Jeremy Gordon

Director

Fluent in Energy

July 26, 2021

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Ep 325: Jeremy Gordon - Director, Fluent in Energy
00:00 / 01:04
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Bret Kugelmass
We're here today on Titans of Nuclear with Jeremy Gordon, who is the Director of Fluent in Energy and a communications professional that I've known for a while in the nuclear industry. Jeremy, welcome.

Jeremy Gordon
Oh, hi, Bret. Thank you so much for having me. It's a real pleasure to be a Titan of Nuclear, this grand project that you've been undertaking for a long time. Great to be part of it now.

Bret Kugelmass
Thank you. Yeah. Well, you won't be a titan until the end of the episode, but we'll assume it goes there.

Jeremy Gordon
If you can't kick me off halfway through.

Bret Kugelmass
I was so excited to have you on the show. I mean, I've known you for years. And I remember we got lunch together in, where was it? Was that in France or?

Jeremy Gordon
No, that was in London.

Bret Kugelmass
But you wouldn't, but we were having escargot or something. You wouldn't eat escargot, is that it?

Jeremy Gordon
It was a really nice French restaurant and they were so proud of their snails. And I was like, no, not interested.

Bret Kugelmass
I wanted to try it. I'd never tried it before. It was like on the menu as their recommended appetizer. And you're like, nope,

Jeremy Gordon
Not interested, no, and the guy was so offended.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay, well, we got past that part and then we got chatting about the nuclear industry. And you were at World Nuclear Association at the time, is that right?

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, that's right. Yeah. World Nuclear Association. I was kind of in a management team working on their harmony program.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay. We'll get to that. But before we get there, I just want to learn a little bit more about you. I'm not even sure I had the full opportunity to learn about your history and this is the most exciting part of this job for me. So tell me, where did you grow up and what got you into energy?

Jeremy Gordon
Okay, well, I mean, I grew up where I live now, which is in the suburbs of London. Fairly ordinary kind of reasonably comfortable life.

Bret Kugelmass
Which suburbs? And and how is London structured in terms of suburbs? Do they have different characters? And is there- is it like the East, the West? How do you break that out for us?

Jeremy Gordon
London is a collection of villages that all grew together, right? They do all- each area has its own character. And I'm kind of out, I live in Kingston and that is on the River Thames, and it grew up around a bridge. So like "x" amount of years ago, it was the only place you could get across the river apart from using a boat, other than London Bridge. It grew up around a kind of a market. And just the next door down the river is Hampton Court Palace and so the Royals were always coming and going, and Kingston grew up around that as kind of a royal market. It's got this kind of nice history, it's kind of leafy. And because the river comes down there, there aren't very many big roads. It didn't really grow up and get over-developed. It's quite obvious, people will say it's kind of a leafy, middle class kind of place. It's got its own character. Everywhere has its own kind of pros and cons.

Bret Kugelmass
The place that you grew up, what do most people end up doing? Do they go to college? Do they- what do they study? Tell me about your friends? Like, where did they all end up?

Jeremy Gordon
Well, they all worked in video games. Actually, most of my friends who I went through college with, we were studying physics, computers and math. That's what we tend to do for our A levels when we were kind of 16, 17, 18. I didn't really want to do math, but they told me I had to do it if I wanted to do physics, which I was interested in. I wanted to be a video game programmer, because I was kind of, I'd become interested in computers and programming at home just messing around. And a few of them managed to get connection to the video game companies. There are quite a few in the southeast of England. They've managed to get themselves jobs on the basis of no experience, just lagging ability. There's kind of- but what we're interested in at that time.

Bret Kugelmass
And then what did you go on to do?

Jeremy Gordon
Well, I started out on that route. I got myself a degree in artificial intelligence, which was, you know, science fiction in those days. Now it's for real, right? But that was kind of '97 to 2000 I did that and it was a bit more rudimentary. But I wanted to work in video games and make the make the enemies more realistic, make them like, hold a grudge against you and make them change tactics, make them kind of play dirty. Things like that.

Bret Kugelmass
And that's kind of the way the industry has been heading, too, at least in terms of visuals and the physics engines behind these behind these games. It's just unbelievable.

