapon cool now the details all of that are classified as you can imagine but we've been a our Committee issued an interim report end of November last year final report will come out in a few months and I think there's many more to follow in that area

Video 10
Q: giving your level of experience security must be an issue that people ask you for advice can we talk about that how sure how especially specifically how nuclear energy plays a role in national security

A: yeah and this is a big topic and we can go down several different pathways here I did spend quite a bit of time during my time as an NRC commissioner looking at physical cyber security as well as insider threat issues and I had a little bit of a background with my time in the nuclear Navy both of the reactor and weapons side to do that I'm actually getting it this morning before I came in here I was working and get asked to give a talk at George Washington University here we captured next on nuclear security to a group of graduate students so I'm working on that right now I think the security of US nuclear power plants is extraordinarily robust I think the guard forces are highly trained are robustly tested and evaluated cyber security the other element there is very complex it's a technically complex topic I think the NRC has appropriate rules in place and these things don't happen overnight but I think the industry has done a good job of implementing their cybersecurity rules the other component security is what's called insider threat or fitness for duty I think we've learned a lot around the world about how one bad actor can come in not nothing to do the nuclear context but the Washington Navy Yard shooting about six or seven years ago where the employee comes into the workplace and kills never you know his colleagues we learn from that so that I think those are things looking at how do you assess the human factor is this also part of the security and 'she's those just those three examples physical cybersecurity insider threat there's other things other topics and security but I think the u.s. security posture for our commercial industry and we stew wit the NRC we meet every six months the Department Homeland Security and the intelligence community to reevaluate and assess current events to ensure that we had our finger in the pulse where the key issues were and so okay so that's on plant security side what about the broader issue of security like the world that we live in you know having a greater you know nuclear US nuclear presence around the world you know energy perspective absolutely and I've given a number of speeches in this topic last a couple of years I've testified before Congress I quite frankly Brett him worried that as the US commercial industry continues to be in somewhat of a state of decline that our ability as a country to influence nuclear security worldwide will be lessened one goes about beginnings of the u.s. nuclear power program and at Muroc over at the USS Nautilus the first submarine went to sea in 1954 55 time period law this technology started in our country and we played a major role worldwide in shaping proper standards and criteria for nuclear safety and security yet as I mentioned earlier when we started NRC nine years ago we had 26 license applications and new reactors now the only believed on the license application are cease reviewing is that for new skills small modular reactor so that decline in the future prospects for building reactors United States is a concern to me I think it can be reversed but that decline come companies a lessened voice of the international table where we see Russia and China in particular being somewhat aggressive and marketing their technology for export other countries I'm worried about this area yeah it's like if we want to have a voice at the table we have to be regarded as an expert like and unless we're doing stuff we need to be a player if we're not participating in building new reactors and operating our existing plants if the slope of the total number of plants United States is negative projected to the future then there's less of a reason for other countries to engage us and like and I think the other thing is and correct me if I'm wrong but you know like countries have their own sovereignty right we can't just show up and march into places and demand to see stuff but if we have a relationship with them if we have our infrastructure there if we're investing in those countries then they're more likely to you know open the kimono absolutely you know and and that way we can we can spot potential problems before they exist but if we're not there and we don't have that relationship what we can't use our expertise to make the world a safer place absolutely I wholeheartedly agree to comment I think United States has been proactively involved with the International Atomic Energy Agency has been partly involved the Nuclear Energy Agency over in Paris my former good friend Bill Magwood or Foreman or State Commissioner for attack yeah exactly the great guy good friend but the bottom line is if US companies are not involved and designing and building plants overseas not necessarily as a sole entity but maybe in partnership with another country then we'll have less of a stake less of a chance to hopefully influence proper safety and security practices worldwide I'm not criticizing other countries by this comment I'm just saying I think we have a lot to offer we are still today the largest nuclear power plant operator in the world [Music] you [Music]


