Jeremy Shook chats with Mark Hinaman about the Electric Power Research Institute, their work in research, and how nuclear will play a role in the future.
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[00:01:04] Mark Hinaman: Today we’ve got Jeremy Shook, principal project manager at epri, the Electrical Power Research Institute. Jeremy’s super excited to chat with you.
[00:01:12] Jeremy Shook: Thanks Mark.
Glad to be here. Yeah.
[00:01:15] Mark Hinaman: Jeremy, for the audience’s benefit, why don’t you, give a kind of a 62nd introduction of yourself, then we’ll kinda dive and stuff you work on.
[00:01:22] Jeremy Shook: Yep. So, originally from Massachusetts kind of, had a sort of a typical New England upbringing. Went clamming and went skiing, road crew and all that sort of thing.
Attended Villanova University undergrad, mechanical engineering degree. Also had a Navy R T C scholarship. So my first six years outta school, I served in the Navy as a submarine officer, which you can see there behind me. And got to drive submarines around the Pacific and Operate nuclear power plants, which is how I got my start in, nuclear energy.
After the Navy, went back to grad school, got a master’s, mechanical engineering, and then basically worked in industry for 18 years. The long story short is design and construction of a variety of powered energy facilities. Everything from new nuclear utility plants. Those got designed but not built.
And then went and worked and gas Did a combined cycle, a couple combined cycle power plants, design and construction. Then more recently in the district energy market, you get kind of smaller facilities like co-generation combined heat and power steam plants, chill water plants. So did that for about five years and then joined Operat about two years ago.
So I currently lead our nuclear Beyond Electricity research area, which basically looks at all uses of nuclear energy beyond base load, grid applications. So that includes, Flexible grid operation. Also low carbon fuel production process manufacturing, things like steel, cement, et cetera. Data centers, district energy and water and wastewater.
So, it’s a pretty, pretty neat portfolio. Lots of cool things that we can look to do with nuclear energy going into the future. That’s excellent.
[00:02:53] Mark Hinaman: You mean there’s, more things that you can do with splitting atoms instead of just powering electrons or moving electrons.
[00:02:59] Jeremy Shook: That’s right, that’s right.
Well, I like to joke actually, the first mission of nuclear energy was to push the submarine through the water. So, that was the first Nonelectric mission. Yeah. Actually it’s interesting in summary,
[00:03:08] Mark Hinaman: which particularly like load following, right? Like
[00:03:11] Jeremy Shook: Yeah, yeah.
It’s funny cuz I’ll talk to people and they’ll say, well, nuclear can’t can’t load follow. And I’m like, well, it’s not quite true actually. It’s very capable of load following. It’s really just a design requirement that you have to make sure you design the plant for. But yeah, submarines, if we didn’t load follow, we wouldn’t be able to run away from torpedoes very quickly.
So, yeah you can you can change power very quickly on a submarine.
[00:03:33] Mark Hinaman: Now, why’d you do mechanical instead of nuclear? I did the same thing. I went into oil and gas and I, I studied mechanical instead of petroleum.
[00:03:41] Jeremy Shook: Oh, yeah. That, I don’t know. I was good at math and physics and that was sort of the default choice.
It’s a great question because I. Sometimes I wonder, looking back now and same thing as you probably looking back in your, your career choices and it’s like, why don’t I major mechanical, I was good at physics and math, but I never actually liked to work on cars or anything like that.
So Same. Yeah. Yeah. So, but I think it gave me a good background and, in the Naval nuclear power program, they teach you everything, need to know. I mean, that I went through nuclear power school with guys who were history majors from the Naval Academy. So, they’ll, it, was more painful for them for sure.
But so I knew a lot of the mechanical stuff. I still had to learn all electrical, which was just didn’t hard for me to understand initially. Now it’s fine, but and then all the nuclear stuff as well, so you get that picked up over time.
[00:04:27] Mark Hinaman: Awesome. So give us a little bit of background on EPRI for folks that aren’t familiar with it.
[00:04:32] Jeremy Shook: Yeah, sure. So EPRI is an independent non-for-profit research and development company. We’ve been in business for 50 years. We were actually formed out of a, blackout back in the late sixties. Basically Congress did some hearings and said, Hey, we’re not sure that the electric power industry is, doing enough to to keep the lights on.