Jeremy Gordon
It's all absolutely standard now. Yeah, so I worked in it when that was kind of becoming standard. I wasn't really very good at it, though. Because I mean, it is very, very highly technical. And although I get the broad strokes of it, I understand the reasons why we need the technical aspects, I wasn't particularly good at actually implementing them in like a properly robust sort of way. So that didn't work out for me. And I got basically kicked out. I got sacked from that and then I didn't really know what to do. Then I was super fortunate to get an offer of some casual work on a newspaper on The Daily Mail weekend magazine, which kind of a friend of a friend, the father worked there. He said, Look, we need somebody to fill a gap, one of your friend's interested? And I was like, I'll do it. And that's like a real piece of privilege to get that. But once I was sort of working with words, I found, I'm good at this, I can do this and this kind of makes sense to me. I kind of got on an editorial path after that.

Bret Kugelmass
And what type of stuff do you write about?

Jeremy Gordon
Well, I mean, in those days, it was really simple work doing the tv listings, basically, for this big magazine full of TV listing. It's just copy fitting to be the right length and getting stuff to fit on the page and just basic work like that. But it proved to me that I could do it, and then after that, I still needed a proper job and I didn't know which direction to go. While I was thinking, Okay, let's look at editorial work, I applied for a job. And it said, Assistant Editor on a Technical Title. I was like, Okay, well, let's have a look. I'm a semi-technical guy, let's try it. And it turned out to be Nuclear Engineering International Magazine. And that was when I randomly started working in nuclear.

Bret Kugelmass
So cool. And who owns nuclear- that magazine? What's the structure of that?

Jeremy Gordon
Okay, so that's- it's a very long running publication that's been going like more than 50 years.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, the website looked like it.

Jeremy Gordon
It does a bit. That is just one of 100 magazines owned by the same company. And the way that industry works is that publishing company will turn out those magazines and they have a very kind of predictable base of subscribers. Then after a while, they'll kind of cut costs a little bit, make the company worth more, sell it to somebody else, and then that will repeat. It seems to repeat like every four or five years as a kind of ongoing kind of churn.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's like one of those, they aggregate a bunch of niche audiences that they know will have a high retention rate, but they don't have to compete against the broad public.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, that's right. Well, I enjoyed working there.

Bret Kugelmass
And what exactly do you have for them?

Jeremy Gordon
Well, as the assistant editor, I was support to the editor. There were only two of us producing, I don't know, like 38 pages of pretty dense material about nuclear engineering on a monthly basis. If you think about it, you've got to produce like a page a day. There's more than 1,000 words a day.

Bret Kugelmass
And this was online at the time or as a strictly a print publication?

Jeremy Gordon
It was print, but there was a bit of a website, a little bit neglected, not much to it. Not much of a business around that, like it is now, because this was 2004. We were doing everything. We were writing some features ourselves, writing quite a lot of news in those days, six or eight pages of news a month. But mainly, the content comes from - or it came from - the industry itself and the engineers actually doing the work and the scientists who are out there researching stuff. We would spend a lot of time going to conferences, meeting people hearing what they're doing. And when we found something which we reckon would be interesting for the audience, we would get them to write an article for us and then edit that and put it all together. It was a really nice job to visit power plants, to meet engineers, to see how things work as a very naive, kind of an outsider, without any real knowledge of nuclear, without any deep knowledge of physics, have these guys patiently explaining everything. It was a great place to learn.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. And then, tell me, at what point did you start feeling pretty confident in your understanding of the technology?

Jeremy Gordon
I kind of want to say never. I'm definitely on this curve where you feel quite confident, then you realize you know nothing. I'm still heading down, down further on that. Happy to leave the technical things to the technical experts and always follow their lead. But I mean, it took about two years to have read and written about every topic that was out there. Every country, every aspect of the industry, every part of the fuel cycle, figure out what is a safety issue, what is a real issue, and what's not. It took about two years. A magazine is a great place to do it, because it has an annual kind of editorial cycle. You're guaranteed to look at every single aspect during that. Once I had seen them all two or three times, just liked to know what was going on.

Bret Kugelmass
How long did you do that for? And then when did you switch to your next role?

Jeremy Gordon
It was about two and a half years. And sort of during that time, I made quite a lot of contacts around the place. And I began to also feel that the industry could be doing better in its communication, because I joined as a naive, ordinary person with the same hang ups about nuclear as everybody else, not very confident in it, wanting to be reassured that it's being done properly and I can trust these organizations. And through the course of meeting people and seeing things through my own eyes, I realized, well, actually, this is not the kind of thing we need to be getting rid of this. We need more of this. It actually works pretty good. And what I thought was a big problem, no really, no really big problems. We do know what to do. Well, what's the problem with us doing some more of this? I began to personally become pro-nuclear basically, through that as an education. Among the people that I was kind of making contact with and seeing around with some people from World Nuclear Association, in particular, Ian Hore-Lacey is kind of a legendary guy. I'm not sure if you've spoken to him yet.

