Rory O’Sullivan describes Moltex’s technology, their wast to stable salt (WATSS) system, and their role in the nuclear industry.
[00:00:00] Rory O’Sullivan: Governments have used, spent fuel waste with very complex reprocessing facilities to produce pure plutonium, which has been used for weapons. So our process will not just extract out that plutonium, it takes all of the nasty long-lived waste trans-uranics with it. It goes into our reactor and is used as fuel. When they are used as fuel, they’re fissioned, they’re converted into energy. It’s literally Einstein’s equation, e equals mc squared. You’re turning matter into energy and that material is destroyed and no longer exists. There are still wastes produced, those fission product waste, but they have a much shorter life and they only, they have no radio activity after a couple of hundred years.
[00:00:45] Intro: Just because the facts are A, if the narrative is B and everyone believes the narrative, then B is what matters. But it’s our job in our industry to speak up proudly Soberly. And to engage people in this dialogue, those two and a half billion people that are on energy poverty, they need us. America cannot meet this threat alone.
If there is a single country, of course, the world cannot meet it without America that is willing to, we’re gonna need you the next generation to finish the job. Nuclear regulations, we need scientists to design new fuels, focus on net public benefits. We need engineers to invent new technologies for over absurd levels of radiation production entrepreneurs to sell those technologies.
And we’ll march towards this. We need workers to. With High Tech Zero Prosperity Football, diplomats, businessmen, and women and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip the development transition sources of, in other words, we need you.
[00:01:49] Mark Hinaman: Okay, welcome back to another episode of the Fire2Fission Podcast. Today we’ve got an awesome guest, Rory O’Sullivan, with Moltex CEO of Moltex, uh, north America. Rory, how you doing?
[00:02:00] Rory O’Sullivan: Uh, great. Yeah. Good morning, mark. Great to be here.
[00:02:04] Mark Hinaman: Super excited to chat with you and we’ve got a lot to cover. Um, but I, I wanted to start with, uh, saying it’s great to chat with another mechanical engineer, some convert that’s, uh, interested in the nuclear industry.
[00:02:18] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah. Nice. Well, I guess same, same bout as me.
[00:02:21] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Yeah. Um, curious on your background before we dive into Moltex. Uh, and you’ve covered this kind of publicly elsewhere, but for those folks that haven’t sought, out information out about you, why don’t you just kinda give a background about yourself and where you went to school and Yeah, how’d you get your start?
[00:02:38] Rory O’Sullivan: Uh, sure. Yeah. Thanks. And yeah, thanks for having me. I’m very excited, uh, to kind of, um, see how this podcast goes. I’m very passionate about the concept of, uh, Fire to Fission. I, I gave a talk, um, to the oil and gas industry in like 2014 just reminding people to be thankful for what oil and gas and coal has done for the economy.
I mean, it’s taken, it’s taken, uh, All civilization to 90% out of poverty. And, and really that’s, that’s thanks to oil and gas. So it gets a hard wrap now, but yeah, we, we should remember that. Um, but it’s time to, it’s time to progress to a new era. So yeah, I love the title. Love the podcast. I’m excited to hear more.
Um, So I, uh, as you mentioned there, I, I graduated from Trinity College Dublin, um, with a mechanical engineering degree, actually a double degree from, uh, Lin Leon in France too. And, uh, in our, I graduated anti-nuclear be kind of, because everyone in Ireland is anti-nuclear. It’s just, it’s just the default, uh, nuclear’s illegal there.
And, um, which is
[00:03:39] Mark Hinaman: so crazy. It’s, uh, yeah, it can be illegal somewhere, right? Yeah,
[00:03:43] Rory O’Sullivan: well a lot, lots of places actually. Yeah. Um, and uh, and I was very passionate about energy, but I wanted to work in a big city, so I moved to London and ended up working in construction and project management in the. Second, third biggest construction company in the world called Weed Group.
And I, I ran sort of 50, 60 million pound jobs overseeing about 250 people after, you know, 8, 8, 10 years in, in that sector. And then, um, I, some other things along the way, uh, I did about six months doing housing repair, uh, post earthquake in Haiti. So developed some, um, restruction repair, uh, regulations there for, for rebuild.
There was a lot of entities doing. You know, temporary housing, we were looking at a repair, uh, and it was around 20 14, 13 maybe when I attended a, uh, a talk at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London on molten salt reactors. And at this point, nobody had ever. You know, nobody heard, nobody in the industry had heard of molten salt reactors, but they had the potential to deal with the waste, deal with the safety, and deal with the cost.
Kind of the three issues I had, and I think most people have or perceived to have with nuclear power. So it really got me intrigued and I spent a lot of time just learning about it. Over the next sort of two years I. Done studying at home, um, nuclear physics in the evenings. Yeah. For probably two years.
And, uh, and, and, and just got very excited by it. Um, and so that led to founding a company called En Energy Process Developments, which was bit of a sort of think tank, uh, consultancy organization with a few others, one of whom was an operator of the molten salt reactor experiment in, in, in Oakridge. Um, and, but the objective was really, Do a feasibility study of molten salt reactors, have a look at it and see is it, is it viable?
Um, and uh, and that’s, that’s how I managed, that’s how I ended up switching from kind of project management construction world into nuclear power.
[00:05:48] Mark Hinaman: You know, I, I love that background and I’ve, I’ve had a similar career experience. I, I, I mean, I’m obviously biased, but I think mechanical engineering sets you up little, uh, plug for any students or folks, young, young folks listening.
