Brett Rampal

Director of Nuclear Innovation

Clean Air Task Force

April 14, 2021

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Ep 301: Brett Rampal - Director of Nuclear Innovation, Clean Air Task Force
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Bret Kugelmass
Today we have with us on Titans of Nuclear Brett with two t's as I like to call him. Brett Rampal, welcome to the show.

Brett Rampal
Thanks, Bret. Thanks for having me. So, alpha Brett beta Brett, I'm just kidding.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. Which one is which is the real question.

Brett Rampal
Exactly.

Bret Kugelmass
So I know Brett personally, you've been a good friend of mine since the beginning of this nuclear journey. I want to thank you upfront for all the insights that you shared with me for your straightforward, candid attitude. I think you're one of a kind in the industry. Right now you're serving as the director of nuclear innovation at the Clean Air Task Force. But I'd like to go through your whole nuclear history. So Brett, start us off.

Brett Rampal
Yeah, sure. Absolutely. First of all, you know, thanks so much for having me a pleasure to be included in you know, this auspicious group of interviews and everything that you've been doing over the last couple of years. It's been my pleasure to also, you know, support your journey and participate and all that. So, you know, thank you for the kind words. Um, yeah. So like you said I'm Brett Rampal, I'm the current director of nuclear innovation for Clean Air Task Force. I've served in a role at Clean Air Task Force for a little over three years now. My sort of nuclear journey really began in my collegiate career at the University of Florida. I entered my undergraduate at UF in 2003.

Bret Kugelmass
In nuclear? Was your undergrad in nuclear?

Brett Rampal
Yeah, I always knew I wanted to do engineering of some kind. And I really was, you know, had very few preconceived notions going into it. I was a very strong math and science student in high school, had all these AP classes, all this stuff, but didn't really know anything about engineering. My dad's a gynecologist, my mom was a retired nurse. Um, and I showed up for preview orientation, you know, they throw all these, you know, 1000s of kids through auditoriums all day at this at this giant university, and trying to give you you know, a blast of what each college is all about and everything and I remember sitting there with my older brother and my mother and my older brother was already an undergraduate at Florida and the dean of the College of Engineering at that time came up and said we had two top 10 engineering schools at the University of Florida right now. One is materials engineering, and one is nuclear engineering. And I looked at my older brother and I looked at him and I'm like your materials engineering, right? And he's like, Yeah, and I was like, strike number one against materials. And then I opened up the book that showed you the classes. And it showed you that you needed like, six semesters or seven semesters of chemistry, for materials engineering, but you only needed like two semesters of chemistry for nuclear. And it was a lot more physics and math, for nuclear engineering and stuff, like strike number two. And you know, I elbowed my mom, and I was like, we can leave now. And I we literally walked out of the Union in the auditorium where they do this on campus. And the nuclear engineering building is like, directly out the back of Florida's union in the set, like almost in like the center of like the old traditional campus. And that it's like a stone's throw from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the football stadium, you literally walk across the street, and the materials engineering building is right there too but it's further back. So a little bit further away from the stadium and I was like, strike number three, it's closer to football. And so that's how I picked my major in nuclear engineering. So as I saw as a young sophomore, you know, 19 year old kid knowing nothing about nuclear engineering, I started my first classes. And, you know, my first class within, you know, 15-20 minutes. One of my professors, the late great, Edward Dugan, Dr. Dugan, dispelled every myth and, you know, explained everything about you know, nuclear science that, you know, we embrace, you know, that I embraced in my career and you know, love, you know, clean energy, high density, you know, nuclear power plants can't blow up like a bomb, I was a very, very, you know, misinformed person going into those classes. And I sat in that first class, and I'm a person that believe in math, and science and physics, and in 20 minutes, I was like, wow, what am I, what have I learned all my life? It's amazing.

Bret Kugelmass
It's amazing, because it really does only take 20 minutes, if you were, let's say, like, math inclined to dispel all of those myths that people have been nuclear, but that's what also makes it so hard. Because how do you get 20 minutes of everyone the world's like day to correct them, these misconceptions?

Brett Rampal
And there's not to say anything, math inclination, is not, you know, universal.

Bret Kugelmass
That's a very polite way to put it Brett

Brett Rampal
Yeah, you know, math and physics, you know, embracing that is not something that a lot of people, you know, embrace, either at an early age or, you know, even later into their life, we still are in a society that pushes for, you know, more science based understanding and everything. So, yeah, I mean, what works for me, certainly wouldn't work for everybody. But that was my sort of, you know, toes into the pool of nuclear engineering. And it certainly wasn't an obstacle list or a smooth track for me as a young sophomore in nuclear engineering classes. You know, where I shouldn't , you know, I came up with all these credits for my AP classes, you're supposed to start as a in your junior classes at nuclear engineering, I actually failed some of my first you know, nuclear engineering classes because I was just so young and wasn't prepared for it. And I had come from a high school experience that was great in you know, number one of the number one Florida public high schools, but I hadn't ever really been challenged like that, you know, it was, this was this I like, I like to say it to a lot of the younger nuclear engineering students or people considering nuclear engineering when they asked me for advice and stuff, and I say, nuclear engineering is hard. You know, and there's a reason for that. Reactor physics is hard. Nuclear Physics is hard. All of this stuff is hard. So you got to, you got to work at it. And I learned that early on, thankfully. But it was not a smooth or easy experience. So I spent six years at Florida I got my bachelor's and master's in nuclear engineering and nuclear engineering sciences. While I was getting my master's I started an internship which eventually turned into a co-opship, sort of contract relationship with General Electric Hitachi and Global Nuclear Fuels, their fuel alliance subsidiary with Hitachi and Toshiba at the time. And I spent a little over a year probably total combined over the experiences working over over the course of two years working for GE as I finished my master's, and was lucky enough to be throwing a American Nuclear Society student conference at Florida in 2009, my last year as a graduate student