Bret Kugelmass
I haven't come across him yet.

Jeremy Gordon
He's probably the most prolific nuclear communicator that has ever lived, or perhaps that ever will.

Bret Kugelmass
Alright, well, I have to make a note to get ahold of him.

Jeremy Gordon
I think you need this guy, you need to go. Because he basically, pretty much single-handedly had written these long information papers about every topic that you can imagine in the nuclear business - every country, every technology, every issue, every single thing - and kept them meticulously up to date, as meticulously as one human can maintain 200 long documents. He's a very knowledgeable guy, and was using that base of information. They were just providing talking points for everybody who's out there who wants to talk about nuclear, so a base of understanding that supports more message-based communication or more story-based. You provide a really good layer of fat for everybody. It's still underlying a lot of what you see out there today, because if you just Google nuclear Bulgaria, because you want to know what's going on in Bulgaria, you'll find it and you'll pretty quickly find the readings and stuff.

Bret Kugelmass
Where's he from? Which country?

Jeremy Gordon
He's Australian.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay. Alright. This is- I know exactly who you are talking about. Okay, now, I thought maybe you're talking about someone from the UK or something. Yeah, I know exactly- he wrote all of those just like knowledge pages that sit on your world nuclear.

Jeremy Gordon
Exactly. He was doing that and he was he was looking for somebody to replace him to kind of take over kind of hard pass on the baton, or what have you. And he thought that I maybe could do that. We were just talking to each other and he realized this guy's pro-nuclear, you can read or write about it without getting the details wrong, so let's give him a try. I ended up working at World Nuclear Association with Ian Hore-Lacey, working on those papers for a little while. That lasted a few months before my role at WNA really began when I was asked to create a new news service for them, and the result of that is World Nuclear News that we set up in 2007.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me about the process. How do you set it up? How do you get your content coming in? What's the technology? Tell me all the challenges.

Jeremy Gordon
Well, what I realized, what I actually realized when I was on the magazine is that there's a huge demand for information about nuclear, especially when anything seems to be perhaps going wrong. People want answers and they want information. At that time, the internet had become decent enough that companies did have websites, and they did have press releases on them and they did have pictures. The information was actually out there and it was possible, I think this is what I realized, it was possible to actually get the information together quite quickly, but sort of nobody was doing that. And it was still, there was no social media for sharing. In those days, they hadn't really begun, Facebook hadn't begun yet. So what I realized is, well if we just make that our job, we find the information about what's happening from the company press releases, the organization press releases, and what we already know - because we're the World Nuclear Association, so we know a lot - and we source pictures and put them on our website, this is going to be valuable, useful, it's going to be important. It's going to be a good service for our members, good service for anyone who happens to be interested in nuclear, with the objective that you could get more people interested in nuclear. And we wanted kind of for it to organically grow. The industry is happy reading about itself. Because you also have to remember that parts of the industry don't understand each other's technology, or what's going on or why in different countries or with different parts of the fuel cycle. They don't necessarily understand each other. We help that understanding and we help people like say, a fellow like you interested in nuclear, but starts out not knowing about it, here's a starting place. You can read what's going on and why in plain English, with links to find out more. That was the crux of World Nuclear News in those days. So we began doing that. It was me and one other guy, Warwick Pipe and we were writing one or two stories a day each day, just absolutely cranking that out on a simple website, really., basically just used the most simple website we could do to actually launch.

Bret Kugelmass
And what about building up a viewer base? How did that happen organically? Or did you have some sort of email lists that came with World Nuclear Association?

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, we have a whole load of contacts that came with the association and had a project to get everybody's business cards to put everybody in.

Bret Kugelmass
How big is that database? How many people would view, how many people did you guys have and how many people would view the content?

Jeremy Gordon
Well, I'm a bit out of date now, because I haven't been there for a few years, but we had like about 25,000 getting the email. It was sort of gradually growing. A few would get the daily email, more get the weekly email. And yeah, you would get tens of thousands perhaps on a really big story. It really went through the roof of Fukushima.. A normal story will have kind of a normal audience, industry audience, but the potential is there to scale to magnificent levels of viewership.

Bret Kugelmass
Yep. And tell me about Fukushima. You know, when you guys first started reporting on it, I still always like to track down like, what did people think at the time? Because in hindsight - and this is from my perspective, I only came to the industry a few years ago - we already knew there were no deaths. It seemed like the industry really fumbled on, instead of using Fukushima as a reason to kind of calm everyone down, it went the opposite direction. What was it like at the time reporting on it?

