Arun Khuttan, Sophie Zienkiewicz, Neil Calder

COP26 Delivery Team

Net Zero Needs Nuclear

June 16, 2021

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Ep 316: Arun Khuttan, Sophie Zienkiewicz, Neil Calder - Net Zero Needs Nuclear COP26 Team
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Jadwiga Najder
Hello, everybody. Today, it's the Titans of Nuclear show. I'm very happy to have three brilliant people with me who are working on a nuclear campaign and are based in the UK, but actually working on the tasks that will benefit all the nuclear community globally. We have Arun Khuttan, the Engineer of Magnox Limited with us. Also, Sophie Zienkiewicz, the Business Insight Advisor at the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Neil Calder, Senior Consultant at Hydrock. Hello.

Arun Khuttan
Hello.

Sophie Zienkiewicz
Hi.

Jadwiga Najder
Today, we are not going to talk about your professional career, but about the things that you are doing in your free time. More precisely, I'm talking about the Net Zero Needs Nuclear campaign that is preparing the nuclear community for the COP conference, and I guess also the COP conference to receive the nuclear community. This topic is very important for me, as well, as I had the chance to participate in two conferences of COP myself and do some advocacy work there. So, question number one would be to state the basics, what is COP? And is there anything special about the COP26 that is going to happen this year?

Arun Khuttan
Yeah, absolutely. I can cover a little bit of the intro of COP and some of the history. There is a lot of history to COP, everything from World Environment Day in the 70s all the way through to the early 90s when these COPs were initially set up. It's set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC - nice big acronym to get us started. They've brought together so many countries to make agreements and to agree a way forward on climate change. It really is something quite spectacular and we're coming up to the 26th COP, which is quite unbelievable when you say that we we've recognized the issues around climate change for at least 26 years. We know that COP25 happened a couple of years ago now in Madrid and that was originally moved from Chile. A lot of last minute things going, on a lot of talks going on, but unfortunately, it didn't quite deliver on what we wanted from a climate perspective, nationally determined contributions, NDCs, they're called, and a lot of government agreements, unfortunately. So, that puts even more pressure onto this next COP being hosted in Glasgow this year in November, and a real opportunity to make positive change and get talks going in a positive direction. And it's five years on since it's going to be the fifth COP after COP21 out in Paris, where we know that the really landmark agreements took place, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is the kind of next big phase and milestone where we can assess how we're doing. And unfortunately, nuclear hasn't always had a big role at COP. For example, I think maybe 20 to 30 representatives from the nuclear arena attend out of 30,000 people, 30,000 people attending and this tiny little fraction are talking about nuclear. So, we're really keen to get that nuclear voice up and hopefully we can talk to you more about how we're planning to do that. That's hopefully a little intro and we can get into the meat of it.

Jadwiga Najder
Thanks a lot for this answer, Arun. So, what is actually the Net Zero Needs Nuclear campaign? Who is behind this campaign, first of all?

Neil Calder
I can pick up on that. This is something that we, as a team, the COP26 delivery team representing the Nuclear Institute YGN. So, we started this back in February of this year, 2021 and really, we thought it was vital to generate momentum ahead of COP26. We got together and we set out some objectives for this Net Zero Needs Nuclear campaign where we really wanted to get the discussion going, basically, to raise awareness and gather support, raise awareness of the critical role of nuclear will play in net zero. And fundamentally, what we wanted to do is to really make an impact and influence, not just individuals, but the policymakers, international decision makers. So, we launched this campaign and we found it upon two main components. First of all, we thought we had to provide an actual justification for what we're saying about Net Zero Needs Nuclear, so we set out to develop a position paper, which basically breaks down, scientifically, why net zero needs nuclear. And also, this acts as something tangible that we can present to policymakers, and with our fundamental ask, both at the event, at COP26 and also in the build up during this campaign. We had the position paper, which we actually - I should say, we developed that alongside Nuclear for Climate, who, if you're not aware already, is a grassroots initiative which represents over 150 organizations and have done position papers in the past for previous COPs, as I'm sure you're aware - and so, was in collaboration with their nuclear player. And then another hand of the- you've got the position paper on one side, and we thought it was critical also to have what we call a call to action, or a petition. That was just a way of really gathering momentum and being able to call to action to people, mobilize the masses and be able to show an actual tangible number of people that are supporting our cause and our campaign. That way, we could really generate some more impact when we're going to these policymakers at COP26 and beyond. Those are the two main components. I guess I should probably touch on, they're both centered around a key ask that we have. I can read that out. The ask at the center of the position paper, and the petitioners: We're calling on all negotiators and policymakers who are involved with COP26 to take a scientific and technology-neutral approach to energy policy and financing that can promote sustainable collaboration between nuclear and renewables. Really, what we're getting at there, fundamentally, is we want nuclear to be recognized as a sustainable energy source, and relatively calling for the framework that allows all clean energy technologies to collaborate and give equal footing to these technologies, and really kind of drive forward that high level policy and finance that can allow that to happen and the false science and not kind of ideological way of thinking. That's really fundamentally what our campaign is centered around, but we've got a lot of other supporting activities, which we can go on to explain as well.