And so out of those hearings, epri formed we are not a government organization. And basically we do research and development along the whole value chain of electricity production. And now even growing more into, to other forms of energy outside of just electricity. So across the whole value chain, electricity production transmission distribution and utilization we are a member funded organization.
So, across our institute we have over 80 programs that does research in different, topical areas. And then various members can then join those programs and then get access to the results of that research as well as collaborate and, share lessons learned and things like that. So, We do work across generation, including nuclear, fossil, and renewables.
Then the transmission side, everything from high voltage distribution or, and then end use type of applications like, we’ve got a program at heat pumps, for example, looking at or end customer solutions like hot water heaters and things like that. So, pretty wide ranging research portfolio across the institute.
[00:05:58] Mark Hinaman: Do you have a favorite project that you guys have worked on in your time there, or, well, how, long have you been in epri?
[00:06:05] Jeremy Shook: So, I’ve been here for about two years. So I’m just now kind of finishing up some of my projects that I’ve started. Probably, I don’t know, it’s just like my favorite, but probably the most impactful project relative to nuclear is actually I’m leading what’s called the, nuclear Facility Separation Project.
So, What we’re trying to do there is basically develop a methodology that would allow you to, demonstrate your safety case for a nuclear facility based on what’s inside the nuclear facility and the boundary conditions at the. Boundary of that facility. The idea is that if we can kind of limit it, that we can help sort of reduce costs on the balance of plant side of the plant, as well as enable greatly expand the number of emissions.
So, right now, the regulators used to electric utility applications and but when we start thinking about putting at, a nuclear reactor at a refinery, for example, or at a college campus for district energy, The ballots of plan starts to look very different. And so we wanna come up with a methodology that allows us to kind of isolate the the demonstration of the safety case to just that that box.
So, that’s been a really, really interesting project to work on. Really kind of rethinking how we think about, demonstrating a safety case. And so we’re real excited about that one.
[00:07:18] Mark Hinaman: That’s fascinating. I think it has huge application for the smaller reactors.
[00:07:22] Jeremy Shook: Absolutely. Yep. Yep.
[00:07:24] Mark Hinaman: We were chatting a little bit before the, call started. I said, I work in oil and gas and you’re curious about why somebody in oil and gas would like nuclear. But I’m curious, who’s on your border, who supports you? Who are some of your members and are there any oil and gas companies that are some of your members?
Because I bet that would be really helpful for them.
[00:07:43] Jeremy Shook: Sure. So, we have in general our membership base is electric utilities. We are a global company. We have members all over the world, Europe, Asia, the Middle East et cetera. So, and, different members joining different programs.
So it’s a pretty broad brush cross section, of the utility industry. And, in terms of our board of directors, I can’t really comment on that. I don’t know the details of our board competition, but, generally, we do have advisory structures where utilities will provide oversight and input of our work to make sure that they’re, providing input.
Ultimately though, is interesting place where ultimately our work has to be in the public benefit that’s, in our charter. So, while we are me funded by members, ultimately we do, are always, striving for for our work to build a movie in the public benefit.
[00:08:32] Mark Hinaman: Got it. Okay. So we had discovered this initiative, the and I’ll probably mispronounce this so you can correct me, but the EA initiative,
[00:08:42] Jeremy Shook: It’s actually New idea.
[00:08:44] Mark Hinaman: New idea, yeah. New idea, yeah. Nuclear in district energy applications. Is that
[00:08:48] Jeremy Shook: right? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. The, font with the eye is sometimes tricky.
[00:08:54] Mark Hinaman: Okay. So new idea. What, what is this?
[00:08:57] Jeremy Shook: Yeah, so, it’s interesting. As I mentioned before, I worked, I was working in the district energy market for five years come to come to epri and, I’d go to these industry conferences and, I kind of like to joke that, every, presentation of those conferences was, Hey, we needed decarbonize.
We also really want highly reliable and resilient onsite energy sources to deal with storms and climate events and things like this. And then everyone would kind of stop talking and look around at each other and say, well, how are we gonna do this? And, there’s some different techniques that the industry is using currently.
A number of people are actually converting from steam to hot water and using heat pumps to produce heating, which is, completely viable method. But now you’re basically relying on the grid to provide your energy. To turn those heat pumps. So, when I came to EPRI, and, I’d been out the nuclear industry for 10 years so I hadn’t really kept up with some of the advancements, but when I came to EPRI and I saw the advancements in that, not only smr but really the micro reactors, anomaly, we define micro reactors as less than 200 megawatt thermal.