Jeremy Gordon
It was pretty scary, to be honest. Well, but by that time - let's put it in the context of what I was doing - we launched World Nuclear News in 2007. So by 2011, it was well established, much better website, good brand recognition, and the emails had a following. We had a really good routine. We knew all the original sources to get information all over the world using the WNA resources, the people inside the office, which is super International. We had a Japanese… working there. so we were instantly kind of able to get a handle on what was going on. We were also working on projects to connect the communicators of the world as well, because they're kind of operating on their own, answering questions about different events and things. But WNA has really central position, so it formed a really nice synergy that what we do every day on the news - or what I was doing every day on the news, and they still do now - is here something that's going on, research was how we gather facts together and written down in plain English. It's perfect to support the whole industry. And it means that you know the right contacts all over the world. We really, really relied on that. I mean, I remember the morning of the accident. I was not out of bed, but my wife said, Oh my god, there's been a huge earthquake in Japan. And in the news, natural disaster is always news. Until that day, it has always been good news, because we could always write the nuclear reactors absolutely sailed through this problem. Everyone reported it was fine, really no story, but just put it there, include that in the body of knowledge that they say all through these incidents. And in fact, on the 10th of March, the day before the big earthquake, we'd written a little story like that. There had been an earthquake - I can't remember the magnitude, 4, 5, 6, nothing spectacular - and we'd mentioned Fukushima Daiichi and Daini got through it, no problem. But then that day was different. What did we do? The first thing I did was try to get some data and you always go to the geologic survey websites of the world, especially the US one is really good, just kind of naturally taking a global view of that. And the Japanese one is also very good, so sort of share that information and we tried to do that, say this has definitely happened, this is the location, scan the company websites for whatever status they put out, but it was nothing. But we could see from the pictures on the TV it was super serious, so just hurried in to the office and we were working on gathering the information. But it wasn't until like 11, 11:30 in the morning that we realized the scale of it, what had truly happened. And I'll always remember this moment where we're hearing that the diesels at the plant, they're not working. Well, we've heard before occasionally a diesel won't start. They've got like eight diesels or something. It's happened before that one of them didn't start and everyone, it's not supposed to happen. That's a problem, need to look into that and why. That's not really a problem, because you don't need every single one. And then we hear, no, actually none of them are working. We're looking at each other, what on earth can cause that? How could none of them be working? This is just like, our jaws dropped. That moment when we realized the trouble we were in, so we swung into a kind of emergency response configuration at that time. Yeah, it was really a blood running cold moment, especially because the realization was that this had all occurred hours ago, and we've only just figured it out.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. And then even though it still did take three days until there was significant core damage or until the roof blew off, right?

Jeremy Gordon
It was a good 24 hours, at least before Unit 1 had that explosion. And then it just kept rumbling on for- yeah, yeah, it got worse every day for a week, basically. It was worse and worse and worse.

Bret Kugelmass
And the big news companies like CNN, did they reach out to you guys to source people? They've got nuclear people on?

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, they did. The phones were going absolutely mental. I was pretty much the press officer at that time, as well, which worked nicely with my role on the news, because generally, whatever issue would come up, I will have already looked at it and have kind of an idea of, an understanding of it. And journalists don't generally want a comment from somebody like the WNA, because it's obviously a promotional organization. It's not directly involved in whatever issue.

Bret Kugelmass
Right, they probably just want you to route them to somebody else.

Jeremy Gordon
They want some context, or to get a bit closer to an original source. It was quite a good role as press officer to help them understand what's really happening, what's real, what's not for real. That was really busy. And Ian Hore-Lacey did like 200 interviews literally in two days, it was absolutely non-stop. We absolutely were like crazy. It's kind of like a war effort to keep up with the information. What worked really, really well for us is that we were very well-practiced in our communication, because we were a news organization publishing every day. We had in-house resources who understood how power plants work and can help us read Japanese. And we had the context all over the world, particularly in the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, which is like the Japanese version of NEI. It was really them that had the best information on the status. We were relaying their information and trying to contextualize it, trying to keep up with that most of the time.

Bret Kugelmass
What about like technical experts? Did you guys hunt down any boiling water reactor experts? It was a boiling water reactor, right, and does that use GE's design?