Jadwiga Najder
It's very interesting, what you're saying about the position paper. And I agree with this totally, that the problem with nuclear at COP is that we never asked for special privileges. We just want that this source of energy is treated equally as it deserves, while this never took place, but by now. And I can say from my perspective, as a former participant of COP, people are just surprised to see us there. They do not see any relation between us and the objectives of COP.

Neil Calder
Yeah, I think that's critical to not just the campaign, but everything we do in any industry is just to raise that awareness and get people talking. The public, and obviously the people that have the ability to make the international decisions, the national decisions, but just the public to be aware that nuclear is a clean energy technology. It's just step one.

Arun Khuttan
And just to jump in, if that's okay, really quickly. I think that kind of neutrality approach is so important. And a lot of people will be very pro renewables or pro a specific energy type, but we're just trying to level that playing field. People will say that they have an inclusive approach, but we really want to put that into practice and see that in action, because they'll say they'll have an inclusive approach, but then not mention nuclear. So, we want to start help to try and translate that.

Jadwiga Najder
Great. One other question here, the campaign is targeted mostly for the general public, mostly for the industry, or for everybody who was able to reach us?

Neil Calder
Basically, when we set up over the campaign, it was targeted that everyone really, to try and gather that general awareness. One thing we're key to include in the messages, it is not our campaign, this is not a campaign that - yeah, we are driving it - but we want people to take it on board themselves and make it their own. And it's all based around the hashtag #netzeroneedsnuclear. It's just getting that collective message, really. Within the industry, obviously, we're going to get more immediate traction, but we want it to go wider than that. We want the general public to pick up and really get that momentum going.

Jadwiga Najder
Cool. And from what I know, also, you took as one of the objectives to reach outside of our nuclear bubble and get in contact with other groups, other organizations that are planning to come to COP and have some response from them, possibly a collaboration. What was their response? How did they react to this kind of opportunity that you propose to them?

Neil Calder
We've set out basically, like you say, we've got a kind of strategy of how we're contacting NGOs and civil societies, because one thing I think a lot of people aren't aware, is that at COP, at least maybe within our industry, COP's not just about energy production. That's actually a relatively small piece of the pie when you're looking at everything. You've got representation from across all industries, and not even just industries, you've got indigenous peoples, you've got gender groups and that we've got parallels with a lot of these groups as well. It's contacting these wider groups and making that first, initial contact and gauging the discussion. We're a relatively early stage in that respect, with contacting these wider groups. We focused initially on looking at these NGOs and civil societies that are either pro-nuclear, or are sustainable energy based. We made initial contact with them, including a lot of other clean energy technologies, various renewables groups and other clean energy technology groups. And we've had quite a mixed response. I think the key is, obviously, you need to kind of tailor your messaging and and how you communicate and what you're communicating, depending on the group, obviously. It's been an interesting process. But we have had quite a fair level of engagement with some wider industry groups, which we can go on to explain with some collaborative events in the build up. But with regards to collaborating at COP26, there's obviously been this sort of uncertainty over the past several months and beyond, given the corporate situation that Hong Kong was going to look. So, it was quite difficult to gauge who's going to be going to the event and who's gonna be able to travel, but it's definitely something that we've planned a strategy for. Once we get the green light of how it's going to look, and who's going to be there, then we're going to really push to communicate with these wider groups.

Sophie Zienkiewicz
We've been doing a lot, actually, in terms of considering the people that we want to reach out to, because we know that there are so many enthusiastic groups, organizations, individuals, and actually, it's the volunteer base that is really driving this campaign for us. They have been absolutely incredible. We've reached out to different people, obviously, the YGN network, the Young Generation series of volunteers. We've also got the Friends of Nuclear Energy that we're doing a lot of partnership work with, but then people that Neil was mentioning outside of the sector, the Young Energy Professionals, the YEP group, that we're doing a couple of webinars with. The response to that sort of thing has just been really overwhelming, actually. And it's quite humbling to work on a campaign where people say, Actually, yeah, I really do want to be a part of that. It's really quite exciting, because it drives you forward. And I think, for me, the biggest learning over the past couple of months, since we started in September 2020, has just been the amount of people that say yes and they go, Actually, I'm prepared to listen. I've personally been really quite humbled and surprised about that, and that volunteer base is what really drives us.

