Cesare Frepoli

President

FPoli Solutions

November 1, 2021

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Ep 337: Cesare Frepoli - President, FPoli Solutions
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Jadwiga Najder
This is the show Titans of Nuclear, and today we have a great guest with us: Cesare Frepoli, who's the President and CEO of FPoliSolutions, as well as the PhD from Penn State University. The company of yours, FPoliSolutions, specializes in the management and execution of projects for industries like nuclear. But not only, it's also aerospace, for example, and other industries.

Cesare Frepoli
Thank you. Thank you. Glad to be here.

Jadwiga Najder
That's amazing. So right now you're the CEO, you're the principal consultant of your company. But what we like to start with is actually the background. Where do you come from? How is it possible that a person like you made such a long, very successful career? We want to know everything. Let's start from the fact that you're a Master of Milano, of the famous Politecnico di Milano.

Cesare Frepoli
That's right. That's right.

Jadwiga Najder
If I'm not wrong, it was in 1990, right? And so-

Cesare Frepoli
Yes.

Jadwiga Najder
I'm really- the atmosphere. Like how was Italy at that time, regarding nuclear?

Cesare Frepoli
Right, yeah, right. Now, actually, those were very interesting times. As a matter of fact, I started my Master program in Italy in nuclear engineering. I was always passionate about nuclear engineering since I was a young kid, so there was no matter of where to go, what to do. And 90 early- 1980s, the 80s were very good in Italy, because Italy was following, actually, the French model. They had what was called at that time, … which means that they were planning to build many, many nuclear power plants, and basically get to where France is actually today with 60, 70% of the energy coming from nuclear. And that was the intent. So I started my schooling in '85, '84 and I was really determined to go into nuclear engineering. And then what happened in 1986, we had the Chernobyl accident, as you know, in Europe and of course there was a lot that was probably heavily politicized and many things happened in Europe around that time as a consequence of the accident. And the sentiment or nuclear kind of deteriorated in Italy, they decided to hold a popular referendum in '87. As a result of the popular referendum, the whole program was cancelled. What happened is even a professor at the Politecnico di Milano said, Well, if you guys want to continue in this path, maybe you should reconsider. Instead, I was determined, I'm going to stay here. I really love- I really believed in that technology as far as the energy solution for the future, so I stick on it and then I graduated in '90. Then the question is where you're going to go work, because in Italy there was not much going on. There were maybe some basic research and things like that, so I started exploring opportunities. I started actually in France. France was probably the most promising country to go to, especially close, just across the border from Italy. That even was kind of difficult to get there. I eventually ended up to go make a decision, really a bold decision. I went to the US Consulate in Milano where I asked how I can get-

Jadwiga Najder
The last thing that I heard from you was that you you went to France and you started looking for a job.

Cesare Frepoli
Yeah, I tried to get a job in France, but as an Italian, it was kind of challenging at that time. So I was then trying to- went to the US Consulate and said- well, the other country was- well, United States, obviously Canada was lots of activity going on in the nuclear at that time and how I can get there. This was kind of around '90, there was lots of discussion of passive, more safe plants like the AP600, AP1000 in those days. They suggested, If you find a job in a company in Italy that works and collaborate with companies in the United States, like Westinghouse or GE General Electric, or even Framatome at the time, that could be maybe a way to go. And that's what I did. I kind of turned down a whole lot of offers and I ended up being my first employment at Ansaldo Nuclear, which is kind of a nuclear vendor in Italy, and then I kind of worked my way through in the first year or so to get an assignment in United States. I ended up being sent to United States as a guest engineer at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, where I am today actually, back around '92, '93. I was there for six months, it turned out that I ended up staying there for three years, up to the '96 timeframe. And then, at the end of my assignment - obviously, I was very happy about my experience there - and I went back to Italy. I thought I was kind of done with my US experience at the time, but I'm still kind of missing going back, the kind of environment- that there was here as far as the nuclear energy. There was lots of development going on in those times. And what happened is - that was, sometimes it's some luck or what it is - but my former advisor of Westinghouse became a professor at Penn State University. One night, he called me and said, Hey, I'm setting up a thermal-hydraulic group - which was my background, in my experience here at Penn State University - if you want, you can come here and be my research assistant and then you can pursue your PhD studies. Obviously, I had a job, I had a young family at the time. But I still, I was so determined. I didn't spend much time to think about it. I think it was just within a week, I called him back and I said, I'm coming. I kind of quit my job from Italy and I kind of jumped into adventures. We flew in the United States - and this was '97, January '97 - and then that's where I started my PhD doing some research with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was funded by the Nuclear Regulator Commissioning, my thesis, and then managed to graduate in 2000. And then again, it was kind of a big circle going around. Then, as I was looking for my first job as a PhD, I ended up working at Westinghouse again, and now I was as an employee. That's kind of how I got here, was kind of a long story. But that was kind of, I felt was always interesting to share. And that was kind of a little bit of a dream for me to start working in the nuclear- really, in a place where that was kind of rewarded and there was progress going on.