Bret Kugelmass
Right, and I want to double click on that for a second, because you were very, one of the things I've noticed about you is that you're just very engaged, like community wise. I mean, I know you do the sports thing. You're a big like gator guy also. Gator's the right team?

Brett Rampal
Yeah you got it

Bret Kugelmass
Okay.

Brett Rampal
Yeah, I like to say I'm a very foolish person and that doesn't know how to say no, but is very generous with my time.

Bret Kugelmass
So as to right, because you've done a lot of leadership with ANS, ANS is the American Nuclear Society

Brett Rampal
Absolutely. Yeah. So that's like the traditional professional society and association for nuclear engineers, or nuclear professionals or people, you know, in the nuclear field, it's, you know, certainly open to more than that. But, you know, for me, as a young student as a student in college, it was very well conveyed to us that participation in sort of the extra curricular, you know, professional societies, you know, volunteer opportunities that you feel, you know, strongly about, that sort of stuff can be useful in making a stronger network in your career and can also be a differentiator if you're ever trying to, you know, compete for jobs. And as a young nuclear engineer, I was very concerned about, you know, competition for jobs, especially back in 2009. When, you know, this nuclear renaissance was beginning you know, I, you know, so I, as a student got involved in the American Nuclear Society, I eventually went on to, you know, lead their young members group and participate on numerous different committees and technical divisions. I currently sit on their Public Policy and External Affairs Committee. So yeah, I like to say that almost everything I've given to the American nuclear society, and in a lot of ways I've gotten back, I feel the network, the connection, in a lot of ways, I feel like I met people like you through unity.

Bret Kugelmass
I think that's the first time I think even before we met, I'd seen you speak at an American, I guess there's American Youth Nuclear Society or something. There's one of these like youth events or something, conferences or something. And you were up there, you were on the stage, and you were talking to everybody about something or other and I was like, that's a guy that can talk.

Brett Rampal
Probably, Young Professionals Congress, yeah, it's an event that the young members group at ANS throws every two years to get, you know, a real focus on young members and young nuclear engineers and young nuclear professionals. So yeah, those are things that I was super, I am and was super passionate about. I unfortunately turn 36 in May of this year, so I officially will, yeah, will no longer be a young member, you know, a short time.

Bret Kugelmass
You can be president now. Right?

Brett Rampal
Yeah, maybe maybe one day, you know, so, um, there's a, there's a rotation for ANS President in order to make it well considered and in to order to, you know, really have the president, you know, not really be from one sort of facet of the industry and everything. So I think it's like an industry, lab, vendor sort of cycle that they do there. And I think I just missed mine. So it will be you know, a few more years before they you know, that would be a possibility. But sure, maybe, you know, but

Bret Kugelmass
I was talking about President United States by the way

Brett Rampal
Oh, yeah.

Bret Kugelmass
Think small why don't you

Brett Rampal
Yeah you're way more ambitious than me. But you are correct. I am now constitutionally qualified, born in America, will be over 35 I guess. I should form a PAC. Right. That's the next step. No, I'm kidding. Yeah, so and that in addition to ANS, I ran a chapter of my Alumni Association here in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I live for seven or eight years, you know, really helped, you know, made strong connections, you know, back at my university made strong connections locally in my town

Bret Kugelmass
And Charlotte's got a nuclear tradition, right, is it EPRI that's out there?

Brett Rampal
Well, there's EPRI, Duke energy's headquarters are here, which is, you know, the, I think still, at this point, the largest public utility in the United States, and also has a, you know, a large, you know, set of nuclear assets. So, yeah, I mean, when I so, um, I get University of Florida is in Gainesville, Florida. And as I was mentioning, I was my, you know, graduate year in 2009, I was helping with this student conference that through ANS at Florida and I was very lucky enough through that process to get exposed to, you know, a bunch of different sponsor organizations and companies and help set up job fairs and career fairs and was able to pass you know, my resume around, and that introduced me to the Westinghouse Electric Company. And so after my, after I got my masters and my contract ended at General Electric, Hitachi. I started in June, or July of 2009, with Westinghouse, and originally, I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which Westinghouse is where Westinghouse is headquartered for six to seven months of training. But then my role was always to help them start up and run, you know, participate in one of their first remote satellite offices that they were trying to open close to their customers here in Charlotte, North Carolina, like I said, nuclear renaissance. You know, Duke Energy was considering building multiple AP 1000s during that time, and so lots of opportunities for Westinghouse young nuclear engineers, and so it was a great pairing. That's how I ended up in Charlotte, where, you know, I knew no one and had no connections previously, but to me, it seemed like a great opportunity in a move because as a young nuclear engineering, looking at the, at the geography of the United States and kind of where nuclear opportunities are, it might seem daunting, that hey, if I you know, if I'm if I'm not, I'm not 100% committed to my first job, or I'm not I don't see myself doing this, for the next 40 years of my career, wherever I'm moving right now, might be somewhat temporary, because I might have to move someplace else for another job because like I said, when I first moved to Pittsburgh for training, there weren't necessarily a lot of competitive nuclear opportunities in Pittsburgh but Charlotte was a little bit different. Westinghouse was opening this office here. Duke Energy had their offices here, Progress Energy, which eventually merged with Duke had offices here. Areva, of course it's now Framatome apologies to, to the French. Yeah. Apologies, our friends. Yeah, but Framatome had offices here. Everyone has a large location here. So Charlotte seem, in a lot of ways, like, and I'm from Florida, originally, I'm a southern guy, Charlotte, and you know,