But I, you know, think mechanical engineering or any engineering sets you up well for project management. And then just like you said, you know, you had. Early career experience of project management that it, it really is empowering, right? And kind of lets you see how you can take things from not existing to having like an executable uh, product or executing on a product.
Right. So do you think that background helped? Like kind of with your role now?
[00:06:27] Rory O’Sullivan: Oh, most definitely. Yeah. Well, you know, any engineering degree is really very, uh, versatile. People have gone through engineering, have you have a lot of choice because you, you know, people don’t know what you wanna do, but you’re semi-technical.
Go into engineering cuz then you can, you know, the, the, the, the world is your oyster. You can do a lot of different things. When I got into, um, kind of construction, uh, project manager, I was in tactical roles. It was, it was still technical, but the, the, the real skills you learn there is problem solving cuz you’re just having problems all day long.
And that’s the real skill of it engineers is how to solve problems quickly.
[00:07:01] Mark Hinaman: Right. So how, I mean, you, you’re running kind of your think tank consultancy, um, and how’d, how’d you get, uh, plugged into Moltex? What was the path there?
[00:07:11] Rory O’Sullivan: So Moltex was one of the, um, the technologies that we assessed and the, as the assessment was in partnership with the UK consultancy, Fraser Nash, funded by the UK government.
And so we looked at all the various molten salt reactors and it was a slightly different field than today. Cuz, you know, the Chinese government was a big one at the time. There was some other startups that aren’t around now. But it was very clear pretty early on that we didn’t really need to do this expensive long feasibility study because the Moltex technology was just way ahead of the rest in terms of likelihood for low cost scalable deployment.
And Moltex at the time was, uh, was really just. Ian Scott, our inventor, um, almost in his basement. And, uh, he, he had his other partner, John Durham, who put in the first million pounds of seed funding. Um, and so after the, the study was, was finished and it was clearly the front runner, we were looking at ways to kind of collaborate and partner.
And in the end, what made sense is, um, I joined Moltex and the team I had set up for that kind of valuation moved into to, to Moltex to take it forward and, and become a real company.
[00:08:21] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, I listen to Ian Scott’s episode, I remember when it came out on intense nuclear and wanted to reach out to him then. I was like, “man, this is, uh, very innovative and super, super exciting.”
So, um, but that was all the way back in 2018 that he was gentle with the Titans guys. Like a lot’s happened since then.
[00:08:38] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah. Yeah. We were only moving to New Brunswick then, um, at that point. And, uh, Ian, um, yeah, Ian’s joy to listen to, a joy to work with. Um, he’s a prolific inventor. He has, uh, I think it’s close to 700 patents to his name now.
Across different, uh, industries. Um,
[00:08:55] Mark Hinaman: and he, and he comes from like biotech, right? He’s not, yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:09:00] Rory O’Sullivan: Um, that’s right. And, and, and he can challenge, um, you know, nuclear experts, the best nuclear experts in the world. I, in their field, because he’s such a broad knowledge across sort of every sector, he is able to apply that to any specific challenge, which is really, um, a remarkable asset to have.
And it’s, it’s just been a, a pleasure to learn from him over.
[00:09:22] Mark Hinaman: That’s awesome. So give, give us kind of the quick rundown of Moltex. Um, what, what are you guys trying to.
[00:09:30] Rory O’Sullivan: So, um, we are trying to get a, our, our molten salt reactor up and running as quick as possible, and that’s in New Brunswick with our partner in New Brunswick Power, our customer partner in New Brunswick Power.
Um, we also have an associated technology that will recycle spent nuclear fuel waste, and that facility will convert the conventional spent fuel from oxide reactors, water reactors, basically into fuel for our. And so the aim is the reactor will produce is, you know, sustainable, clean economic electricity using recycled fuel.
So the whole model together will, will produce clean energy and instead of putting more waste on the grid with the clean power, we’re actually reducing the amount of waste that was there from before. Yeah.
[00:10:19] Mark Hinaman: That’s awesome. And you guys have been kind enough to hopefully give us some time with some of your other folks on the team.
So we’ll try and dive into kinda the more technical details with them. But I’m curious on kind of yeah, the project management, process management, how you, how you guys are thinking strategically, um, from you. So h how big is the team right now and have, have you guys been growing?
[00:10:38] Rory O’Sullivan: We have yea, we’ve been growing pretty steadily.
Um, so, you know, our head office for, so Moltex Energy Canada, which is the company developing, leading the development of this waste burner reactor, the, the one that just mentioned a minute ago, um, headquartered in, in New Brunswick. And we’ve been developing the team here since we moved about, uh, 2018. And so we have about 35 people here.
Um, and we have a sister company in the uk Moltex. This is about the same size. Um, and so Canada has some r and d staff there in the uk, but all our engineering and, and leadership is all in, uh, in, in New Brunswick with other staff scattered across Canada, uh, and other teams in the us. Um, our main. Our main partner is we’ve decided that we really want to stay as light and small as possible.
So I, I wanted to get to, you know, no more than 50. Um, it’s looking like now that’s gonna be probably 60 or a bit more, but the aim is to really be. The thinkers, the, the architects of the system, the puppet master, and then we’ll rely on our supply chain partners, engineering partners, to do the heavy lifting.
So, um, we, we’ve, we’ve already picked our main partners, that’s Ium, where as a large, uh, European engineering firm with offices all over the world. Um, they were an early investor in Moltex, some of our early backers. And, and, and helped. Through the, you know, the first few years and, um, now last year we have partnered with S N C Lavalin to be our, our main kind of partner in, in Canada.