Jadwiga Najder
I'm actually interested, first, with something that is non-technical. What came to my mind from listening to you was that there is a little bit of stereotype among young people, like students, that either you finish your university and you go straight to PhD, or you go to industry and you stay there forever. What are your feelings about this? Was it an asset of yours, an advantage that you had already some experience in the industry and then started a PhD?

Cesare Frepoli
Oh, it's a very good question. And actually, there was something, when I was facing that decision was something that I was a little bit of a dilemma is the fact that, by the time I decided to do my PhD, I was already in my early 30s, so I had the basically seven year working experience between completing my Master in Italy and starting my PhD. So I was kind of an old student, if you want to call. But it turned out to be an asset. And the reason is that working in the industry for those years, it gave you like a structure in executions and planning. I was a very actually typical PhD in the States to be in excess of four years and maybe five years. But because of that, I was able really to work with the professor, have a good program, execute the program, and basically graduate in three year and a half with a PhD completed. I think at the end it was an asset. It was also interesting to go back into school in a different school environment. I graduated from Italy, going to the United States, much more research. And it was actually a refresher, somehow, to go back to classes and learn more advanced classes. So no, I think it was a positive. It was not actually a problem there was that gap. It was a good thing.

Jadwiga Najder
Right, great. Okay, thank you for this answer. So one of the things that I really caught in your bio was - in your early bio, especially - your contribution to the integral test facilities. And so I would like to ask you, first, to maybe explain to everybody what is an integral test facility? How does it work or what is its utility for the research, but also for the industry?

Cesare Frepoli
Right. So one thing that there's always been in the background on my career has been pursuing Safety Analysis. Safety Analysis is kind of a very, to say, complex work around the licensing and the design and basically proving the safety case of a nuclear power plant. Obviously, you cannot have an accident on a power plant. You want to avoid that, right? But you want to have the system designed that you can mitigate, even if you have an accident, what the consequences of the accidents are, just for the public's safety. The integral effect tests are really a very important and key component, because those are really kind of the proof and the only data that you have. Basically what they do with this integral effect test is a sub-scale simulator of the reactor where, obviously they don't have a nuclear reaction to provide the energy, but they simulate the nuclear reaction like electrical heaters. And then it's a sub-scale, so similar- maybe a parallel in the aerospace industry, where they may have wind tunnel tests of a Boeing 747 to make sure that they fly in all kinds of conditions, are safe. That's kind of the similar in the nuclear industry, They build this test facility, which has sub-scales - could be different types of scales, typically, you do at multiple scale, because the scaling is also an important issue - and you simulate the accident. You simulate the events, you see how this system performs, how the emergency system comes in, and how you're able to maintain the core cool, and what the consequences are. And then you use all that data. This is data that's been accumulated since back to the 1960s up to today. They're still generating new test data with the new reactors. And then what you do, you use computer codes to benchmark against that data. That's a way we'll call qualify the analytical tools so that you know that the simulators, they are actually predicting reality and they were the realities, in this case, the test data. Because obviously, there is no accident on the field, you're trying to avoid this, right? So that's a way to replicate conditions, adverse conditions in a safe way using those sorts of facilities.

Jadwiga Najder
That's really interesting. What are the challenges of construction of such a facility? Is that already the scaling, different scales, also? Please tell us more about that.