Jadwiga Najder
From what I see, I see here three young professionals. Probably you are like around 30, like me. It makes me think, does the age play a big role in this? Did you decide to only accept the young people because of something? Or is there any other reason why these are young professionals who are driving this campaign of awareness about COP?

Sophie Zienkiewicz
Yeah, good question. In terms of the delivery team, there are nine of us and we do tend to fall into that younger age range category. We're an international team, as well, I think that's important to highlight. We were talking about at the beginning, this is very much a global campaign. But specifically, I think the strength of this has been that sort of injection of energy and passion, enthusiasm, because we actually feel quite liberated by what we're able to do with this. I think, traditionally, the Secretary has been quite nervous about talking out and speaking out and actually taking a stand on some things. We've kind of come along, and as this group have actually said, Well, no, we don't think that's right. We do want to have opinions. And we do think that our collaborative approach has really kind of step changed how people view us. We've had some really great responses. I think part of that, as well - maybe the others would agree - is that we've taken so much pride in having an opinion and making a stand for it. That's something that's quite different and hasn't necessarily happened in the past. Although, we are collectively a younger group of people, and that does set us apart, and it kind of opens a couple of doors, which has always been quite handy to us, I don't think it's exclusive, because we want this- our biggest message is collaboration. So, although it's helpful, I think that's the key message that we want to take away. We want to work with anyone and everyone, really.

Jadwiga Najder
Yes, I imagine that more experienced professionals and people who are working for a longer time for this kind of campaigns or projects are probably still pretty supportive. And even though they don't do the hands on work as you do, they can still share their experience. Is that right?

Sophie Zienkiewicz
Oh, that's so true. Yes, oh completely. We've had so many great conversations with so many different kind of sponsors. The information that we've learned in experience is, just over the past couple of months, the people that we've been able to chat to you has just been absolutely inspiring. I think that's another key message that we're keen to really push for, is that there is such a wealth of knowledge in the sector. If we are able to act outside of the normal sphere of nuclear influence and project people's messages that they might not feel comfortable doing, that they might not be able to, then that's what we really, I think that's our USP in a way that we're able to do that in a slightly different way to normal. The experience of the sector is unparalleled, and incredibly inspiring, and to funnel those messages through a slightly different lens, it's really powerful.

Jadwiga Najder
Great. From what I see, this campaign sounds like a lot of work. I am really impressed by how many different tasks you're doing, how many different groups you're reaching out to, and how many people you actually represent. This is the whole nuclear community. I'm wondering, your colleagues are focused on their professional job, only they are thinking about making career, getting promoted, and so on. What is your motivation of getting involved in such an absorbing project? There must be some reason to it.

Arun Khuttan
Yeah, it's a really good question, like where does that motivation come from to do this? And it is all voluntary on top of our day jobs. I mean, for me, personally, my parents are from India and I've seen the energy poverty that they grew up in when I've gone back and visited. I've, I've kind of experienced almost, not quite firsthand, but I've definitely seen I've been up front being in these villages that my parents grew up in and over there like years of my childhood when I would visit I could see them going from like having no sanitation, very poor services, no electricity, and all this growth in the space of a few years that went from almost nothing to having fridges and motorbikes and fans. In an incredibly hot country, that drastically improves your quality of life. I think we really take for granted how much of an effect that has, not just on your quality of life, but your chances of survival and mortality. We sometimes talk about climate change as this huge thing, but global development and clean global development is so important. That's one thing that has driven me a lot. From my early uni days, I was walking around with a wind turbine t-shirt and thinking that I'd be spending my years designing wind turbines and maximizing their output. But I learned about nuclear energy and I was like, we need to be doing this. Why aren't we throwing everything at this, because this solves the abundance problem and the carbon problem? You get that global development and really, you can start to see some of the impacts it has in developing countries. I sometimes think I'm not spending enough time on this, because the impacts and the outputs are so potentially huge, that I find anybody who's not spending time on this crazy now, because once you really get into it, and you learn about it, you're like, why is everybody not focused on this and doing everything they can to make it happen?