So they’ll be supporting us, uh, allowing us to ramp up faster so that we can really focus on what we’re really good at. That, you know, strategic, innovative, um, thinking in, in the core area.
[00:12:21] Mark Hinaman: That’s awesome. Um, so I, I’ve pontificated about this model and, you know, I, I think New scale did it right where they partner with a, a strategic supplier or somebody that is going to bring value to the organization, but then potentially, um, mesh or meld or JV or, you know, share equity in some way or ownership.
Um, it sounds like you guys have found that model to be success.
[00:12:46] Rory O’Sullivan: Uh, yeah, yeah, that’s right. Um, and, uh, you know, who knows where it’s gonna go. Uh, I, I hope to grow the partnership of those two organizations. Um, sure. Because we’re gonna be, you know, there’ll be new partnerships formed as we, as we develop, but it is, it is really key in this, um, for this new, you know, heavy tech sector.
Which is we need to be sharing risk and partnering. Um, you know, one company can’t do this on a alone. It needs to be a shared initiative. So if you look at the example of the, um, the recent, the O P G part, uh, project with GE Aachi, that’s, that’s the very, an exemplary model there where you have a real alliance of, of the, of the leadership company with O P G G, Tai acon and SNC Labin, all sharing the risk, all sharing the benefits, and, um, that it has to be done like that, uh, to, to, to be able to.
[00:13:34] Mark Hinaman: Because it’s such a long design cycle to, to get to revenue, right? I mean, to design this extremely. Incredible hardware in tech. Um, but it, it takes a long time to actually get it to be built and have money coming in the door.
[00:13:49] Rory O’Sullivan: Right. So it does, and, and the um, you know, the venture capitalists and the regular investment community that would do this sort of thing are still, you know, they still want ops.
They still want to develop an app and, and, you know, two, two years later, make a load of money. Um, so investing in heavy tech is, uh, is hard. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s not for the faint hearted, um, which is why, you know, governments really need to be there to bridge the gap. But the ones who do take the risks, the opportunities, uh, are, are, are phenomenal.
I mean, the, the, the, the hell of a lot bigger than an app.
[00:14:24] Mark Hinaman: It’s true, the, the upside on this is gonna be, uh, significant, very significantly bigger than a SaaS model. Right?
[00:14:31] Rory O’Sullivan: For the, for the ones who make it. Yeah. Yeah
[00:14:34] Mark Hinaman: awesome. So what, what are some of your key objectives that you guys are trying to accomplish in the next, say, one, two, and five years?
[00:14:41] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah. Um, so the, the big objective for us is getting the validation rigs of the Watts versus the watts is the name of the facility or process to convert, spend oxide fuel into our chloride fuel for our molten salt reactor. Um, and so we’ve got various experiments going on now we, in our, in our own. We’ve done pretty much all of the small scale uranium experiments with sim fuel, it’s called.
So it’s, it’s low activity is not real spent fuel. And at the moment, now we’re doing the, the, the, the, um, the real spent fuel tests and over the next few years we’ll be scaling that up. To get better and better data as we, as you get towards the real commercial facility. Of course, as you know, nuclear regulation requires that you have to have everything tested, um, before you operate.
So there’s a lot of, um, we need, you need, need all the data before you can do the commercial facility. So that’s what, that’s really the priority. Um, you know, then we got the reactor side and relatively the reactor’s kind of easy. I mean, we’re probably the most innovative advanced reactor, but it’s. You can’t really have any real innovation in nuclear power because of the way regulation is.
You have to build on existing data. So, um, we’ve got lots of validation rigs to do for the reactor, but um, the science is all. Done. There’s no, there’s no new science here. Um, so that’s just ongoing. Um, they’re the two main projects on the reactor. We will be doing the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s, vendor Design Review, phase two.
We’ve committed completed phase, phase one, and we’re preparing for that at the moment. Um, And then, you know, that’s on the specific, uh, activities on the software side. The, there’s a lot of work to do on building the team and making sure the team is really productive, efficient, and effective with the right management system.
Um, and that we’re, uh, You know, a credible nuclear company, uh, that can, that can get to a regulatory process. And that’s, that’s a, that has been a huge challenge and we’ve got a long way to go. What we’ve set up internally is we have, we had the two projects, the Watts project and the Reactor, S S R W, but now we’ve got a third project called the Infrastructure Project, which is, uh, a dedicated team to making sure the organization is, is able to scale up appropriately to do this because we need, uh, over 300 people, uh, in a couple of years to be able to.
Progress the designs, you know, getting into detailed design and, and, and full licensing.
[00:17:06] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, that’s crazy. And would that 300 person team be in-house employees or have contractors?
[00:17:12] Rory O’Sullivan: N no. Uh, that’s the, so the model is really that smaller number. We’d be maybe 60 people. Um, the, the, the kind of puppet master maybe that could end up a little more.
Um, and then the line, the general contractor would be lavalin and, uh, no, the engineering support, so Essence, c, Lavalin, Iham, and maybe some others for specialist skills that, that we need here. Um, and then when you get into, you know, towards construction, it’s, you know, it’s into the much larger numbers.
[00:17:39] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, absolutely. I’m gonna circle back to kind of your guys’ strategy about the small scale experiments. Cause you mentioned this on, uh, I guess the interview that you guys you did with Titans a couple years ago. Um, It. And cuz I mean, you kind of went over it very quickly, but I think it’s really smart.