Cesare Frepoli
That's right. You tend to- only there are this kind of technology that evolve over time. There are some criteria of similarity criteria that you try to- it's a mathematical apparatus, where you say, like, for example, you want to preserve the pressure, but maybe you cannot, because of the cost, you cannot really preserve the scale in terms of floor area. So you do what is sometimes called pressure over volume scaling rationales. But there are other many more sophisticated, but really it's a mathematical algorithm that proves that what you are testing in the apparatus has a similarity with what would happen in the full-scale plant. And as again, the parallel in the aerospace industry when they will use a sub-scale model - even for marine constructions, for the shipyard and things like that - there are criteria to say, could be like maybe the time is accelerating the test facility or the timescale is different to preserve certain quantities. It's a whole discipline, actually, this scaling, which is something actually we do still do in my company. For instance, even NuScale, we may do some work associated with the scaling working with those areas, who's also an expert in scaling techniques. And yeah, it's a very important part of the scaling and applicability of the building the safety case of a power plant.

Jadwiga Najder
Each kind of scale will preserve one or several parameters, but we all know that the accidents are very multi-parametrical, so how do we go from the test facility to actually understanding what happens inside of the core or inside of the nuclear installation in general?

Cesare Frepoli
You typically combine several integral effects test. The different scale would be like a scale, or like a semi-scale is one of the holder. This facility is a scale of one over seven hundred, so it's a very kind of spaghetti representation of a nuclear power plant.

Jadwiga Najder
It's a good Italian parallel, righ?

Cesare Frepoli
That's right. Because really that's how we look, you have despite that really spaghetti shape. And then you have larger scale. Larger scale in the nuclear industry, it could be like one over 50 like, .. for example, is another one in my area. It's well known. That's a facility from Idaho National Laboratory. It could actually be a full-scale prototype. There was a program developed in the 80s - this is called the UPTF, Upper Plenum Test Facility - was a consortium between Germany, United States, and Japan. It was a very expensive test facility. The test was conducted both in Germany and Japan and then the US was responsible for instrumentation and control. And that was a full-scale. Why they had to go to full-scale is because there were phenomena that could not be represented in sub-scale, like multi-dimensional phenomenon, so they created this very large test facility that was representing what at the time was a large PWR design, German design. Then you use different points in scale to see how- also understand how the phenomena evolved with this scale, what the similarities are, so that then you have different points and you can extrapolate. When you do a simulation at sub-scale, you now have basis to extrapolate to the full-scale behavior, right? So you can predict the full-scale behavior, because you have two that have been validated in multiple scale. Now, the learning- the two kind of learn what the behavior is at different scales so we can predict, with fidelity, the behavior at full-scale.

Jadwiga Najder
Very interesting. Another topic that I could really catch in your bio is the licensing and certification, which is, I guess, partly related to the integrated test facilities and the knowledge that we get from them. Maybe, first, let's start from also defining what is the licensing, what are the certifications, what are its objectives.

Cesare Frepoli
This, also, actually even recent, it's been a continuous evolution also from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry as a whole. Traditionally, in the past, like in the 80s, they have like a two-stage approach where they have like a preliminary safety report. There was the applicant who would be the design of the reactor - Westinghouse or the utility applying or what have you - basically constructing all those bodies of evidence, kind of constructing the safety case for the power plants. That was submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and then they were going to do the review process and you get a final safety approval of the design. That was the final Safety Analysis for you at the start. And then after that, though, there were multiple stages where now you're approved for the design, but then you have to apply for the site permit. And then you have to apply for the construction. So it was a multi-stage process. Back in the early 80s, 90s, they kind of update- there was a modernization, a first wave of modernization by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to kind of streamline this process. You can imagine it's very costly, very expensive, takes a lot of resources. And so the idea was how we can simplify this process for new clients coming. And I'm talking around the 90s where designs like the AP600 or AP1000 from Westinghouse with passive safety features. So they developed what was the 10 CFR Part 52 and that was what introduced the concept of design certification. Basically, the process was kind of similar as before, but you get to certify a design and then you only have specific items that you have to address when you actually go and build it and construct a specific site, so there may be site specific. But it is a whole design that is certified. Essentially you have your safety case, that is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has kind of blessed and said, Yes, this is safe for the public and can be constructed. More recently as you know, there are lots of startups and lots of movements, particularly in the United States for advanced reactors, which are now exploring a wide range of technology. There are probably on the order of 10 startups. These are like Kairos Power, X-energy, Terrapower funded by Bill Gates, and many others. And those are introducing a variety of technologies that are not covered in the methods of regulating that have before. And so, actually quite recently, starting from 2018, it has been what they call a licensing modernization plan, so they are naturally moving in this Part 53. And the layer that introducing on top compared to the old way of regulating is what they call a … . It's where you fold probabilistic risk assessment, those type of analyses, into the design cycle. And that's actually what we do in my company. We develop tools and technology to kind of help the applicant to do those complicated licensing process, but hopefully to also reduce dramatically the cost which remain quite high for the power plants to apply and get the design certification.