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, it was a GE design boiling water reactor. It doesn't matter like that much. For our point of view, it didn't matter that much. But one of the first things I did after the explosion, the first explosion, I watched that from my dining room table. Uh, okay, I'm coming into the office. We had gone to bed the night before thinking, Okay, it's probably going to be over in the morning. But then obviously, it was the opposite. Going into London on the train, I just rang up everybody I knew who knew about BWRs.

Bret Kugelmass
I feel like the most important thing to communicate to the world in that moment is that like, Hey, the explosion was not a nuclear explosion, it was a hydrogen explosion, right? I mean, that matters, right? And that's, I think people were probably thinking at the time, Chernobyl. And that was more of a nuclear slash steam explosion that blew apart the reactor and so it's probably important to communicate to people that that can't happen in a boiling water reactor and that it's just some other chemical explosion that is just a result of the accident sequence, but isn't one that would project a nuclear material outward, like the Chernobyl situation would.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, right. I mean, some people might actually be concerned that it's like a nuclear explosion.

Bret Kugelmass
Right, that's what's important to communicate

Jeremy Gordon
That's what's important to communicate. Number one, rule that out. Number two, say, Yeah, this is a hydrogen explosion. And we were very fortunate in the UK. It just so happened that Malcolm Grimston, who I think you've spoken to.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, yeah. Guy had a huge influence on me.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah. He was live on TV on Sky News at that moment and I cut to him and go, Well, Mr. Grimston, what do you make of this? And straight off he said, This is a hydrogen explosion. This is part of- this is an implication of damage to the reactor core, but this is not the reactor core exploding and calmed the situation down slightly.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, thank God for that guy.

Jeremy Gordon
I mean, the general feeling I had was that any radiological release was just extremely bad news, from a PR point of view. That's a rubicon that you cross. If you have to vent the reactor-

Bret Kugelmass
Isn't that the problem with the industry overall? That's how we've indoctrinated the world, like to be afraid of nuclear by treating it as if any radiological release is a hazard. Because every single time I breathe, I'm breathing out 1 billion - 1 billion - radioactive carbon-14 atoms. It's like, the potassium in my body, every person I walked near, 500 gamma rays per second, literally just by walking by somebody. Isn't that the problem that we have to figure out a way to communicate that magnitude matters? Quantity of toxin matters. It's like, people can see it in their everyday life. You don't hold your mouth up to an exhaust pipe, because you know that'll cause problems. When you walk by one, you kind of hold the nose a little bit, because you're a little further away, and it's a little bit more dilute. And then if you're a mile away from the closest car, you don't worry about the exhaust pipe. Just because- you're still breathing in atoms from it, don't get me wrong.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, it still reaches you. Yeah, I mean, you've explained it really well. I think it is a kind of internalized radiophobia. Actually internalize that ourselves and that is the way I saw it. If that happens, this event is of a completely different character.

Bret Kugelmass
In terms of psychiatric perception.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, the seriousness of it just goes way up.

Bret Kugelmass
Okay. Then, alright, so that's the big event, obviously. Were there any other big events or any other like really even newsworthy things that have happened since that, kind of in this position that you've seen people kind of really gravitate on towards anything with Vogtle or anything else that people really drew their attention or interesting to the to the industry? Or is that it?

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, well, that is the big, big news event of all. From our sort of global perspective, we weren't particularly sort of invested in the story of Vogtle or the saga of Hinckley or of Olkiluoto. I mean, these are all sort of, let's say bad news stories, unfortunately. We didn't get overly invested in those. We just would continue to cover and to monitor them

Bret Kugelmass
Any good news stories? Any new technologies that came out of China, Russia, or anything like that that was worth-

Jeremy Gordon
Well, the big sort of development is the small reactors, isn't it. That kind of- we saw kind of a, there was a swelling of interest around thorium and there's the whole idea that you can do nuclear in a better way. Thorium, you know, is a bit of a red herring, isn't it?

Bret Kugelmass
I think the whole concept of doing nuclear in a better way is a bit of a red herring, because what it does is it reinforces this underlying negative sentiment towards the old way of doing things. But it's like, the old way of doing things was so great. I keep coming back to 1968 to 1973 in America. We built 50 plants that were the cheapest, fastest, cleanest source of power the world has ever seen. And that was like the old way, that was when everything was the first-of-a-kind. And I hate how we disparage these concepts now, because we've proven that nuclear can rise to the global scale that we needed to for energy prosperity, for climate reasons, for air pollution, for water. We have the historical evidence, and yet we continue to say, Oh, no, it has to be some like, fundamentally new way if it's going to work.