Bret Kugelmass
Southern guy with a New York attitude. Let's be clear.

Brett Rampal
Yeah. Well, my mom's from Brooklyn, you know, um, and, you know, Charlotte seemed like a great opportunity and a bastion of sort of, you know, nuclear opportunities or nuclear industry, in sort of the south. I mean, that's changed a lot in 10 years, there's more opportunities elsewhere, geography, but Charlotte is still a really strong sort of nuclear town, lots of opportunities here. And that's what brought me here, as in addition to the Westinghouse opportunity, and I spent six years at Westinghouse, as in the fuel, the nuclear fuel product line, doing core and you know, in the core engineering, do core design and reactor physics, and eventually then engineering project management and planning for Dominion's nuclear power plants that Westinghouse Electric support.

Bret Kugelmass
Can we double click on that for a second to can you tell me what's involved in reactor physics in core design for people who don't know, and then what's involved in the project management side?

Brett Rampal
Sure. So um, nuclear reactors are wonderful, fantastic things that are strongly regulated. And so as a part of that, essentially, every time every every time a plant shutdown shuts down for, you know, standard refueling maintenance outage that they plan for, and they plan to relocate or shuffle fuel and put in their new fuel that essentially is treated pretty much in a lot of ways like a brand new reactor.

Bret Kugelmass
Wow. And so that's every two years?

Brett Rampal
Well, it depends on your reactor, the majority of the pressurized water reactor, that's Westinghouse products that I worked on were 18 months, some work up to 24 months. Yeah, so it's usually between 18 and 24 months PWRs make up the majority of reactors in this country and Westinghouse, while I worked there provided the majority of the fuel to PWRs. And so as a part of a fuel contract, a customer who operates a nuclear reactor might request certain services from Westinghouse in order to support the licensing efforts that are required. Every time you shut down a reactor, it's called the 10 CFR 5059 a not part 50.59 evaluation. So every time the plant shuts down, the plant has to do a whole bunch of analysis, or, you know, this takes place well in advance of the shutdown. But they do it, we do it over the 18 month sort of cycle. They have to do all of these sort of reactor physics related analyses, in addition to thermal hydraulic analyses, chemistry analyses, transient analyses, all sorts of different analyses, either to validate or to supplement original reference analyses that were done in the plants original final Safety Analysis Report or original licensing basis, or all that sort of stuff. And, and in that process, we also sort of create and validate the limits and the operational window that the plant will operate in, in the next 18 months. So we say, this is how we these are the analysis that we need to do to, you know, that are the limiting sort of concerning sort of parameters and accidents that can happen. These are the limits, we assume in these analyses. If you stay within these windows and these limits, your plant is assured to operate safely submit your documentation to the NRC, get a stamp. And let's let's shut her down and start her up.

Bret Kugelmass
And what are the I guess the levers that you have to pull the dials that you have to pull? It's essentially you're looking at temperatures, pressures, and then the fuel itself, the fuel is are the series of fuel assemblies, you know, 100, Plosser, you know, whatever that sit in some sort of, you know, geometric square lattice pattern, and each assembly, you get to choose the enrichment. And then like, which slot it goes in, essentially, are those the basic parameters.