But most of the ones on the market are roughly 50 mega megawatt thermal or less. And so, I started thinking about this like, well, this is really interesting. This could be a, potential tool because of the size and the scale of those reactors to put on a college campus.
So about a year ago we formed the New IDEA Initiative and we now have over 25 members in the initiative. And basically what we, it’s an industry working group that we. Our mission is to enable nuclear energy as an option for the district energy market by 2026. And we’re not focused on the technology development.
there’s, a number of different vendors working on different technologies that, could be deployed in this market. What we’re really focused on are, what are all the other challenges out there that need to be solved? So, from a technical standpoint, how would I integrate the reactor into a campus energy system?
From, regulatory permitting, operations of maintenance, security financing public awareness. So there’s 11 different areas that we identified. And then within those 11 areas, we’ve identified various actions that need to be taken over the next three years. To then kind of clear those hurdles we’re really trying to do is, enable and de-risk the options so that, in three years if someone says, Hey, I think this might be a good option for my, campus, or my hospital, or my downtown system.
That we’ve done that work and then, people can then go, use that option. I mean, this is a great example of what EPRI does. We really, at our heart, we’re very collaborative and so we like to start solve hard problems, and by bringing a lot of different stakeholders together, we can figure out what needs to get done and then mobilize the resources, to go do that.
[00:11:32] Mark Hinaman: That’s awesome. Is is transportation one of those pillars?
[00:11:37] Jeremy Shook: So that particular point, it’s interesting you bring that up. So this, action plan is very specific just to district energy. EPRI is also working on a much broader initiative called the North American Advance React Roadmap. And as part of that roadmap, we’ve identified some generic issues with regards to micro reactors.
Transportation is one of them. And so while, and, what we did was we didn’t duplicate any actions out of the, larger roadmap. We just said, Hey, there’s gonna be micro actor. Issues that are part of that North American roadmap, and that’ll be worked separately. So, those are being worked.
And, we don’t do EPRI is a five one, when we don’t do advocacy or policy or regulatory. So we have other organizations that we partner targeted with that, lead that. So that particular case of Nuclear Energy Institute is leading the The work on working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding, what type of regulations need to be put in place for shipping micro reactors with fuel.
Now, certainly, today there’s already rules in place that allow shipment of fresh fuel and shipping of used fuel and dry storage tasks. So those are all there’s already existing ways to do that. So the open question is, can I ship fresher use fuel inside the micro reactor?
Cause the number of micro reactor vendors. Are planning to have that model where they would ship reactor fuel to site, it would stay closed the entire time, and then they would just disconnect the reactor and ship it back to the factory where it be de fueled. And so there are open questions about how that would work from a transportation perspective.
And again that’s being led by our our by the Nuclear Energy Institute. Gotcha. Okay.
[00:13:12] Mark Hinaman: While you’re just describing it, something came to mind again with submarines that move spent or partially radiated fuel all the time and are designed to Yeah. Take large vibrations and, people talk about the fuel being brittle, and if you’re moving it down the highway, then yeah, what’s the impact?
But I don’t know right. So who for this new Idea initiative? And it’s funny that I pronounce it. Ode, I’m looking back and now Yeah, that makes a lot more sense.
[00:13:40] Jeremy Shook: You’re not, don’t worry. You’re not the first person that, did that. Yeah. So don’t, don’t feel
[00:13:43] Mark Hinaman: it started as a great name and then not until other people start saying it, do you realize, oh, this, whoops.
Right. Can you say who some of the members are? and how would folks get involved with this if they wanted to?
[00:13:55] Jeremy Shook: Sure. So again, we have over 25 members. Some of them are sort of, I’ll, I’ll say private members, so they’re not they’re not public with it. But some of the members are nuclear Energy Institute international District Energy Association.
So those are two nonprofits that we work. NEI is focused on the nuclear industry. International District Energy Association is sort of the trade organization for the district energy market. Then we’ve got some end users. So organizations like Cent Trio, they’re a, operator of district energy facilities.
They run many municipal systems in the country. You also have some colleges like University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. So, and, there that particular campus, they’re actually. Looking to put a demonstration micro actor on their campus by the end of the decade. So they are they’re sort of on the leading edge.