Jadwiga Najder
Do you think that the fact that we have a new wave of reactors coming that are kind of - I don't want to say revolutionising, because we already know this technologies, they existed before - but add a new dimension to what nuclear is. It doesn't need to be always the same. It doesn't need to be only one technology that is prevailing, but several different technologies who then will be copy pasted into a modular installation. Do you think that this fact that they are so different, like starting from kind of scratch with the licensing, may it help in actually developing the regulations to make it more streamlined, not so slow and not so complicated to achieve, and not so costly most of all?

Cesare Frepoli
That's right. And that's I think- it's my opinion it's still a problem and has to be solved. Obviously, the only near experience, even before what I was referring to before is the 10 CFR Part 53, which is just the recent rulemaking, which is like an evolution from the design certification process. But the only point in history, recent history, that we have, for example, is NuScale. NuScale got the design certification, I believe it was 2019 - don't quote me there, but around those years - so it's probably the most recent example. But the other one, are still kind of, some are submitted. And I think the push from the industry standpoint is that there is so much margin in this design that they should be able to kind of defend the safety case in a much more streamlined way or whatever. You still have to face the regulator and go through all the scrutiny and build all those evidence that kind of make your safety case. I think the challenge still remains on how you can close that gap in a very efficient way, but then you can make these reactors economical, because they need to be economical to license. That is a short route to get there, to the deployment, but also to maintain that as components age. And also, I think a challenge maybe for the new players who goes to gain enough data on like a new piece of equipment that you have the history of, like water reactor technology, for example. But they do indeed have a large margin compared to the more traditional. They also tend to be quite simple, especially like micro reactors that can be transportable. The scenarios are very, very simple compared to the much complex machines are operating right now. I think the promise is there. Now, I think that in the next few years, we'll probably know more, but I feel the challenge is there. But I think the other thing we're trying to use, especially in my company, is to use digital technology, machine learning, AI, and all these infrastructure and kind of coming out from the digitalization of the world to help and facilitate and accelerate the design and also manage the data, track the information, make it easy for regulators to review, because one of the key goals for them is to be transparent, to be scrutable, so if you build a safety case, you understand why, what the rationale is. It's a very logical pattern and with a very voluminous amount of data. That's what we generate.

Jadwiga Najder
Listening to you about before the integrated facilities, it makes me think actually that's how it is with research that the different countries can collaborate and share the facilities. People from Germany can come to the US and use the installation and take some universal conclusions and take them home. However, with the licensing certification, it's not really so easy. Do you think that it is any close future of our hard work and our focus on the licensing development that we'll be able to harmonize the regulations in this respect, maybe globally, but at least regionally, let's say only in Europe or only in North America and so on.