Meaning you identified some small scale experiments that you can do in house and then I assume you’re, those need to be scaled up a little bit to be more, um, in line with the size that you expect them to be and uh, is that correct?
[00:18:10] Rory O’Sullivan: Um, yeah, so they’re, they’re just, uh, you know, you wanna start out small and, um, right.
But on, on the spent fuel side, it’s all about maximizing the tests you can do without having to use real spent fuel in a hot cell. Because yeah, each experiment is a few million dollars, so you really don’t wanna be getting it wrong. Uh, you’ve gotta minimize the time in there. And there’s, but there’s, there’s a lot you can do without real spend fuel and then use it to validate at the.
[00:18:37] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Uh, I, coming from the oil and gas space, we understand doing experiments for a few million dollars, meaning, Hey, let’s drill this well a little differently. Oh, well that was a 10 million test and yeah, it didn’t work. But we’ve, we’ve got the benefit, at least in the shell industry of, uh, there’s still revenue after you do the experiment most of the time, you know?
Yeah. That helps. That definitely helps. Catastrophic failure, so, Um, would you guys then take that data to like labs and scale it up or get it validated or, I mean, how are you guys thinking about interfacing with, uh, labs or will you need to, to get more of this data?
[00:19:12] Rory O’Sullivan: So we, we have, um, some of the, the earlier, smaller experiments were done, I said at our, in our lab and at the university.
So University of New Brunswick did some of our early. Watts experiments with uranium and then now it’s, uh, we won’t be doing the real spent fuel experiments that’s done at the, uh, nuclear national nuclear labs. So at the moment it’s done at Canadian nuclear labs north of Ottawa, chalk River. Um, we have other work going on with several of the US labs, so we’ve done some of the molten salt chemistry work with Oak Ridge.
We’re doing a lot of physics, uh, safety analysis, thermal, um, hydraulic work with. Um, and then, and then worked with some of the others, some of the others too. But we’ll definitely be leveraged. We, we need the support of the labs, um, kind of across all three nations, uk, Canada, and the US because they’re the ones with their capabilities and, uh, and the specialist facilities.
[00:20:06] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Do you guys do that as potentially being a bottleneck, or is, are they, are they stacked up right now or is it kind of easy to get in line with?
[00:20:14] Rory O’Sullivan: Um, so far it’s been okay. Yeah, the, uh, the hot cell time, so, you know, hot, hot cells, people who dunno, is a facility that is very heavily shielded, so it’s like a meter thick of concrete that you can, you can have spent fuel, um, handled with remote arms.
Um, and there’s, uh, a long waiting list to get into those facilities. But, uh, you know, we’ve been planning our, our, our various, uh, tests quite far out, so that’s been okay.
[00:20:41] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. So let’s just kinda give a brief overview of the Watts program. Um, cause I, I think that’ll be helpful for the audience to understand, uh, the process and Yeah.
What it’s gonna do.
[00:20:52] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah. So, what the Watts process does. It takes, uh, spent fuel. And converts it into three main outputs. The, the biggest one is the uranium and the cladding, so that is no, no longer high level waste. That’s radioactive for 300,000 years because we’ve extracted the small amount of really long-lived waste transonics.
They’re called everything above uranium on the periodic table. We’ve extract. Those out. And so that’s, yeah, left with intermediate level waste, maybe even clean enough that it could be stored at surface as an asset for future reen enrichment. But the exact numbers and and criteria of that will be determined as we scale up the various, various tests.
But that’s the big saving is taking out that kind of. Uranium in the cladding, so it’s no longer, longer replaced. Um, you then have about a half percent of the original spent fuel is the what’s called fish products. So this is the, the fish products for what are produced during a nuclear reaction. They’re very radioactive for relatively short periods, so that is a waste stream.
That needs to be disposed of. Um, you could store that surface for two to 300 years and then it would be, you know, no, no rate activity. That could be, um, rare earth metals that could be recycled, but let’s assume that’s still disposed of as a waste. Um, about half percent, as I said. And then there’s the half percent, which is all the transonics are long-lived.
300,000 year. All concentrated in this, in this small, smaller stream. And that’s what we can put into our reactor and use as fuel. One of the main constituents of that is plutonium, which of course is a weapons risk or historically, um, reprocessing programs. Governments have used, spent fuel waste with very complex reprocessing facilities to produce pure plutonium, which has been used for weapons. So our process will not just extract out that plutonium, it takes all of the nasty long-lived waste transonics with it. It goes into our reactor and is used as fuel. When they are used as fuel, they’re fissioned, they’re converted into energy. It’s literally Einstein’s equation, e equals mc squared. You’re turning matter into energy and that material is destroyed and no longer exists. There are still wastes produced, those fission product waste, but they have a much shorter life and they only, they have no radio activity after a couple of hundred years.
So the long li the, the long aim is to really eliminate and destroy the plutonium and the long-lived waste. Uh, from, from society. We can’t get rid of everything, um, because the no process is perfect and there’s still spent fuel waste at the end of our reactor when we shut down our reactor, the spent fuel that’s there in the core.
Can, uh, has to be disposed of somewhere. So we can either put it into another reactor or, you know, theoretically that goes round and round again, and you have one reactor left. And, um, of course the spent fuel from our reactor goes back around into the process again. So it’s essentially a loop. We start off with converted.