Video 11 clearly economics is a huge issue we're not going to be building them if they're not cheap enough so how do we fix this economic session yeah there's two and so these are controversial issues please you know I'm a believer in climate change and minimizing our carbon emissions roughly in many states you know an example I was at a Federal Energy and regulatory commission FERC Commission hearing but four years ago NRC commissioners and FERC commissioners would meet but every other year so and have a hearing and when the last meeting I attended before I left the NRC topic came up of the closing of Energy's pilgrim plant in Cape Cod Massachusetts and the closure that one plant it's a single operator single operating unit the closure that one plant was going to result in a 50% the loss of 50 percent of the carbon free generating capacity in the state and that carbon free emissions capability is not valued in the marketplace today in the first job to decide what's valued me suggest that secretary Perry who I command for his steps and trying to work on this from a grid security grid reliability standpoint has forwarded communications to FERC on this topic not necessarily carbon but on the grid reliability grid is just another one of the amazing things nuclear energy does yeah exactly two years worth of fuel right there you need shipments coming in if anything were to happen it's still right there so I think the market valuation could be affected by federal legislation can and should be looked at by FERC there ruggah toward capacity for energy markets I also think that I've said there's some number of speeches and told Congress and several occasions that this goes back limit our investment discussion on missile defense agency R&D; I think that it's worthwhile for the federal government to invest the federal dollars in procuring small modular reactors and I'm saying that without saying that any single vendor ought to win that but that absent federal investment to go by let's say 10 SM ours to bring down the first of a kind risk to provide the opportunity for economies of scale because you have a book of orders of 10 or more reactors I think that kind of a federal step is appropriate and warranted if we want to see the option in the future 100 years now 200 years from now being able to rely upon nuclear energy and the theory there is that if the if the government acts as a customer base a guaranteed customer base and the ball can get rolling and you can develop a supply chain and you can have some examples of real sites built out and and then private investors can then look through the economics of what happened and develop confidence and then private capital takes over from there exactly because if all you do is build one new reactor that's probably not a sufficient data point for the private investment community to say hey we've all these risk you've been taken care of but if you have 10 of those that are built with federal support to draw down the risk profile because of you've had the learnings from these 10 units being built it makes it much more likely for private money to come in it drives the overall cost down on a per unit basis because you're having the economies of scale of more of a mass production rather than one of a kind production needs to be convinced to make this a reality then like okay the government is a big purchaser of electricity all right buildings need to be heated and lit up and everything like it could could could department heads of various government agencies make the decision and just saying we are gonna issue a purchase order for well reactor nuclear energy and I applaud again the part of energy for being proactive the part of energy Idaho National Laboratory have been working with new scale for such a power purchase agreement associate with new scales proposal for this amps Utah associative in this poll power system project Congress has been supportive in some of their piece of legislation that have supported federal backed Power Purchase Agreements for advanced reactor design I think more needs to be done why can't the Department of Energy itself who knows nuclear energy nobody there needs to be convinced about what nuclear energy is or isn't or at least at the top they shouldn't be able to they should know what it is at this point why can't I think about seventeen National Labs or something why can't eat one issue a purchase order for a small modular reactor to supply that National Labs electricity starting in the year 2025 percent I think theoretically Brett that could be done obviously it requires support of office management budget aka the White House requires bipartisan congressional support ok so that's my question yeah it requires it requires Congress to because because that money would be you know if it's going to be done by the National Laboratories that goes through the House and Senate energy and water appropriations committees they have to appropriate the money for that so you need you need congressional buy-in and do they did that happen I guess for what how are they purchase electricity right now do congress sign off on you get to be connected to the grid or you get to build the solar plan on-site or you get to build a wastewater treatment facility or whatever they build right now the Congress actually sign off on those things I can't speak to the exact details of that I don't know but I can tell you that for federal dollars to be spent yeah for building a reactor plant whether it be a small modular reactor or some other type of advanced reactor that does require congressional approval and in our system of government pluralism plays out you have perhaps some other energy sectors that might not be as favorable to this as the nuclear industry might be they've had their fun it's our child so so yeah you have there's a balancing piece but I think Congress I've been impressed at Congress I think it's paying attention to this I was an event just last week in the Capitol Hill where Senator Whitehouse senator Crapo in a bipartisan fashion spoke on this topic at a high level I think there's some good leaders in Congress on this it takes those some degree of urgency and some commitment make happen well with climate change we certainly have our gence e coming right up and you know I think when a security perspective to having a robust industry that's a pretty urgent thing to weaken and I don't think that you know I mean I'm making a number up here so don't hope you know that I have no inside knowledge or detailed knowledge of what one small reactor might cost let's just say it's thirty three or four billion dollars I'm making that number up times ten if you invest in that over twenty year period that's not a large percentage of our federal defense dollars or energy dollars and so I think that from my perspective that's a worthwhile investment for Congress and a federal government to consider I'm a believer from the energy security standpoint in all the above I want to have gas when solar other renewables I think we need to have all this capability going forward and we sit back and pause I'm going back to mountain my 40 plus years in submarine nuclear weapons NRC experience one cannot underestimate the importance of the human capital factor if this country wants to have nuclear be a viable source for energy with other sources 100 or 200 years from now we need to be very careful what we do today we need to be very careful about ensuring that we are investing at some level because if the nuclear industry in this country shuts down for a generation we should be naive for us to think we could regenerate that capability 50 years from now and hence if we want to make sure we keep all these options on the table for energy sources 100 years now we need to invest today and nuclear the last enough your wisdom is very much appreciated thank you come and talk to me today thanks Brian joy the discussion [Music] you [Music]

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