Cesare Frepoli
Yeah, that's- I mean, now, many of the test facilities we discussed where, for the most part, many important were international programs. I've mentioned before even the one critical that is used by the entire industry was a collaboration between United States, Germany, and Japan. That was very important. There are many others like OECD and other organizations that tried to make that data more public. And I think over the years they've become now, like for a small company like us to be able to have access to a very large amount of data, which meant a lot of this data now becomes public consumption. And maybe the challenge is more like organizing that data, particularly because you have to deal with data generated today with instrumentation of today in 2020. At the same time you may go back to some of these reactors, go back to technology that was explored in the 1960s. Or you have experiments that go back in the 1970s, in the 1980s. So there is a whole set of legacy data and warehousing and processing, organizing that data. It's probably in the area where coordinated development or international effort can help, because at the end of the day, otherwise you have every applicant to kind of go through the same amount of work. It's very inefficient. And that's actually one area this is called. We call it data ontology, classify this data. We've created some tools, you can see this on our website, but that's what's also how we can make this all information more accessible to the public now that there are more startups and that can drive further innovation. Then we need to facilitate that process, kind of remove barriers and be able to share that incredible amount of knowledge that was created by nuclear industry in particular for the safety case of plants.

Jadwiga Najder
So is it possible to remove these barriers in terms of licensing and design certification?

Cesare Frepoli
I don't know, I think the NRC - as far as I know - the NRC still kind of taken, obviously there is the IAEA with the state guides and things like that. The NRC tends to be sometimes the example for many countries, but there are differences. And yes, it's what you're saying, it's a challenge if you have to take a new design and just because it's been approved in the States, it's maybe a good step ahead, but is not the job completed say if you have to deploy the same plant in the UK or in other countries. I think that remains a little bit of a challenge. There's been always a talk about harmonization, but the way a regulator approaches the licensing is not homogeneous, I would say. It's still kind of there are different facets that you need to face every time from different countries and different nations.

Jadwiga Najder
Okay, so it's not that easy as, Let's work together we will work it out. Let's-

Cesare Frepoli
Yeah, it's not straightforward.

Jadwiga Najder
All the regulators, I don't know, of Europe and let's just find some compromise, please.

Cesare Frepoli
That's right. That's right. That's right. Now, there had been an attempt in the past also. There was like a consortium of utilities for - especially based on my experience when I was working on AP1000 - to define a uniform, there was like uniform aggregation of utility from Europe to define common ground for the requirements for the design, so that when you comply to those requirements, then the design can be applied in Italy, as in France, as in UK, and I think there have been always attempts in that direction. And those are very useful for sure.

Jadwiga Najder
Can you tell me a little bit about the EU-COMAS project?

Cesare Frepoli
This was an-

Jadwiga Najder
It's very, very interesting. Like, please tell me, what were the initial conditions? What were the developments of the program?

Cesare Frepoli
So this one was actually- I was referred before when I was in the United States, the guest engineer, and then I went back in the mid 90s, back to Europe. And then I worked on some European program. And one of the projects that I was involved in at time was this EU-COMAS project, which I think I've even forgotten what the acronym stands for. But the test was conducted in Germany, was associated to actually a French plant, the Framatome EPR design, where they wanted to have the ability that even in the case where you have a very severe accident - which is almost the one that you don't want to have, right - but in any case, where even the emergency system cannot cool the core. And then at that point, the core melts, and then it kind of penetrates through the vessel. The vessel, essentially, that's containing the reactor, core fails, and then you have this molten material. And so they were planning to design, at that point, this core catcher, which is essentially kind of a basement inside the containment so that there was no radiation of the public, but then be able to collect this corium - and that's where COMAS, I think that probably is a German acronym, that's why I don't remember what they stand for - but the idea was to simulate a prototypical core you and then how that spread - and the idea was that your spread, think about a lava flow where you spread over a large surface and you develop a crust. And then by that you can stabilize the material, and even in that severe condition, you're still in a safe situation, because all the radiation has been contained within the containment. So the test was actually simulating real material like UO2, which is dioxide of uranium, which is used for the typical light water reactor technology, and actually heated up and melting that together with the zirconium cladding - which is the material they use to put the cladding to the pellet of the fuel - and then have all them melt and then open the gate and see how the behavior of the spreading was. It was actually- I attended some of those experiments. They were kind of impressive. You are behind that glass and see all these very high temperature materials spreading on the basement and then using different material that could be concrete, metal - although they were using more exotic substrate - to see which one was performing better for spreading the material. And this was what was called the core catcher concept design that is actually embedded in one of the French Framatome reactors like the EPR.

Jadwiga Najder
So was the result found, or was it just a set of data that was known that they don't work?