Traditional spent fuel, the spent fuel that comes out of our reactor, goes back around again, gets topped up with more traditional spent fuel, and that cycle goes on and round and round and round for the full 60 year life, continually reducing that spent fuel. So a little technical layer, but that’s, uh, it, um,
[00:24:24] Mark Hinaman: I think it was a great summary.
I’ll, I’ll say it back cuz I, I find it helps me learn and hopefully, uh, it helps other folks too. But, uh, for, for people that dunno, I feel like it’s such a common misconception and it was for me, like when people say spent nuclear fuel or waste it, There’s not a lot of, you know, with other energy processes, a lot of the waste and products are all gases and liquids and like this fuel comes out of a reactor and it’s still in these solid metallic like or ceramic rods, right?
I mean, you say fuel, you know, so I mean, you’ve got the uranium still uranium, like literally solid metal. Um, inside of, like you said, cladding that you know is also solid metal, right? And so your guys’ process is, These, uh, rods and then separating them from being, you know, in a, a completed assembly and then separating into kind of three separate product streams.
Um, just like you identified, right, the non-dangerous, solid cladding and not spent uranium, and then the fission products that, um, yeah, like you said, you have to dispose of somewhere, but I, I think you’re just, I, you know, I find the industry does this often where we. Products, but relative to the amount of waste that every other energy generation source generates, like it’s just so little and microscopic that there’s, uh, comparatively no waste.
And then, you know, grabbing the nuclear silt, um, fuel that you can still burn and it’s still valuable. Right. And it’s kind of this process of closing the fuel cycle. I’d, I’d like to kind of double click on the reprocessing piece. You know, you mentioned it generates plutonium weapons grade, and this hasn’t been done historically because of that, but this is kind of a different way to frame the problem, in my opinion, uh, where we’re leading the world in developing a solution to make sure that this material doesn’t become a weapon.
Right. And you’ve got a good process to, to be able to do that with.
[00:26:22] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah. And, um, so just, you know, to be hon unequivocal about this, the, the process cannot produce weapons grade plutonium. You know, that is absolutely fundamental. We, uh, we have to demonstrate that. And, and, you know, we’ll, that’ll be in the public eye.
We’re gonna make sure our data is, is, is public. We’ll have peer reviewed academic reviews to really demonstrate that it’s a very heavily regulated sector. So you have, uh, oversight, uh, from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency, um, to, to verify that and make sure it is, it is true.
Um, One thing I just wanted to mention on, um, uh, waste, there’s people in the industry that kind of don’t understand why we’re doing this because, uh, in what I’ve heard recently from some people that they quite like is their favorite thing about nuclear power is the waste because it’s the only industry where the waste is all accounted for.
The nuclear waste has never killed anybody. And you know, I don’t remember the, what’s the, it’s totally true numbers from, um, uh, from, uh, fossil fuels is 7 million a year dying just direct directly from the, uh, from, from the gases produced? Yeah. So nuclear waste really isn’t a big issue. We know how to deal with it.
It’s squeak and storage. Yep. We have plans to dispose of it safely. Uh, Canada has a very established program to, um, to, to, to put it into a deep geological repository. And that plan works. It’s cost us it’s safe. It’s, it’s fine. It’s still, waste is still perceived to be a very big issue socially. So our aim is to, um, improve the waste, uh, situation by reducing it, improve that social license of nuclear so we can really open the door to other technologies so that nuclear can, can really prosper.
Um, if this is not a magic technology, we can’t get rid of all waste altogether, but we can certainly make a big difference, um, using that recycling and using that waste and reducing the legacy.
[00:28:16] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to characterize it. And especially, I mean, every company has to have a, uh, social license to operate and kind of a strategy to deal, especially in the energy space, not just nuclear, but deal with kind of the public eye and how do you sell yourself to the, the public and provide yourself as a service.
And so I like your guys’ strategy with, well, we’re gonna address the waste issue kind of head on. At its core, I mean, it’s helpful for your social license to operate, but that’s not also kinda the most valuable piece of using spent nuclear field for you guys, right? It’s kind of an economic decision too.
[00:28:50] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah. It, it is. I mean, we definitely would’ve been, it definitely would’ve been easier if we chose a reactor that was fueled by regular uranium. I mean, that would’ve been the easy path. Um, sometimes I, I kind of wake up thinking, why did we, why did we take this, this hard path? But it is really important, um, to tackle it.
It, we have had a lot of, uh, Interesting success because people are, people are excited about this, you know, the, the public is excited about this. So the, the reactor itself is sort of normal, uh, economic case.
Uh, it looks to be a very competitive, uh, reactor that it’ll, it can be produced quite low cost and. Produce electricity, a normal business model. On the, on the waste side of things, there is huge liabilities in each country. Mm-hmm. To dispose of the spent fuel liability. So in Canada, for example, the current estimate is around $26 billion Canadian to dispose of the, the, the nation spent fuel.
Well, um, if, if we are successful, we can reduce the amount of, uh, spend fuel that either needs to go into the deep deal deep geological repository and reduce the cost and complexity of their facility saving costs. Um, or, you know, in the extreme case, um, have an even. Simpler type of, of repository design to to, to deal with it.
And the savings can be very significant. In the US there’s currently 45 billion US dollars sitting in the reserve fund to deal with, uh, the US spend fuel. Nobody has an actual estimate of what it’s gonna cost, but it’s gonna be a, a, an awful lot more. Um, so the economics of reducing the cost of that are very, very compelling.