Brett Rampal
Yeah, so basically, how it really starts is you're usually starting with the development of a loading pattern. So you'll get their core, you get a picture of what their core looked like from the last cycle. My main plant Millstone Three, and I was very lucky, because I had a team at Dominion that also did a lot of this work. So it was like double redundancy validation you know, that's not, I mean, that's a lot more common nowadays, but it was less common. Back in the day, you know, a Westinghouse did a lot of work internally, and some customers didn't have, you know, sort of the, you know, in their internal sort of support. But now, you know, even a lot more customers are doing all the work internally. So what we'll get is we'll sit down with the customer in what you call a design initialisation meeting. This is sort of the Westinghouse process, other companies and vendors may call things differently. But effectively, it's the same, you sit down with your customer, you figure out and you talk to them about sort of what their energy requirements are, how long they need to run the plant for, how much fuel they want to buy, any sort of concerns. They've seen trending over the last couple of cycles, how things have traditionally operated the plant, you go through this whole questionnaire and checklist to be like, you know, how is this how is this you planning a change in this equipment? Are you planning a change in that equipment? How many fuel assemblies are you planning on buying the cycle and then once we get all that information, we can then turn a core designer like myself at the time loose to kind of take all that information and assess how that translates into what the new core will look like. So that might be well they want to buy a new burnable poison or they want to do a You know, they want to, you know, do one less assembly this cycle or they want to do something, you know, they want to do any number of things different, they're replacing their control rods, they're doing something you know. And so core designers take all of that into account and spend, you know, some can spend depending on the difficulty of the task, or you know, their skill. Some people are really fantastic at this and been doing it for decades. And some people have unique tools that they've created or unique tools that the customer allows them to use doing this design, because they purchase those tools. And you'll spend time shuffling a core, you know, on on a computer program, you'll move the fuel around, you'll do a series of spot checks, to see you know, what sort of parameters were there at how you know, the power is peaking in certain assemblies, where it's getting hot, where it's not getting hot

Bret Kugelmass
You're running simulations, essentially simulations, projecting how the core will perform over the next, you know, 12 to 24 months?

Brett Rampal
Well, yeah, and essentially, once you get some place where you think you're good, you'll start doing some more in depth analyses or what we would traditionally call a loading pattern risk assessment, check engaged the loading pattern, which is what you call, you know how you're going to load all the fuel and move everything, gauge the risk of, you know, grid to rod fretting, which is a damage that can happen within fuel assemblies due to changes in thermodynamic or thermo chemical properties within water and within the fuel or where there's

Bret Kugelmass
Where there's like turbulence and rubbing is that

Brett Rampal
That's it. Yeah, exactly, yeah. Or you were you could have crud develop and crud, it can can induce certain phenomenons in reactors, which you know, are called things like sips and silk, crud induced power shifts, or crud induced localized corrosion, which can cause either damage to your fuel or shift where the power is being produced, and just be problematic. So you want to gauge some of these different concerns quickly before you do the full blown, sort of safety reload safety analysis, sort of checklist work that we would then subsequently be doing, you do this risk assessment. Once you're happy, and you know, you know, the team is happy, you submit it to the customer, maybe the customer is not happy, maybe you iterate back and forth, you try to resolve certain things, you might have to do some rework, do some other stuff. But eventually, you get to a point where everybody's Okay, with the level of risk for this loading pattern, it looks like it's going to pass through the safety analysis that we need to perform. And essentially, now at that point, you know, an engineering project manager, like what I was, at the end of my time at Westinghouse, would stop it would step in and take the lead core designer, which would be the person who was doing all of this work at this time for this plant, and try to and build a team, you know, it would probably usually be the same sort of reactor physicists or core designers that have experienced working on this plant. And this team of five or six individuals over the next month or two or three would do, you know, steamline break analyses, reactor, reactivity coefficient analyses, rod insertion accident analyses, rod drops, all this other stuff, document all these analyses, combined it all together in this reload safety evaluation checklist that says, You've passed, you passed, you passed, you passed, you passed, these are the new limits for this cycle. This is all good, or you didn't pass. This is what we've done in order to resolve this, you know, failure, what you know what's going on here. And now we're, you know, sending you this reload safety analysis checklist, you can add a reload safety evaluation associated with it. And you plant operator can reference this in your 5059 evaluation that you submit to the NRC. And then that will happen several months before they will shut down. And then while the plant is doing their sort of 5059 work, which I as a lead core designer or an EPM may or may not be supporting depending on the plant's needs. Further supporting beyond what we've already done. My team may move into what we would call the operations phase where we will be producing what is most commonly called a nuclear design report, which is essentially a Bible for the plant operators to say, hey, these are the curves of operation that I should see if I move my rods, this way I should see this sort of reactivity insertion. These are my, you know, windows for certain operational maneuvers, this is the predictions for what I should see, you know, the measurements on my boards at certain times

Bret Kugelmass
And are there, is there a, like a series of tests that happened when the reactor is on to validate that, so after you deliver this Bible, then like the first three months of operation, do you do a couple of maneuvers of the control rods and see if it matches, if the performance matches up with your predictions?

Brett Rampal
Three months? You can't even start up the reactor until you do that. We call it startup physics testing, okay, and for um, you know, some customers and some, you know, plants at Westinghouse and, and other vendors, we may be providing, you know, a startup physics testing report. And essentially, it will, there are certain sort of measurements that the plant will perform while they're doing the startup procedures. And these need to be validated by the predictions that we've performed. We're using our codes, and using, you know, the assumptions and all the, you know, all the stuff in the questionnaires and everything that we've done. And when those fall within review criteria, acceptance and acceptance or review criteria, you're good to go. And you can submit documentation and say, our predictions are accurate for these reasons, we can start up our reactor. But if your predictions fall outside of the acceptance and review criteria, you might need to take additional action. And so there's startup physics testing standards, I believe it's ANSI 19.6.2. look at this pulling it out. Yeah, and essentially a plant will reference these standards, which have already been endorsed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and say, these are my review and acceptance criteria, these are the things I need to check or I'm going to check. And these are the procedures you know, dynamic rod worth, measurements, sub critical rod worth measurements, all this other stuff. And these are my my criteria. And here we go. We have validated everything. NRC please give us the approval to start up our reactor and start generating electrons.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing. So I mean, clearly, you've built up a quite a foundation of knowledge when it comes to the performance of reactor cores across, you know, PWRs at GE when you were, you know, I guess still in school, you know. Westinghouse, where you got your, a lot of, you know, real life experience with plants. You were at a startup at some point, how many total years after your masters did you spend, you know, in the business of understanding reactor cores.