Cesare Frepoli
No, I think it generated some data that was used internationally to validate some of those design, I believe. Obviously, there were some set of tests that were proprietary that I was not involved in and the portion I was involved was a set of experiments that they decided to open up to the European that was actually funded by the European Commission. And that's a few tests that then internationally could be used to benchmark tools, again, at scale and see how that spreading behavior of the melt could be handled and modeled.

Jadwiga Najder
So these are the non-proprietary?

Cesare Frepoli
They were some non-proprietary sets. And then there were probably, I'm assuming the test facility was also used and dedicated for the designer. Areva was, as you know, Framatome and Siemens together, they created this joint company and I think that they were the most interested in design, because they actually implemented that device into the reactor.

Jadwiga Najder
Yeah, we are talking a little bit about the concepts that are technical, but not very much related to numbers and to what you're doing on everyday basis, because you're actually an engineer who is very, very much related to the computational fields. And so the integrated facilities that we are talking about, your COMAS project - all of these phenomena that you're studying, you are actually calculating based on the experiments that are conducted. What are your main fields of the computation? Is it thermal hydraulics? Is it rather the heat transfer?

Cesare Frepoli
It's kind of a combination of different disciplines. I mean, it's my background and also the background of the team is thermal hydraulics, but some of them are also, as a background, they are core engineers, meaning they understand all the thermo mechanical aspect of the core, what happened to the core when it is radiated during the operation, the degradation of the materials inside and things like that. I would say, and then the core physics, like the neutronics and how the power gets generated, and so forth. Yeah, it's a multidisciplinary and multi-physics approach when you do this type of analysis, and you have to look at different types of tools, different types of codes, if you have to simulate different all these different sets of experiments to benchmark those tools. But yeah, I think that the team overall, I kind of started as more as a thermal hydraulics and kind of evolved more like in core engineering, and my team is kind of diverse in that segment, in the whole cycle, for the Safety Analysis.

Jadwiga Najder
Can you give us a little bit of a feeling of how much one person is able to do right now in the nuclear computation? You said already, the multi-physics analysis. It doesn't mean that one engineer is able to start from the core finish on, I don't know, see if the analysis- just how much, how compressed is the calculation power right now in terms of what we are able to do as an individual?

Cesare Frepoli
Yeah, I think that actually was a motivation why I started the company in 2012 was because what was happening, really, in the computational capability in the world. Before, like when you go back 20 or 30 years ago, yes, this type of computation required very expensive infrastructure to run those calculations in terms of manpower, but also really servers, hardware that you need, and expenses that you need. And then, as you know, there's been a kind of revolution with cloud computing, where- and it turned out to be an opportunity that I identified when I started the company and said, I don't even need to be in a corporate to be able to do this type of complex analysis. There are a lot of things in the open source community that you can leverage. There are lots of things created by National Laboratory which are available to you and basically at no cost. And sometimes it's really the ability to integrate all those parts. And then when it comes down to the infrastructure, when you look at the cloud computing, like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft and all that, you kind of create, very easily kind of scale up your infrastructure to be elastic and kind of grow with the business, right? And so you really- you're not like in the past, maybe you need like a group of 30 people and very expensive computers at $100,000 to be able to do those analyses. I think these days, you can probably set up the system, apply for a subscription with AWS or Azure, what have you, create an instance, create your infrastructure for running those calculations, and then be able to also work remote,. Especially these days it's kind of important. And also you need a lot of- I think the technical tact that you need to have is still there. In a way, it's also broader, because it's not only understanding the physics and engineering, but also you need to be able to master like the advances in the digitalization, like software techniques come out and enterprise solutions, web services, what have you. And so it may make you a little bit broader, more holistic view of the problem. Not only in engineering, but also the software, the tools. I think it's an opportunity, especially for new engineers, why they like and all the startups that come out these days and kind of make it fun to work, because you don't always focus on one aspect, but you can explore a wide variety of things. And it's much easier to me than the past, for sure, with the technology we have today.

Jadwiga Najder
Can you imagine that finding such an engineer for your company who is able to do everything from the beginning to the end, from IT to understanding the phenomena, to having actually soft skills to be able to explain your results, because in the end, you want to be also selling your services. It's not an easy recruitment task. How does it work right now with finding young engineers? Are they easy to find are they looking for jobs? Is the market expanding? Is it shrinking?