Um, So we’ve really got two business models. There’s the economics and regular business case for the reactor, and then the reactor will buy fuel from the waste facility, um, which has its own economic case and sort of a tipping fee. The, uh, the Watts facility can, in its current form, produce fuel for any other molten salt reactor.
So the, there’s potentially a business there, uh, or with modification potentially fuel for, for, for other reactors.
[00:30:55] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. That’s awesome. I, I think it’s very noble and smart, like good business for you guys to be addressing that. I mean, you most, I’ll say nuclear vendors and energy companies, um, from solar to wind and oil and gas and all of it, right?
Kind of viewed their end of life as, uh, well this doesn’t really matter and we’re just gonna push this out forever. Um, you know, we, we see that in oil and. A lot, which is really sad. Um, but there’s a lot of old orphan wells and wells that don’t get plugged. Um, you know, because when you run the economics, you’re like, well, this is, this project’s gonna last 30 to 40 years and at the end of life, uh, you know, it’s gonna be $30,000 to plug this.
Well, and we just tack that on at the end. And when you, you know, derate it back with a discount, it’s virtually no dollars. And so it’s never really factored into the equation. Um, but then when you actually get to the end of life, Often costs more than what you’re kind of budgeting at the beginning of life.
Um, and so it sounds like you guys have identified that just like you said, the liability piece and want to use it as an asset to add value to both your business and the the industry. Am I thinking about that? Right.
[00:32:06] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. And, uh, you know, we are of course a business, so we have to be profitable.
Um, but we did start this out from, um, you know, uh, a twofold, you know, climate change reasons of course, but also the founders and the team are very passionate about energy. Uh, energy security, energy poverty. So having a, you know, a scalable, clean technology that’s affordable for the developing world is, is very important.
And, and, and nuclear is the only answer. So, um, our view is if you don’t deal with the waste, nuclear won’t be able to prosper properly.
[00:32:40] Mark Hinaman: Gotcha. Okay. Um, before we kind of move on to the broader energy industry, cuz I wanna, I definitely wanna get you your perspective of that and that’s almost a great segue,
but, um, is, is there any kind of, anything else that you wanna mention about the, the reactor or the grid infrastructure system you guys are working on?
[00:32:58] Rory O’Sullivan: Well, the only, the other bit that is very important that we don’t often talk about is, um, our third technology grid reserves. Yeah. Um, so the reactor produces heat 24 hours a day, but instead of it being variable, which basically means you ramp down, we have a energy storage facility so that we can store the heat from the react.
And you use the whole power plant of the peaking plant. So for example, if the reactor produces heat 24 hours a day and it stores that heat in large tanks of molten salt for say 16 hours a day. If you then have, and let’s say that’s a a 500 megawatt reactor and you have a 1500 megawatt steam turbine you can run at, at that capacity for a third of the day.
So you can run at eight hours a day, taking the 16 hours of heat stored over here, and eight hours of heat from the reactor acting as a peaking plant. So you now. Nuclear power can become a peaking plant. Uh, running at like a 30% capacity factor. What we sell is a fixed standard reactor design, and the customer can have whatever size storage or turbine they want, depending on their needs.
And some of them just want base load, but some find that storage very, very val valuable. Typically if they have a, a larger renewable, um, sector on the grid. Um, The, that technology, uh, unfortunately we have don’t have IP around that. Um, it’s, it’s, it’s just sort of an application that we’ve applied because it’s available from the concentrated solar power sector already.
We very strong IP on the reactor and the Watts side. Um, but it is, uh, it, it’s, it’s really important in a future grid and if you want expanded renewables, the cost of this storage is about 10 times lower than the U S D. Lowest future theoretical cost of battery storage. Storing heat is incomparably cheaper than electric battery storage, and you can get a very reliable grid.
If you have, um, you can have sort of 60% renewables and, and 30 to 40% this peaking plant nuclear. And, and you don’t need any other fancy grid backup, uh, spinning reserve batteries. You’ve got a very reliable grid with that.
[00:35:04] Mark Hinaman: Can I say that back? Make sure I heard that correctly. Like the, the doe’s estimate is that this would be, this process 10 times cheaper than what current battery technology could offer for energy storage.
Yeah, that’s, that’s incredible. And though, even though you guys don’t have the IP to it, I think it’s really intelligent having that as part of your offering, uh, as an organization to be experts and, hey, this is how you wouldcouple it. Um, yeah, real smart. Um, I was curious how, how hot are, do you guys plan to operate your reactors?
I mean, is are there, is it hotter than kind of typical lightwater reactors?
[00:35:40] Rory O’Sullivan: Uh, it is, yeah. Light water reactors. The output temperatures around 300 degrees Celsius, uh, because they’re using water as a coolant and, uh, we are high temperature, so all molten salt reactors are high temperature. Our output temperature is around 550 Celsius.
Um, could, could be a little higher depending on the
[00:35:59] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, that makes sense. With the salt system then, you know, with your efficiencies and how much you’re gonna Yeah. Lose along the way. That’s why at the higher temperatures you can, Auxiliary system paired with it. So
[00:36:10] Rory O’Sullivan: yeah, we, we can go up to about 630, but um, the salts that are available for those storage at the moment li limit us to around 550.
It’s, it’s likely that, um, there’ll be new, better salts around by the time we are, we’re up and running, um, that’ll increase that temperature. But yeah, that ballpark, which is important for industrial applications. Absolutely.
[00:36:29] Mark Hinaman: So I mean, if somebody’s listening who say perhaps is from a coal community, um, or you know, is in a state or part of a legislator, regulator, government official that is thinking about, well, we’d like to convert this coal plant to a nuclear power plant.