Now. The purpose of that micro reactor project is primarily research and development. So, but they are going to connect it to their campus heating system and make steam for, use when it’s, an available, it’s but the. It’s not gonna be a dispatchable resource by the utilities department.
So they’ll kind of take the steam, when it, available. So, and then we also have some architect to engineering firms such as Burnson McDonald and Sergeant Lundy. So there’s a pretty broad brush cross section of, organizations. So it’s been a great group to be working with a lot of passionate folks.
The team did a great job getting the action plan to together and, just started meeting last month. I said, well now, the easy part’s done. Now we actually have to go do all the work to to make this an option.
[00:15:24] Mark Hinaman: So that’s awesome. Well you guys have a deliverable by 2026 or expect to have it deliverable by then will that be available to the public?
I mean, you mentioned projects are, have to be beneficial to the public. So how, do folks discover that?
[00:15:40] Jeremy Shook: Yeah, so there’s a couple ways, different ways folks can engage. So first of all people can join the new ID initiative. The initiative itself is free to join. So basically it’s just an industry working group.
And going forward, the main role initiative will be providing oversight of the different actions. So there’s not gonna be initially one deliverable, there’ll be multiple deliverables or multiple activities underneath that action plan that, all have to get done by 2026. So, and in those actions, there’s kind of three main organizations.
That are accomplishing those actions. So PRI is doing a, taking a number of actions to be done. The Nuclear Energy Institute is also taking a number of actions to be done. And then in addition, some of the, teams within the new IDEA initiative are leading certain actions as well. So, like, for example, we have a, our public awareness team is le they’re taking the lead on certain actions.
Now on the EPRI work we are because that work is a little bit, I’ll say heftier in terms of resource demand we are launching a research program. That people can join to help fund that research. With our current funding, we could do all the research, but it may not be done for 10 years, so we’re trying to, expand the membership specifically within Industrial Energy to get additional funding so we can accelerate that work and get that done within the, timeframe.
so two different ways people can engage if they just want to come to the new idea meetings, just to kind of hear what’s going on and, engage with other folks, that’s free to join. And then if you wanna, Actually get access to the research results and kind of get more in depth and, support, the overall initiative.
Then, certainly joining the research program is an option as well.
[00:17:15] Mark Hinaman: Can you say, what the cost is or what, how much it cost to pay to?
[00:17:19] Jeremy Shook: Sure, yeah. So it’s a $25,000 fee for three years. So it’s a three year commitment. And a year. Yeah, 20, 25. Eight year. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:17:31] Mark Hinaman: Okay. Awesome. So if, folks wanna be informed, then they can, but if they wanna Yeah. Contribute and help you guys out, then that’s an option too. So you mentioned kinda less than 50 megawatts thermal, but that, when we’ve researched micro reactors, there’s a ton of options out there.
How are you going to include kind of the variety in the micro reactors with some of the product goals?
[00:17:55] Jeremy Shook: I mean, when you say product goes in terms of like the end energy needs as far as what the, campus might need. Yeah. Yeah. Ok. Yeah.
[00:18:01] Mark Hinaman: It just feels like there could be a perfect fit for use for that each reactor has for different applications and, different groups have different power demands and there’s different footprints and, yeah.
[00:18:13] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. No, it, actually a really interesting question because what I try to tell. So having worked in that market, and as you probably know in oil and gas, right now, if I want to go, if I need to go get a steam source, I write a spec to like a Cliber Brooks or a rent tech and I tell ’em I need this amount of pounds per hour steam flow, and this pressure and temperature, and in two years you get a.
Engineer to order boiler that, or sig that shows up at your site to make that steam right Now the problem with nuclear is that
[00:18:42] Mark Hinaman: any vessel, right? I mean, step separator or pipeline or Yeah,
[00:18:47] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. I mean, and, there’s companies out there that are, their business is sort of, constructed around that engineer to order type of approach, right?
Yeah. The problem with nuclear is that would be, Very impractical just due to the licensing, aspects of, what has to get done. And so, one of the things that we’re thinking about is, what do I, like right now, if I have a steam plant, usually you have like m plus one or m plus two steam sources, based on your peak load to make sure you handle any, inadvertent trips of a unit to make sure you’re still meeting your capacity.