Brett Rampal
Um, so my time at GE was it was during my Masters

Bret Kugelmass
During your masters. Got it.

Brett Rampal
So including my time at GE about 12 years working at vendors. As you said, I left Westinghouse in September of 2014, and I joined NuScale as a fuel engineer there. And I stayed at NuScale until 2017. And that's when I joined Clean Air Task Force.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing okay, so now you're switching gears. You've gone from having this your real world experience understanding how actual power plants run, how reactors are designed, and now getting into the policy world. What does Clean Air Task Force do and why did they bring you aboard?

Brett Rampal
So Clean Air Task Force is a this, 2021 we're celebrating our 25th anniversary.

Bret Kugelmass
I didn't realize people cared about clean air for that long.

Brett Rampal
No, I mean, some of the stories, my bosses will tell or some of the people that have been at this company for 20 years or longer, even 15 or 10 years are just crazy. So Clean Air Task Force is an environmental organization, think tank, law firm, subject matter expert group. Just we wear a lot of different hats and we do a lot of different things and Clean Air Task Force is really focused on, you know, helping or, you know, seeing the world achieve the today seeing the world achieve these deep decarbonisation goals that, you know, nations and utilities and states are making commitments for. But originally the organization began just as it's described as a, as an organization focused on, you know, clean air standards, clean air concerns. You know, I, there's a great story I heard when I first started up here about one of the first things CATF did, Clean Air Task Force (CATF) did was to buy emissions meters and to give them to school children riding on school buses to measure the emissions that they're getting from the back of the diesel buses, on the buses every day. And that led to that led to a lot of reform in the way, you know, emissions and are controlled from public school buses. Yeah. So you know, and even now, today, I know that we're doing something similar in Europe, in the United States with really special high powered thermal imaging cameras, where some of our some of my colleagues and some of our you know, CATF you know, folks are going out to pipelines or power plants and filming leaks or emissions where there are supposed to be no leaks and emissions. So yeah, I mean, lots of lots, you know, so that, you know, Clean Air Task Force carries it covers a gamut of areas and technologies. We have multiple different focus areas from, you know, super hot rock, geothermal, methane, carbon capture and sequestration, super pollutants, decarbonize fossil fuels, and one of the focus areas we have is advanced nuclear energy systems and nuclear energy systems and advanced nuclear energy. I joined CATF, luckily enough, through the Association of Young Professionals Congress, Dr. Ashley Finan, who had my role prior to me, was a panelist on a on a panel I was throwing for that congress I was helping run in 2017. And in orientation and conversation about the panel, she became aware that I was looking for new opportunities. And we talked about it and she was looking for somebody to join the team, which was mostly just her at the time. And I, you know, was very happy to come on as a nuclear innovation associate in November of 2017. At Clean Air Task Force, we are focused on helping create the sort of, we're focused on the role of clean firm energy and in our future decarbonisation plans. We totally are. We're totally very supportive. You know, renewables, I have solar panels on my roof. I'm looking at them on up through my window right now in my house here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thank you federal government and Duke Energy for the subsidies. But, you know, we also see the need for create for creating the framework for this sort of multiple shots on goal optionality that I don't think they use it anymore, but I'm showing my age, the sort of food pyramid of energy, you know, everything for what it needs to be and in its right role and the proper amount of servings, and that can be the most economic, practical and timely approach to achieving these goals that, you know, most people agree are extremely important.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, shout out to Ashley for spinning up that effort. She did a phenomenal job and she was at Clean Air Task Force, Nuclear Innovation Alliance, I guess is the name of the subset that did it. And now she's over at the NRIC Is that right? We still get her on. I've been trying to hunt her down for three years trying to get her on the show. Maybe we can put enough pressure on her to come on.

Brett Rampal
It took three years to get me right.

Bret Kugelmass
That's also true.

Brett Rampal
Um, so the, at the I was I was privileged and pleasured to work with Dr. Ashley Finan for set for, you know, a year or so or longer, but then in October of 2018, I believe it was, I'm sorry with the pandemic, it makes all my years went to October of 2018 Ashley officially moved over to officially stand up the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, which began as a part of CATF. And as we like to consider a sister organization of ours that is very, that has a different and more targeted focus, rather than the larger overarching, you know, sort of clean air clean energy focus that Clean Air Task Force has so the nuclear Innovation Alliance. I apologize if you're hearing a dog in the background, he's rolling on the ground.

Bret Kugelmass
A cute little bulldog.

Brett Rampal
Yeah, well, cute little pitbull,

Bret Kugelmass
Pitbull sorry.