Um, how could Moltex fit into that equation?
[00:36:47] Rory O’Sullivan: Well, um, yeah, it’s, it’s, it would be a real shame if the coal plants, coal facilities are not used and retrofitted for nuclear power. Um, yeah, high temperature reactors like ours are particularly well suited to coal, uh, conversion because the steam turbines that they use, Basically identical cuz the output temperatures are in the same range, super heated steam.
Um, so yeah, for high temperature nuclear it absolutely makes a lot of sense, especially if a lot of the coal, the, the turbines, um, are, are pretty new and in a lot of cases, so we’d reuse that. But the big value is the, the, the, the grid connect. For a coal plant because getting new grids, uh, new electric, you know, new new cabling infrastructure, I, I mean we think building nuclear power plants are hard, but building new grid infrastructure, uh, is arguably even harder, certainly from a social license perspective.
So we really wanna maximize the existing infrastructure that’s there. And any nuclear reactor, can you utilize that existing infrastructure? So it is, um, a huge opportunity. Of course, there’s a, there’s a lot of jobs around, um, those ar you know, the coal facilities. So it would also be a real shame not to be able to retrain and, and, and, um, use the skills that are there in the area for, for nuclear power plants.
Cuz uh, gen, almost all nuclear facilities still need a lot of people to operate.
[00:38:15] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. I wanna highlight kind of the grid connection piece, because I know in, at least in America, there’s a ton of renewable developers that want to tie into those grid connections, which I think is really bad for society.
Like I’ll be explicit about it. Like they, it just, like you said, it, it doesn’t, or it’s hard to get those grid connections in place. Nuclear would replace kind of the dependable, deployable power, and there would still be people working in that community to operate this plant versus if you, you know, replace those grid connections with renewables, uh, you’ll have intermittent power that is unreliable, unde, dependable, um, and, you know, wild carbon free at the moment, uh, won’t, won’t provide additional jobs, uh, in that community.
And so, yeah, I think nuclear kind of solves all of those problems that gives you a reliable source for.
[00:39:04] Rory O’Sullivan: Yeah, I mean, I, I wouldn’t be quite so, uh, negative against renewables, but there are varying opinions of it. What I’m quite a fan of is, um, the, the offshore wind, uh, opportunity is really phenomenal. Um, you know, in coastal areas, I was just reading there some of the recent, the, the new offshore wind projects in, um, in, in Ireland and England.
They’re, uh, 300 meters, that’s like a thousand feet. They’re. And it’s just as strong. And the reliability of those is, is, is great because the higher they go, the more constant wind speeds they have. So that’s, that’s very encouraging. And the costs are, are going down fast, but uh, as you say, they just, it’s not enough.
That’s part of the, part of the, part of the puzzle.
[00:39:46] Mark Hinaman: Right. So how big could Moltex be become, I mean, you guys work on getting your license now, but, uh, and, and you know, your design review, but how could this system scale?
[00:39:58] Rory O’Sullivan: So talking about, you know, Malix Canada, Malix Energy, that, that the company that I lead, um, we are focused on spend fuel market.
So markets that have a spent fuel, uh, stockpile or challenge, whatever you want to call it. So our, our market is kind of limited by that. In Canada, the amount of spent fuel, uh, with the current fleet, the cans can, um, Is enough for it to have between six and eight gigawatts, six to 8,000 megawatts of our reactors.
Running for 60 years, the spend fuel from our reactors could then be used again and, and so on. But I assume for the first fleet, six to eight gigawatts in the US it’s about 20 to 25 gigawatts. Globally, it’s over 120 gigawatts. So, um, that’s, that’s really the size at the moment. We’re the only ones in the market, so that’s the market we’re going for is.
That full, that full market. Um, the, I mentioned briefly our sister company in the UK Moltex Flex. They have a, a very similar reactor technology, molten salt contained in fuel pins, but they use regular low enriched uranium. Um, so the market for that is kind of endless, essentially. Yeah. And, and the, the big win would really be if there’s a, you know, a co those coupled solution.
You have a, a thermal spectrum, um, regular uranium reactor rolled out at scale, and then the waste burner together. There’s, you know, the opportunities are, it’s limitless, the opportunity, and I just, it doesn’t have to be that, that technology, there’ll be a lot of other small modular reactors, uh, and we want.
The waste recycler for them too. And so those numbers I gave you are without any expansion of nuclear power. If nuclear power expands, we want the waste.
[00:41:46] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, I love how you characterized it. That’s the current, total available market. But as nuclear power expands and I’m very low and I think it will, um, and becomes a larger piece of the energy mix.
I mean, it’s only 10% globally now, and so you’ve. Got a chance to 10 x this supply system that’s just at current energy supplies, meaning, uh, energy will continue to grow and has grown kind of over overall of humanity. And I mean, which is a good thing, right? It makes lives better everywhere and hopefully will help us kind of get off earth and go, go far beyond.
But yeah, so I think that’s, uh, that’s excellent. Um, what, what kind of, uh, economic benefits might be realized, uh, from your guys’ system if you were to move into a new community.
[00:42:31] Rory O’Sullivan: Well, you know, looking at the, the macro, you’re talking about getting off earth there. Looking at the macro side, um, the, you know, I’m very passionate.