Sophie Zienkiewicz
Yeah, I completely agree with that. It's the best part about this group and the reason why we gel so much, and why we're trying to reach out and enthuse so many more people is that we're all fundamentally environmentalist first. We all believe, to our core, that saving the planet, or being a part of saving the planet, because no one person is going to do it. The point is that we need to do it together. But being a part of that and being this environmentalist first, and understanding that nuclear energy is one of the solutions to that is what drives us forward. That kind of fundamental form of environmentalism, sustainability, eco consciousness is what binds us all together as a group I think that's probably why I got involved, but the reasons, apart from those, as to why I stay is the people that are involved in this and the interactions that we've had. Like Arun was saying, everyone we talk to kind of goes, Oh, my goodness, you guys actually really believe this, don't you? And I think they're always surprised because they think, Oh, that is their day job, it's just an extension. But actually, when you talk to us, and we talk to other people, you really get that sense of enthusiasm. It's something greater than ourselves and we're working to this higher mission. It sounds a bit, maybe it sounds a bit preachy, but I think we all really, really believe that. So, to be able to engage with people and bring them on our journey, to whatever degree, that's incredibly powerful. I think that's probably the reason why I stay.

Jadwiga Najder
That's great.

Arun Khuttan
I think there's an extra bit there around, we're all kind of relatively young, we're part of the young generation at work. We've seen over the last few years, these groups coming out like Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion, and there is a large youth movement from there that are stating the problems that we need to take action. Unfortunately, I think that they've almost stalled and they're stuck on this take action and change society, but we really want to push the conversation to the next step. How do we begin to create change and what do we do exactly? And trying to make progress like solution driven progress. I think, as a youth group, we can we can really bring that to the table, we are passionate about what we want to do, but also, we've studied and are working in this industry, this incredible industry that that provides a lot of these solutions, and we just need to get that message out there.

Jadwiga Najder
Yeah, that's very important. When you're talking about the Fridays for Future and all these recent events, I think the problem is that, even though people believe in nuclear energy and understanding that this is the future, they don't see their representation in there. I mean, me personally, I tried to represent nuclear once in such a march and I got kicked out. Really, with police and stuff, but I already have my community around me. It does not make me doubt in what I believe. But I imagine that, for many people, they really need to have this community around them to kind of be able to believe together in the solution. You're creating this and I think the more we are pushing on having this representation of young people who are having these ideas and sharing them together, this will actually help our colleagues, people who somehow secretly also understand our beliefs, to be a little bit encouraged to get engaged as well.

Sophie Zienkiewicz
I love that, and I completely, completely agree with you. I'm really new to the sector, maybe two, three years, so quite fresh. I think the biggest observation that I would probably make is around the fact that you've got so many enthusiastic people within it. But for some reason, we haven't flipped the mirror, and we haven't gone, Okay, we're ready for you world, come at us, we'll show you what we've got. I think that's really missing. I really recommend watching a talk, I imagine it's on YouTube, a YGN speaking competition talk given by Alan Simpson. It's all about humanizing nuclear, and involving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, and how we can, or how we need to be - it's not even a can, it's how we need to be - showing up for the world. We need to be standing for something greater, and actually contributing and working together, reaching outside of our sector pushing ourselves, because, again, just an observation, but it is quite - and then maybe this is not necessarily a controversial statement - but it is quite insular. We do all talk to each other, a lot more than we do talk to the outside world. And that's not everyone, and it's changing. But I think that's a real asset of this campaign, is that we are uniting around COP. There's a greater message that everyone can get behind, and we're taking steps to get involved and sharing a lot of social media elements on our website, the Net Zero Needs Nuclear website. We're really asking people to go out and own that campaign for themselves and for their organizations and their industries. I think one of our biggest dreams would be to have a renewables organization with their own social media frames and their hashtags and just showing us that they want us to be there, I think, because we want to be there, we just need to convince others.

Jadwiga Najder
Yeah, because in the end, we should have the same objective, not follow our interests. So, there is COP. COP is aiming at solving the problem of climate change, or at least mitigating it as much as possible. However, many groups are focusing on pushing their interests through, instead of really discussing the solution that is the most optimal. So, I totally agree with you that this kind of thing could be really, really amazing for the future. And about the owning of the campaign by each and every one of us, I really, really loved this idea of the posts that you can post on LinkedIn with the frame that you prepared, and being able to write the quotes from the position paper or just something that you believe in, and that is related to nuclear and climate. This really has such an amazing outreach. I could see many people who are not related to nuclear that are my friends or I used to go to school with, they really got back on it and they commented, they liked the post. I'm not sure if it changed their mind, but at least they can see that there is a discussion that this thing is somewhere on the table, and it's important. Maybe 1% of these people will really reach out to your website or read about nuclear a bit more. So, that that was a really, really great element of the campaign. Maybe this is a good moment, as we are coming to the end of the interview, to talk a bit about the ways of engaging of each and every one of us in this campaign. How can we show our nuclear pride?