Brett Rampal
Oh, no, it's okay. It's like rolling around on the ground. Sorry. So the Nuclear Innovation Alliance is, you know, really focused on advanced reactors and the opportunities for deploying advanced reactors and policy associated with advanced reactors, which is just a subset of, you know, sort of what Clean Air Task Force is focused on. And so NIA spun off its own activities stood up on its own is its own, you know, independent organization now, as opposed to Clean Air, you know, Association of Clean Air Task Force and then Ashley left to go be the first executive director at NRIC. And NIA has recently, September of 2020, hired their new executive director Judy Greenwald, who's fantastic. And the NIA is up and running, and with Judy Greenwald's and making, you know, great strides currently right now, but that's kind of CATF likes to work in not alone, we like to work in an ecosystem, we'll work alone, and we'll run that, you know, we carry that sphere, and we'll run that flag if we have to, um, but, um, you get get more, you know, bees with honey than with vinegar, and, you know, it's, it's, you know, you can give along to get along, I don't know how many more, you know, I can go out here, but you know, it takes a village, there you go. It's all about the team and the groups and, you know, we're, um, you know, I sort of let more left leaning organizations and collaborating with groups that might be more center or right leaning and having similar sort of perspectives or recommendations can be very powerful, especially if you're, you know, groups that are respected and, you know, well considered and thoughtful, and had been invited to participate in the conversation.

Bret Kugelmass
It's funny, you mentioned that, because that is one thing that I do find. I mean, there's a lot of things special about the nuclear industry. But one thing that I find extra special and maybe this is because I'm in DC, and I get to see the the center groups, the center, right groups and the center left groups that are the various groups, you know, that you know, support nuclear energy, and, or focus on it and have it as part of their core discipline to understand it, how well everyone gets along. And just like, you know, at like the happy hours, just being able to have like, good debate, like never anything personal, great debates about policy broadly, not just nuclear, but it just seems to me that like the people who are in nuclear policy are you know, they come from all sides of the spectrum, but are just like so intelligent and educated and able to create these amazing arguments and really understand like the fine nuances of you know, of not just nuclear but broader energy and climate goals. I don't know I love it. I personally love this community.

Brett Rampal
I mean, I love my job. I very much enjoy this is the best job I've ever had in my life. I very much enjoy it and I used to be a licensed pyrotechnician.

Bret Kugelmass
I think we just found your quote that I'm going to put on my LinkedIn social posts.

Brett Rampal
Best job I had in my life and I used to be a licensed pyrotechnician. Um, the community is great, if small, and sometimes slightly siloed in a lot of ways. So it's it to me, it's exactly kind of what you talked about, like there's a lot opportunity now and in recent years, for bringing more people into the tent for being inclusive for recognizing the value of others ideas and different perspectives that might be you know, very different from, you know, my experiences, you know, supporting existing nuclear power plants and you know, and so, those experiences and perspectives are aren’t invalid because they're different, or I have a set of facts that, you know, in data that support, you know what I say. Um, because I'm sure you like I said nuclear engineering is hard. And there's lots of different ways to, you know, prove a point and skin an apple and do all these different ... and mixed metaphors. Yeah. Right. And

Bret Kugelmass
I think you can skin an apple though.

Brett Rampal
Yeah, I guess I guess that would be okay. I guess. So the, the goal here, and in a lot of ways, the goal for sort of the nuclear sort of advocacy, which in a lot of ways we don't even, we don't even see ourselves as a part of, in a lot of ways, we're clean energy advocates, we're clean, firm energy advocates,

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, just happens to be those things have a huge amount of overlap.

Brett Rampal
Yeah, nuclear just happens to be a part of that, you know, and, um, but I mean, if something really cheap and super better came out tomorrow, whenever, you know, we might, you know, change our tune. But that's not the way it is right now. And so we need this optionality for all of these different options. And advanced nuclear has this great opportunity potentially. And it's about it was about for many years, getting into the tech being seen as clean energy, having the right dialogues, so that it's not just, I hate to say it in a lot of ways, the nuclear bros, you know, as sometimes people tend to call that very, you know, passionate, but sometimes misinformed, or, you know, difficult to wrangle sort of group of nuclear advocates. Um, you know, that it's not just about who can scream louder, or whose facts are best, or whose data is best. There's a lot more that goes into it

Bret Kugelmass
It's about communication and coalition building. And I think, yeah, that's what your organization has also done a great job at. Tell me more, though, about the types of stuff you work on on a day to day what what are you digging into when you research are you right? I mean, I saw you've been quoted in a few international articles lately. What is it that you're doing in support of the organization very specifically?