The objective is getting the last 10% of Earth that’s out of, that’s in poverty, out of poverty, uh, and that is, yeah. And that, and that’s energy. Um, energy is directly correlated to prosperity. And, um, you know, as you’ve, I, I, I think you’ve probably gonna talk about, Sessions as we have developed more energy.
So coal and fossil fuels, we have got more of the population outta poverty. And, but we’re not there yet. So we need another form of energy that is scalable, affordable, and clean. And, and that has to be, I mean, renewables are certainly a part, but not enough, as we’ve said a few times. Um, that needs to be nuclear power for Africa, for India, um, for Southeast.
These countries that need the same opportunities that the West had, um, 50, a hundred years ago with, with coal and steam. That’s awesome.
[00:43:33] Mark Hinaman: So, as leader of this organization and leader, thought leader in the industry, uh, if you could have one piece of advice or say, well, let’s take one step as society to build more nuclear, uh, perhaps in those places or in Canada, what, what, what would it be.
[00:43:48] Rory O’Sullivan: So. There has been huge progress in the last year, uh, in terms of realizing that nuclear is needed, um, and, and the industry and governments are kind of going in the right direction to make sure that there’s streamlined regulations and things we doing quickly.
So that’s the momentum’s building there. Um, And we need to have reactors developed so people can have trust and confidence that they operate safely and they’re, and they’re, and they’re running. Um, but I think the longer term, big shift it will be when there’s real science behind the actual health effects of radiation.
Um, mm-hmm. At the moment there’s sort of in, I think after World War ii, there was an arbitrary decision that all radiation is bad. Of course, we know, yeah. With great confidence that a, a lot of radiation is very, definitely bad for you, but we don’t know, just like a lot of
[00:44:39] Mark Hinaman: gravity, right. From, from from large heights.
I lot of gravity’s bad.
[00:44:43] Rory O’Sullivan: Um, yeah, a lot of, uh, A lot of sun radiation is very bad for your skin. You absolutely need, uh, low levels of solar radiation to maintain, to have healthy, healthy cells. There is, um, so originally there was what’s called a linear, no threshold model, where a low levels of radiation, where defined as, as, as bad and harmful, and all regulation, uh, is based on, on that, that any, the no level is good.
Um, but the likelihood is that we need low levels of radiation for our cells to repair properly. Um, the problem is it’s very hard to get real science behind that. Um, so what I would, I’m really excited about the, the, the kind of small scientific field where they’re looking at the low levels, effective radiation, um, and then, uh, having.
Rules based on, on that real science-based ev, evidence-based, um, radiation effects that, that would really change things and, and, and allow society to prosper. So that’s the big one. But that’s, that’s a long time away. You’ve gotta have reactors running safely. You’ve gotta have real data and, and evidence behind that before that to change.
But, you know, that’s a 20, 30 year timeframe. Um, sure. I, before you move on, I just wanted to come back to the economic piece, if you don’t mind, cuz I talked about the, uh, absolutely the macro, the macro effects. Um, but you, you know, That’s not really very kind of meaningful to, to real projects. Uh, what we are focused on very firmly is getting a facility up and running in New Brunswick as soon as possible, and the economic benefits, uh, to the, the leaders in New Brunswick for taking the, the charge and this building this first are, are significant.
Um, not just what we can bring, but it’s the whole ecosystem of supply chain and jobs. And so the, the estimates that the, the nuclear community here have, have put together is. Done independently is 730 jobs per year over 15 years. A billion dollars Canadian in gross domestic product to the, to the provincial economy.
And then 120 million in, in provincial government revenue. So, pretty significant. And countries need need to decide are they gonna be buyers or, or sellers. And, um, you know, new Brunswick has decided, uh, other countries, you know, need to also decide. But the real opportunity is, is, is when you’re developing a technology and.
[00:47:00] Mark Hinaman: That’s incredible. What, what a boom, uh, for, for that part of the world. That’s gonna be awesome. Um, okay. Well we’re, we’re almost up on our time. So, uh, I, I have to ask, what, what advice do you have for, um, let’s say politicians or key stakeholders in communities that might be thinking about wanting to build more nuclear?
[00:47:22] Rory O’Sullivan: Um, yeah, so, um, I think the advice I have is this is urgent. I mean, we all know there’s a, you know, a climate crisis, but we’re still not really acting like it’s urgent. And it’s, it’s really a shame that this, the war in Ukraine has actually kind of given some urgency. Um, I mean, it’s, for a climate it’s a good thing, but it’s a shame that had to be a war that caused that.
But we need to act fast. And my message would be, be bold, make bold decisions. It’s the only way we’re really gonna deal with this. We have to take risks. Um, not everything is gonna work, but you’ll have a lot of successive if, if you are. Bold and aggressive, uh, other countries are gonna get there first.
And, um, we’re not gonna solve this. We’re not gonna solve this, this problem.
[00:48:16] Mark Hinaman: Right. I think that’s a fantastic spot to end it. Thanks so much.
[00:48:21] Rory O’Sullivan: Thank you very much for having you. And on a positive note, people are, are talking about, you know, the big climate catastrophe and fear mongering, but we have already avoided the worst of climate change.
The original predictions from the nineties showed massively increasing, um, uh, greenhouse gases and it, it could have been a lot worse. So we have had huge success of it. I think we need to pat ourselves in the back for that, but it’s not over. We have a long way to go. So, um, I’m very. Thank you very much for, for having me, mark.
That was a lot of fun.
[00:48:48] Mark Hinaman: Absolutely. I am too. Thanks so much.
[00:48:50] Rory O’Sullivan: Bye-Bye.