Neil Calder
Yeah, I can pick up on that. It's funny that you say that, because I just, exactly what you said, just seeing people that are discussing it. They don't necessarily need to 100% agree with the message, but it goes back to one of our objectives, which is just to get the discussion going and just have awareness. You don't necessarily need to buy into every single message, but just having that visibility. In terms of getting involved - Sophie's already touched on it, and we've been talking about it there - and the social media side of things, but everything, if you want to find all the details, we've got our website, which is www.netzeroneedsnuclear.com and there we've got a "Get Involved" section that basically doesn't just list what you can do, but it has links to all the various ways that we've set up of interacting with the campaign. On the social media side of things, you've got these frames, like you say, which are tailored for the different social media platforms. Then we've got ideas of video posts that you can do, examples of people that have given these kind of video snippets of why they think net zero needs nuclear. Similarly, with the photo posts, and beyond the profile frames. And then another really cool thing we've got, as well, is we set up a template for drafting letters to petitions. So, whether you're based in the UK, or you're International, we've got a link which basically brings up a template, then you just fill in your specific details, and it fires off a letter to your local politician or to your international representative. That's key as well, just getting that message out to those politicians and those decision makers. I'm sure there's perhaps a few other ways of getting involved, perhaps I said it on there. But as I said, we just want everyone to get the discussion going and build on the momentum.

Arun Khuttan
Just to add the social media thing, actually, a few of the other team members will remind me frequently that early on, I was like, forget about the social media, we don't really need that. But I've been a complete convert, it has had such a big impact. I definitely didn't appreciate how effective it can be. For example - we've got a few examples on the website - but when people post on LinkedIn and Twitter, the way their algorithms work, if, for example, somebody likes it, their entire network will see that they've liked it. Everybody has people in their network that aren't in nuclear, so your entire network will show up on their feed. They see this picture. It's scientifically proven that posts with a picture and colors will get more engagement. And that's what we saw, really, and they actually do really well. A lot of them are getting huge amounts of likes, thousands of impressions. And even exactly what Neil said, If they don't, they're not going to come over to the side immediately, but it gets them thinking about it. And we're not trying to do this overnight, this is a long conversation that will take some time and it just gets them thinking about it really.

Sophie Zienkiewicz
Yeah, completely. Just to echo those points, that idea of just getting involved, and just collaborate, just reach out. Talk to people, talk to your family, your friends, your boss, your colleagues, anyone. We just need to start the conversation, or at least continue the conversation. Just on that, I really want to thank every single volunteer, or every single person that's come to a meeting, that has responded to our hassling emails, anything. Because it's the people that are owning this campaign that are absolutely incredible. And it's them that motivates us and keeps it going.

Neil Calder
Yeah, definitely. And I think one last thing to say as well is that, obviously, we've focused this all around COP26. We're a COP26 delivery team and on this call we're talking about COP26, but I think we've got bigger visions as well, where we're going to carry on this campaign and spur new campaigns off the back of this that follow on from COP26 and build on, hopefully, what's going to be a productive COP26, so that our message can get even stronger. We don't see the end goal being COP26. We see this pushing on and really, really impacting towards our net zero deadlines.

Jadwiga Najder
Great. So, Neil, maybe one last question to you. If 100% of your campaign objectives managed to be fulfilled, where will we see Net Zero Needs Nuclear? Where will we hear about you? What will you achieve with this campaign?

Neil Calder
Oh, I guess that's kind of how high you set the bar. But one thing actually, obviously, when we first started the meeting as a group, we set actual targets on things, quantitative targets and more high level targets. One thing we talked about was getting in media, because as much as social media is a massive influence, it gives you kind of credibility when you're in the media. Also, we feel like getting some of those real key influential people speaking about our campaign, or their campaigns, sorry. That a big step change we feel, as well, if we can get people like Bill Gates retweeting our campaign and getting on board on our campaign. And I honestly think the sky's the limit.

Sophie Zienkiewicz
That'd be an ace, that'd be so cool. I think the other angle of that is the education piece. I think it'd be awesome if we could get nuclear properly represented on the agenda on the curriculum for all age ranges of schools, school children, because I think empowering people at that age is where we can really make some future difference.

Jadwiga Najder
Right. So, we're waiting for Bill Gates to share our cause and for kids to have the project topics about nuclear. I really wish you all the best guys and I really hope that all the objectives that you set are going to be fulfilled and people are going to hear about Net Zero Needs Nuclear all over the place in social media, in the private discussions, and finally, hopefully in TV and radio as well. Thanks a lot.

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