Brett Rampal
So right now I'm very, very, I'm sure we announced that recently, but I'm very happy to announce or say that, you know, we've recently expanded our team. Beginning of this year, we hired Carlos Leipner, who's a former, you know, Framatome and Westinghouse Director Executive. And he has joined as our Director of Global Nuclear Strategy. He's currently based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And his focus is more on the sort of global nuclear opportunities and overall theory of change, for seeing, you know, nuclear potential reached on a global scale. My personal purview tends to be more focused on technology, innovation, and domestic US federal policy. So we're spending of course, I spend a lot of my time interfacing with federal staff, you know, federal staffer, excuse me, federal staffers, congressional staffers and federal employees and members of the administration. We have spent numerous years advocating for the restart of the Department of Energy's Low Dose Radiation Research program. So we convened a group of experts in September 2019 in DC, this group of experts coming from multiple different universities and radiation epidemiology or radiation biology backgrounds associated with low dose radiation research or you know, low dose radiation understanding. And this group came together and, you know, form some recommendations for what a new federal low dose radiation research program would look like and how it should be strategized and led. And so we've taken that and we could work with we continue to work with those experts and thoughtful and understanding staff members and members of the administration to see that program fully started up and appropriately funded. We've also recently closed out or ended a over a year long process of process that where we collaborated with the Edison Electric Institute, NEI, several other NGO sort of groups like Third Way and Clear Path, and numerous sort of Edison Electric Institute members, in order to come up with what we're calling or what we have called and released as the carbon free technology initiative, which is a set of policy recommendations for certain different technology groups to help utilities and companies, customers like EEI's members be able to purchase and buy technologies that they need by 2035, or by 2030, or whatever to meet these decarbonisation goals that they've set.

Bret Kugelmass
So this is this is understanding different technologies that would fit into clean energy goals, and getting that information to a report form that's then given to us a utility is so they know you said they can educate their staff on what to purchase 5-10 years out.

Brett Rampal
So it's really more even before that these are federal policy regular recommendations that are our we're going to begin that we are circulating, we will continue to circulate among policymakers that will create the environments for the development of the sort of technology. So there's nuclear energy and advanced nuclear recommendations in there. And these sort of things are like, increased funding for the increase in Sustained funding for the advanced reactor demonstration program, you know, funding the versatile test reactor, you know, an addition, in addition to certain newer programs or new programs, or new to the discussion programs that would additionally help support the deployment of nuclear technologies. And there's five or six different technology bins that each have their individual recommended recommendations. I believe they're all out there on carbonfreetech.org is the name of where we've released all the information we spent over a year doing that, you know, thanks. And kudos to the Edison Electric Institute for kind of convening the group and helping us and allowing us to help facilitate, I facilitated or help facilitate the nuclear fission and fusion discussions.

Bret Kugelmass
And so, you know, we only have so much time together on this podcast, obviously, you and I will continue these conversations ad infinitum. But maybe just tell us a little bit about what you see in the advanced nuclear technology landscape, looking down the road, get people excited, I want you to paint an optimistic picture, you know, 510 15 years out of where this industry is going.

Brett Rampal
So I really hope you know, it doesn't have to be that far out, 10-15. But I so I like to be optimistic and shorter term than that. And I will, of course, also express my particular bias. Um, so timeframe, if I have to look at the things on the horizon. First of all, I'm super excited by our first non light water reactor license application before the NRC right now. So Oklo, and again, expressing my bias I went to college with one of the founders of that company, Dr. Jacob DeWitt, um, who, you know is an okay dude.

Bret Kugelmass
We like him. We really like, actually that's another one I've got to get on the show. Once again, great guy has had amazing conversations. You love the innovation that he's bringing to the industry? Can't get him on the show yet, but maybe a little bit of pressure will get him?

Brett Rampal
He asks me stuff, he texted me some stuff randomly. And then I text him back answers. And then like, four months later, he texts me and he's like, I am so bad at this. So yeah, I mean, they're, they're so busy. The only time I ever really get to see them anymore talk to them anymore was when we would cross paths in DC, you know, so it's been, it's been, you know, over a year since I've been on a plane to DC, which is crazy. So, that's

Bret Kugelmass
So a non light water reactor

Brett Rampal
Non light water reactor, they have their application before the NRC right now. They're hoping to deploy with a Build Own Operate model, which is pretty unique within the community. Um, I think at the latest by 2025, but they're trying to target deployment earlier than that 2024, 2023. Yeah. And I mean, we're, we're talking about a we're talking about a, you know, a project that I believe was submitted, and docketed in March of last year, again, you know, March 2020. Again, I'm sorry. I get my pandemic blitz runs on my time together and that was projected for a 36 monthish review timeframe. So, this this could happen this could be probable and they you know, they are also have talked about, you know, beginning construction while their review is is still happening. So, I'm optimistic to see a Oklo Aurora microreactor at a site, the Idaho National Laboratory by 2025, or before hopefully fingers crossed across, let's do it. I'm excited by the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation demonstration of their microreactor in Canada. I believe that it's the date is 2024 at the Chalk River.

Bret Kugelmass
Good technology, horrible name, but dawn Yep.

Brett Rampal
And then they are also pursuing a potential deployment at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign campus as a research test reactor. So you know, I'm also very encouraged by that the advanced reactor demonstration program calls for the two main demonstrations are the Natrium, Terrapower, General Electric Hitachi demonstration and the X Energy XE100 demonstration

Bret Kugelmass
And X Energy that's Kam Ghaffarian's brainchild and Terrapower's associated with Bill Gates, right?