Jeremy Gordon
Well, I mean, people inherently like new things, don't they. Anything that has a new label on it, it's automatically interesting. And it's a natural feature of planet Earth that new young things usually are better than what they replaced. This is what we see all the time. It's natural to think something new is going to be better. But I think the other the other flip side is it comes back to the big communication problem, doesn't it? The industry has often, let's just say the whole sector, has let its reputation become so tarnished. That it as it is, even it is not very happy with itself.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, exactly. I know, it's so funny because, over the years, I've started to criticize the industry more and more. And that's only because the industry rewards me for doing so. They keep telling me, Yes. Tell us, tell us. It's like some punishment. Yes, you're right. Like, tell us we're bad, so we can rally up the internal support to make the changes that we need. Shame us, they tell me to shame them.

Jeremy Gordon
That's, I mean, that's so it. I'm coming to believe that the industry can only really be helped by people who are actually coming from the outside perspective. It's a difficult life for those people, to not be accepted by industry. Probably, they don't have a position where they can be funded by it. They're dedicating their time to try to help it. Always being rejected. It's a nightmare. There's a few of us in this sort of position.

Bret Kugelmass
There are like three or four or five organizations just as you described. But it's so funny, because they're very warmly received by individuals throughout the industry, individuals in high places of power as well, like in social scenes, and just like, informally, very high, highly praised. People are very grateful for what they're doing. But the formal structures in place, it's like, yeah, like a big utility can't fund an organization that is criticizing that big utility.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, they have to beg for money and exists on a shoestring, permanently on the edge of actually closing down. We see people have to quit what they're doing to just take a regular job or something.

Bret Kugelmass
Some remain gluttons for punishment. Why do you think that is? And let me ask you, in your context, as well. You kind of got- haphazardly found the industry and it's not- Oh, yeah, it's not always the friendliest thing to mention amongst your social circles and stuff. How come? How come you stuck with it all these years? You could have written technically about anything. How come you stayed with the nuclear industry?

Jeremy Gordon
I really found it very rewarding, and constantly interesting. There are so many unsolved challenges. I really had a good time working on the magazine. There was a lot of travel and seeing stuff. There's a lot of learning all the time and working at WNA was the same. It was super rewarding. It's really just privileged and lucky to travel a lot. Meet tons of amazing people, so much smarter than me, and actually have a role in all that somewhere along the line. Yeah. So I kind of stuck with it. Um, but I mean, let's be quite honest, when it came time for me to leave WNA, after 12 years, I was looking around for other jobs and I just couldn't find one. Couldn't find one in industry that suited me. I couldn't find a part of the industry that wanted what I had.

Bret Kugelmass
Within the nuclear industry?

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, within the actual sort of nuclear industry.

Bret Kugelmass
But you wanted to stick with it, because you could have easily gotten a job outside the nuclear industry.

Jeremy Gordon
I guess. I mean, it's what I know. I've got 12 years of this unique kind of knowledge. There are not many people who understand nuclear well enough to get the details right, and can actually communicate well. I'm one of them. So surely, surely, there's a role for me here. But I couldn't find one, so I had to create one by starting my own business. A business of being me, called Fluent in Energy, where you could hire me to help your nuclear company to get better at communication.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me about some of the clients - I mean, you don't have to give names - but like some of the projects you've involved in, the types of clients.

Jeremy Gordon
Well, I'm still finding my feet, because I started the company, like I said, literally because I didn't know what else to do. Didn't know what other roles to give myself. I can offer basic communication services like interviewing, sort of thought leadership, blogging, and social media and things like that. I've been doing that for certain clients to help them up their game. And most of those are the ones who generally recognize nuclear must need more in communication. Then they recognize that, I recognize that. We kind of partner to try to improve things. That's been okay. Yeah, that's basically paid the rent. I think what I'm going to kind of pivot towards is actually training, sort of a training offer to nuclear companies who want to do more in communication, and they aim for the larger ones. And my kind of approach is that I really think the individual humans of the nuclear sector need to level up and become better communicators themselves.

Bret Kugelmass
I couldn't agree more. I chat with Chris Keefer a lot, who's got that Decouple podcast. Brilliant guy, also from outside the industry.

Jeremy Gordon
Another one.

Bret Kugelmass
Another one. I mean, it's just like listening to him is just such a breath of fresh air and hearing him interview. He does the interviews I want to do and listening to him is like, literally the greatest entertainment. Him and I chat a little bit about, Okay, well, how can we rally up the human capital that the industry has? Because it's not a small industry, right? It's 10% of global electricity. There are hundreds of power plants operating around the world, each that have - not exactly, but close to - 1,000 people. You're just talking about a million people that you can put to work.