Cesare Frepoli
Actually, you're bringing a very important point. Since I started the company, I would say that the most challenging part, but also the most rewarding has been the people factor. I started with this seed idea to, I really wanted to create this dream team where we can collaborate and really kind of change the industry and create some revolution in a way, how things are done, that we can do it better than in a corporate, much more jive and things like that. But then you face the issue while you need to set up the team, right? And it takes a lot of effort to make sure that there is the right chemistry, the right skill sets, but also there are a lot of dynamics in how you make people that own what they do and they are satisfying on a daily basis on what they do and develop that ownership. And I think one advantage I found in the small team, especially people that joined my team coming from corporate, is the ability that you're not only like a number where you're kind of very specialized in your sector, but you kind of are exposed, talk to the customer. You may, one year after you are in the job, you may be talking to a CEO of another company. They love that. They love that customer facing and that experience to kind of understand what the needs are and then challenging also, too. What I'm doing is really useful in the market where I really have a business case. So you're not really only executing a task, but make you more like an intrapreneur, kind of a group of intrapreneurs in a way in a very collaborative environment. And I think when you reach that goal, it's hard to get there. It's a lot of personal dynamics happening but took probably, even for my team, where we're at eight years since the company was founded, I think we're in a good spot there. And it's very rewarding when you see this dynamic, kind of everybody being kind of in the flow of things of creating, and then kind of enjoying what you're doing. But it takes effort to go there. As far as recruiting, I think when you create the right atmosphere and they feel when you interview somebody to actually feel your culture - what your corporate culture is, what your mission is, what your vision is - it's easy to attract people. I never had a problem to- a gap in that sense. When there are needs, always at a small business, you need to calibrate your resources to the businesses to grow organically, but it's not ever been a challenge to find people. Probably the most difficult is to create that atmosphere of creations. I think we're in a good spot now, but it took a lot of effort.

Jadwiga Najder
I guess other nuclear companies should take this quote home and take the conclusions. I'm wondering, as I'm a person who was facing the challenge not so long ago finding a job and deciding what my career will be, I can also solidify somehow with my peers and ask you maybe on their behalf, what the person that wants to become a person like you in the future should do, should think, should focus on, what to do to be Cesare Frepoli one day.

Cesare Frepoli
That's kind of a difficult question. You know, every story is a little bit kind of individual, right? But I'll say that, for me - maybe I don't know, maybe because I'm coming from another country and I was always curious about traveling and meeting people - I think, as I was working to my opportunity with different company, my career and kind of growing there and trying to learn as much as I could within those organizations, but also the ability to try to find any opportunities to network to exchange and to know people. I think at the end of when I was in that big decision time in my life where it was like, should I pull the plug and start a company and leave a very safe- I was a fellow engineer at Westinghouse. It was a very satisfying job there. I don’t' have a particular complaint, but I had that thing, I'd like to create something of my own. I could not have done that if it wasn't for really the network of the reputation in names, the network of colleagues, friends and then be able- Then that's where all the opportunity came about. It was really through that network. And I think creating that credibility in industry, these external exposure - even when you work in a corporate sometimes a little bit difficult - but if you try to find opportunity to expose yourself outside and then create that, I think that was probably the recipe for me to be able to start something on my own and kind of was mitigating any risk you know, because obviously you can always fail, but that was probably one critical aspect.

Jadwiga Najder
Thank you on their behalf. So we talked about attracting people. I would still be interested in actually attracting contracts in terms of the nuclear industry services that you can provide. You said already that you are not only focused on nuclear, but also on other industries. How are the moods in the nuclear industry in your opinion? And does it help you or is it an obstacle for the development of your company?