Brett Rampal
Yep, Correct. Correct. And the so that we hope to see those two projects by 2027, along with associated which I, you know, as a former fuel guy, I think is extremely important along with associated commercial fuel fabrication facilities, because Natrium is pursuing a metallic fuel, which we don't have any commercial scale capabilities in the United States right now to build the type of metallic fuel that they need. And X Energy is pursuing triso fuel, which we have very limited commercial capabilities to perform to build in the United States right now. I'm at we discussed them, we brought up the National Reactor Innovation Center as well, which I believe is mandated to demonstrate and advanced reactor by 2025. Amazing, I believe they're their stretch goal and their stretch commitment that you can read on their website, maybe it's changed, I don't know, you know, when I, when the website first launched, I saw it was two demos is to demonstrate two reactors by 2025. So you know, that's the potential for in North America, Canada, the demonstration of five different individual types of advanced reactor technologies, by, you know, the 2025 to 2027

Bret Kugelmass
Any advanced light water reactors being built? I feel like that could potentially even have a shorter path to market given you don't have to really change the fuel or the coolant type anything you see there?

Brett Rampal
Yeah, I mean, I see lots of opportunity there as well Holtec's SM 160 or SMR 160. I apologize Holtec for mischaracterizing the exact lettering of your reactors name, but the that reactor design won a ARDP risk reduction reward, the risk award, excuse me, it's not a reward, it's award not a reward. The award for risk reduction targets a different sort of timeframe. It's a a beyond the 2027 time frame. So but Holtec is, is in engagement and pre engage in pre engagement with the NRC on that design and has been for you know, several years NuScale has received their design certification applica their design certification for a first 50 megawatt product they need to pursue they are planning on pursuing a standard design application for a subsequent larger project, electricity producing product and their timeframe for the carbon free power project with their customer you amps is 2029 right now. So, you know a little bit a little bit staggered or a little bit later, perhaps you know, but that the I don't think that should say anything that we couldn't see something happened very, very quickly. You know, in the next five, nine years, whatever it is lots of opportunities for advanced light light water reactors as well. I've heard NuScale in the public saying that they can deploy with a different customer with the right customer with you know, the right sort of framework in 2027 as well if they if they found the person with the right opportunity and the carbon free power project is stage to 2029 the way it is to support according to you amps NuScale to support the US subscription base and customers and lots of opportunities from GE.

Bret Kugelmass
I know they had a interesting reactors on as well.

Brett Rampal
So I as a former GE employee, I am I love that BWRX 300 I think that thing is beautiful. And I believe most of the nearest term opportunities for the BWRX 300 are not domestic. Um, so I think there's I, you know, I apologize to Western Europe for, you know, getting it wrong, but I'm sure I'm going to get it wrong, because there is a lot of activity going on in Western Europe in relation to, you know, consideration of nuclear technology or deployment of advanced nuclear technology. And I know, there's been agreements and discussion in Estonia and Bulgaria and the BWRX 300 has come up in certain of these nations in in those discussions. So yeah, lots of opportunities. I, I know, there's also been for many years discussion of an advanced light water SMR at the TVA Clinch River site. So there's an opportunity there, not sure. You know, you know, how much TVA wants to pursue that there are there's also Kairos is pursuing demonstration at some, you know, you know, the Oak Ridge technology parks and that sort of region. So there's a lot going on. And that, you know, an advanced SMR may not or an advanced light water reactor that some light water reactor SMR may not happen for the Clinch River site. But that has always been something that's been discussed as well.

Bret Kugelmass
Brett as we wrap up today, tell me why you love nuclear. Tell me why it's important. This is you personally, not your organization's just why is this? I mean, I know you feel this way, why is nuclear an important part of the future?

Brett Rampal
Well, I mean, I think all you got to do is look at where we're at right now. And I mean, more than half of the US's clean energy comes from nuclear energy right now. And when you look at global primary energy usage, because electricity is I shouldn't say energy usage, I should have said electricity usage. In the past, when I was talking about clean energy, for a nuclear being 50% of it is clean electricity, nuclear is 50% of it. But when you talk about primary energy usage, the problem just becomes so much more daunting on a global scale. 80% of primary energy is still devoted to fossil fuels. And while there's a lot of talk about increased electrification and the opportunities for renewables and batteries, and everything, when I look at the United States, I don't want to be asking the questions of how do I achieve these goals? And how do I decarbonize the harder to decarbonize sectors of the rest of our economy, besides electricity, without things like the existing nuclear fleet that's providing 50% of our clean electricity, or the optionality is offered by, you know, different forms of clean, firm energy, nuclear energy included in them as one of the, you know, hopefully nearer term or prominent forms of clean, firm energy. So yeah, I just, I embrace and, and have centered my career around nuclear technology. because number one, I like to be challenged. You know, and this was a child, this has been and always has been a challenging and rewarding career, you know, even when I was, you know, doing computations versus the rewarding stuff I do now. And in addition to that, I don't want to be doing something that I've always wanted to do something where I feel like I'm giving back. And if I can help facilitate or help support, you know, the US is largest source of clean electricity. I feel like I'm giving back.

Bret Kugelmass
Brett Rampal, thank you so much for today's conversation, for sharing your insights over the years for educating me in my early days, and for your contributions to the community, we all appreciate it. Thank you again.

Brett Rampal
It's been my absolute pleasure. And thank you so much for having me.

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