Jeremy Gordon
A million people. And they're smart people, right?

Bret Kugelmass
Brilliant.

Jeremy Gordon
All of them.

Bret Kugelmass
Hardworking, dedicated. Everyone that I've met in nuclear industry, whether or not I think they've got all the facts, right, or the kind of the incentives of their organization are aligned with future growth of the industry, the people themselves - and that's been the most rewarding part about this job as well - the people themselves are amazing. I could have a beer with any of them, talk with any of them for hours. They're good people, like good people, every single one I met.

Jeremy Gordon
They are genuine, aren't they? There were no kind of chances and liars or dishonorable people. I don't meet them anyway. These are excellent people. They should be brilliant spokespersons. Obviously, not all of them. Not everybody is cut out for that. But among that million, I'm sure that by getting them to represent nuclear, like in a human way with the human face as themselves with the same values and daily concerns as anybody else, I'm sure that can help to build support. And I think it's super important, because nuclear is extremely resource efficient, isn't it? That's one of the big advantages. But the disadvantage of that is that it's actually kind of a small industry, although it's 10% of global electricity. It's a lot smaller than you might think that.

Bret Kugelmass
The relative proportion of people. Yeah, its greatest strength is one of its greatest weaknesses.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah. Nuclear's just like that all the way, isn't it? Everything you think is big turns out to be small. It's always a challenge to communicate. I mean, what I always say, this factoid, to try to prove my point, which is that the annual consumption of uranium is like 65,000 tons. That will fit on one ship, one Panamax ship. Not even the big ship by today's standards. You've got one ship, compare that to the oil tankers in the world.

Bret Kugelmass
Oh, you're saying the oversight is the whole world's consumption on an annual basis.

Jeremy Gordon
All that nuclear fuel comes from 65,000 tons of uranium, and it's all one ship. It's so- the crew on that ship really needs to start talking about what they're doing. Otherwise, who's gonna even know they exist? These days, you have to communicate continuously, otherwise, you don't exist in the modern world.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I mean, it would be awesome if you could get a gig with one of these big utilities that has thousands of workers and literally figure out a way to just kind of scale their voices. Like hold lectures and seminars and develop educational materials, all to be able to enable them to make their voice heard in the public sphere, because it doesn't take much. If you had even 1,000 people consistently writing in to politicians consistently, writing into journalists, and just saying- 1,000 people is not that much, but it can appear very large. I mean, the anti-nuclear people, they're really only like five of them. I can count them on my hands, and yet they're able to have this huge voice. You think if you said 1,000 actual nuclear industry workers to work socially, that you'd wield just tremendous power. You'd think that their parent organization would have an incentive in enabling them to do so.

Jeremy Gordon
You'd think so. There's so much that organizations can do to just build alliances outside the nuclear sector, build alliances with other organizations out there in your region, which are not connected with energy, which don't ever think about nuclear power, but they have some kind of value alignment, or they're working on or are concerned with similar sorts of social issues. Just invest in that. Turn up, turn up and make friends with people. It's got to do it. As well as like basic things like, Why can power plants not invest to get every child in any given country to visit a nuclear power plant at least once?

Bret Kugelmass
They used to and then they stopped. I mean, it drives me absolutely insane. It's like, in France and Switzerland, I heard it used to be part of the school program is you take the school bus full of children to the local nuclear plant, you learn about energy, and then people grow up to love it. They stopped doing that. I don't know, they probably can't do it in the US, because of the security regulations are just absolutely out of control. They make no sense. I mean, even for me, it takes me an hour to get past - or more - to get past security and to get into a nuclear facility. Imagine doing that with a school bus full of children. It would just be like a logistical nightmare.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, I mean, Russia has a good example. Some of their plants are super, super remote, even by their standards. Something that they've done is create visitor centers in the regional capitals. It's sort of like a store and they're coming into a mall or something, and you go there. There are really exciting presenters who tell you about energy. That's a great day out for school. But I mean, it's investment.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it is investment.

Jeremy Gordon
You have to take it seriously and put money into it. But if you don't do that, how are you going to keep the social licence?

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, I know. That's absolutely right. And it just also drives me crazy that the leadership of these organizations doesn't realize how much money you have and should be putting into marketing and communication. I mean, I don't know if this is true across the entire utility sector, maybe, maybe not. But in the technology sector and products, it's like 20%, 30% of your budget is going to marketing. That should be the industry standard.