Cesare Frepoli
I think it's a- well, maybe- the nuclear is definitely an asset as fast as kind of forced to be very, say the technical depth and breadth that you have to cover in a nuclear discipline is pretty vast. And so that gives you kind of an extended capability, not only myself, but the leader of the team and always talking about the team and how we can do different things. We had an opportunity that came out, kind of a spin- off of the nuclear in the renewables, like in the energy storage, which was a completely new field for us. But that was because we developed certain technology in the software world to manage data. And then, as engineers, okay, it was a new problem, just a different problem. I need to understand a little bit more how batteries work, how batteries degrade, and how they're organized and they're completely different. Still in the energy sector, not completely different, but you can still cross-pollinate and explore that industry. Aerospace is also a similar thing. It also thinks about safety, the aerospace industry, and materials, so fluid dynamics, that we apply in nuclear that we can also apply in this other sector. And yeah, I would say that, as far as the work opportunity, that's the good part, your credibility and being able to- they know that you can solve complex problems. Maybe sometimes, because there is a lot of overhead in the nuclear industry when it comes to safety and the rigor that we do things, we tend to be maybe on the expensive side, when it comes to cost and things like that. That's a little bit of a challenge always we have to balance, because you have to develop certain skills, you have to attract certain engineers, and they demand a certain cost. And then you kind of have to kind of make a decision if you want to stay in that complex frame of things and stay with high caliber, which that's what we decided to say. But it may kind of make you not competitive when it comes to more simple jobs, in a way, which could be another industry where maybe the same level of rigor or the same level of knowledge is not as required.

Jadwiga Najder
So many different industries to explore. What makes you stay in the nuclear field, actually and push-

Cesare Frepoli
As I said, since I was a kid, maybe because I was reading the books of… in my time and there was all this nuclear energy there, and I wanted to be a nuclear engineer. I truly believe that the nuclear solution is still what can solve all the environment problems today, because we can do as much as we can with renewables - and that's a very good thing, the evolution of the renewables like wind and solar - but when it comes down to reliability and really energy at scale, and to maintain the whole system cost effective, I don't think we can achieve the goals that we're expecting to as far as making the economy carbon neutral without nuclear. Nuclear has to be there. You can see, there are people like even Bill Gates investing in Terrapower or things like that because people recognize that. And then all these startups that there are in the States right now on the advanced reactors and many, actually, privately funded, so they're not really supported by government. I mean, there must be a reason and I totally agree, nuclear is the solution, obviously integrated with all the other sectors. Now, we also talk about hybrid energy systems where you look at hydrogen generation and then you consider hydrogen, the way others in hydrogen right way now, you cannot construct a hydrogen economy, because they use basically steam in a form they're making. For every ton of hydrogen, you have to put four tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. And nuclear has no emissions. You can use electrolysis and use the nuclear energy to create what they call the blue hydrogen. I don't know why they call it blue, but it's what's supposed to, there are no emissions there. I think nuclear is gonna be an important part in the energy and for mankind. I think it's going to stay and that's why I want to keep working on it to make things easier and try to identify where the barriers are, like the licensing challenges, the licensing safety case, how we will improve that, make sure the public understands these plants are safe - because they're truly much safer than any other source - and I'm working in that direction now, creating a toolkit that we are able to communicate that to the public.

Jadwiga Najder
What would you like to see in the coming years happening in the nuclear field and what would you like to contribute to?

Cesare Frepoli
I guess we would continue in our mission to support the nuclear industry, more from the software side. We primarily work on the safety analyses and basically providing the toolkit to develop our new design and also be able to maintain the current fleet operating, because that's the other challenge, particularly in the States. You can see the last few years there are several plants closing - nuclear plants - because they cannot compete in the current energy economy for many reasons. And so, anything we can do to keep those plants alive and then to build the new plants, the new generation of plants, I think is something I would like to continue doing. I'd like to see these new plants, like NuScale or these advanced reactors, to be eventually operating, but even more important is that the current fleet stay functioning and operating. I mean, many were able to demonstrate licensing up to 80 years and it's really a bit disappointing when you see this plant closing for no really authentic reason. I think we need to find a way to keep them up in the energy landscape, otherwise it will be very hard to meet those environmental as a global society we want to reach.

Jadwiga Najder
Yeah, let's wish for the best and thank you very much for the topic.

Cesare Frepoli
Thank you so much, it was a pleasure.

Jadwiga Najder
All the best with the success of your company.

Cesare Frepoli
Thank you so much.

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