Jeremy Gordon
They don't have, they don't even have our problems of all the imagery. Then you have problems that people want their stuff already.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. And then you hear the nuclear people complaining about, Oh, well, we don't have a social license. And that it's like-

Jeremy Gordon
You know, I wonder why. I just wish we could take it as seriously as the operating licenses. It's absolutely right. If you don't have competence and the technical ability, your operating license is a risk. So you've got to- and they will correctly take that away from you if you're not safe enough. That's absolutely right. And so your social license is decaying continuously if you're not building relationships, and maintaining, earning the trust that you need. It needs a serious program of investment. I don't know why that's hard to understand.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah. As I'm musing with you, I realize that I'm also afraid of what might happen if they do do that, because I also think that the nuclear industry itself is to blame for the radiophobia. And so it's like, if they set up all these information centers and all they do is talk about how microscopic amount of radiation is the worst thing in the world, then it might have the opposite effect that we want.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeah, they could happen. Let's not rush too quickly to do that, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I've heard stories about some newcomer countries where they launch an education campaign, and it's all about radiation. They just go to people who never thought about nuclear before in their lives and they say, Look, don't worry, radiation is not that bad. We're only gonna let a little bit of it out.

Bret Kugelmass
Yeah, it's so funny. This reminds me of- and even big, modern successful companies make these classic mistakes. There was a Facebook ad, a Facebook ad that was telling- they were spending their dollars, nationwide ad talking about how much they value election security, and how safe they're going to make their systems for election security. And I'm like, you guys are idiots. All you're doing- like I understand that is a problem, you got brought in front of Congress for that, and yes, you're wrong for letting that happen. But by creating a marketing campaign that says you're going to solve it, all you did was just educate all of the people who weren't reading the news vociferously that you are at blame for election security issues. You're literally advertising your greatest weaknesses.

Jeremy Gordon
Apparently there's a problem with security. I wasn't aware before. Thank you for the information. In the nuclear example, I think some great research from Breakthrough Institute was done a few months ago and they basically were saying that in most nuclear new build projects, the concerns of local people are not radiation or safety or nuclear scare stories. They're just worried that our local official is going to be corrupt. Can I trust the government to be my best? Which is the same stuff as any infrastructure project.

Bret Kugelmass
Any. Exactly, yeah. Oh, it's so funny. I was just - who was I talking to - but we were talking about this - oh, project finance people - we were talking about the challenges with siting and like getting local community buy-in. They're telling me the horror stories around wind and solar, just dealing with the local community to get buy-in to place their facilities, and like what a nightmare it was and how it killed projects, and how there was a concerted effort, not just amongst the local people, but then the state legislators to block solar and wind projects. I'm like, Oh, my God, nuclear actually isn't special in that way. You're gonna run into that forever.

Jeremy Gordon
It seems like there's kind of a threshold. Once you go over that, they stop being against you, unless they realize that, unless they realize the benefits.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, we're running out of time, so I want to let you have last word. Anything that you care to share with our audience about your vision for the future of industry, maybe?

Jeremy Gordon
As a vision for the future of the industry, it really is a mixed picture. We never really know what's going to happen with the large scale technology that we have now, these large reactors, but the potential for- there's excitement around offshore deployment of SMRs. I could really see that that could-

Bret Kugelmass
What do you mean by offshore?

Jeremy Gordon
Putting small reactors on seagoing vessels.

Bret Kugelmass
Literally offshore, not just another country. You mean like in the water.

Jeremy Gordon
Yeha, actually in the water. I mean, that seems to be something with the potential to really scale. Really, really scale. A potential game changer. I mean, not to highlight that technology as my very favorite or something like that, but that seems to be the main possibility for nuclear to actually get more than the current 10% for electricity, of global electricity, which, let's remember is only like 5% of global energy. I think the story of nuclear power is really a massive opportunity missed. I hope some of the opportunities coming, we'll be able to seize them and make a difference. Something that I keep in mind is, if my work helps one reactor operate for one more year, that more than makes up any carbon I emit in my whole life. That's such a huge contribution. The gains from the work we're doing trying to help nuclear are ginormous. I encourage everybody else, keep going. Don't give up.

Bret Kugelmass
Well, Jeremy Gordon, thank you so much for your time today. Always a pleasure talking and the next time that we meet in person, you have to eat escargot with me.

Jeremy Gordon
Okay, alright, I promise. Thanks. Thanks for the conversation, Bret. It's been great.

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