Well, relatively nuclear is a higher capital cost asset with relatively lower fuel cost, right? So that’s all pretty much embedded in the reactor. And so how do I think about that from a system design perspective and given the micro reactors in the market, there’s a wide variety of ranges. Like some are, like I said, up to 50 megawatt thermal, some are as low as, one maybe a couple megawatt thermal.
And so, that’s some of the interesting things we’re gonna be looking at with some of our research is how do I think about designing that energy system to fulfill those end loads, right? Whether it’s, steam or hot water for heating or chill water for cooling. Or, co-generation electricity, if that’s needed.
One of the great things about a micro reactor, in a district energy application is, it can provide all your energy loads, right? So, I can, you know it cuz the primary output is heat, not electricity, right? So I can, take that heat and, maybe run it through a, isolation, heat exchanger to produce hot water, for example, or steam, with an isolated boiler.
I can also run that steam through a steam chiller to make chill water and then also run it through a turbo generator to make electricity. I can satisfy all my energy loads with that reactor. Now the question is, what’s the most cost effective way to do that with multiple reactors? And then making sure I hit my reliability requirements.
So that’s a lot of interesting work that we’re looking at doing. The other thing which is interesting about district energy is that, when you look at the low profiles, they’re not. It’s not a hundred percent load all the time. They’ll vary seasonally, they’ll vary daily. And so that’s another thing, again, from a, not necessarily from a technical perspective, like you said, like we can figure out the load following piece, but more from an economic perspective, how do I optimize the financial performance of that asset?
So looking at things like thermal energy storage, whether that’s, ts tanks, like a hot water, chill water tank. Or potentially looking at geo exchange for more seasonal storage by using, the ground as a battery that’s being done in that market now. And so that’s some of the the work that we’re gonna be looking to do.
I actually have, just today we’re kicking off a brainstorming session about some of those different design concepts, and, what they may look like. so yeah, it’s a great question and, I wish I could tell you the answer today, but we’re,
[00:21:24] Mark Hinaman: That’s part of the work, right?
Yeah. Yeah. That’s part of the work. Yeah.
So you’d mentioned a previous project that looked at kind of changing the e p Z planning zone. And, you guys are nonprofits, so it’s not, likely to recommend policy changes, but, one of the big advantages that I see with micro reactors is being able to iterate more rapidly.
Mm-hmm. But just like you said, because the, it’s nuclear quote unquote. The design tends to be set in stone and making changes can be challenging. How do you see that playing out and will the new IDEA initiative contribute to that at all or help modify that or, not?
[00:22:02] Jeremy Shook: So that’s not a really interesting question because, when you look at how do I get, cost savings out of a technology, right?
Yeah. And you start looking at, the one way is to go bigger. I get economies of scale, right? So typically large thermal stations go bigger and bigger. Bigger. The challenge to that with nuclear is that, then you start introducing mega project risk and you may start to erode those, cost savings by, trying to get economies of scale.
The other side, when you go lower in size, you lose those economies of scale, but then you could potentially, depending on the volume, the ultimate volume at some point. You can start getting those economies of manufacturing, so rights law looking at, the more units I make, the more I can reduce the cost.
And so, EPRI does think that there is potential for that, obviously it’s going to, there’s gonna be a lot of different factors that, play into that. But it’s certainly a very interesting idea. Both from the manufacturing side as well as the the installation side.
You start thinking about what it would take to put a micro react in. It’s much. Much smaller project right. Than than a, very large power plant.
[00:23:07] Mark Hinaman: So it’s like building the car versus building a refinery.
[00:23:09] Jeremy Shook: Exactly. That’s exactly right. Yep. so I, do think there’s, It’s, yeah, it’s, more in that product type of approach.
And so, I do think there’s a lot of potential with that. Again, we’ll see how that plays out , but we do see definitely potential for that going forward. Cool.
[00:23:27] Mark Hinaman: You’d mentioned some of your members are college campuses or, and potential end users. These are common, right?
I mean, there’s micro reactors already existing on camp campuses around the country.
[00:23:38] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. So currently today there are 31 research and test reactors that are licensed by the nrc. The primary purpose of those reactors is there’s a couple purposes actually. One is education of undergraduate students.
The second is doing research and development. And the third is a number of those reactors are also used to produce isotopes for, various purposes. So it’s a bit of a side business, if you will, for, the universities. But generally those reactors aren’t connected to campus. Heating systems generally, they’re sort of isolated by themselves.
And a lot of them are, fairly low power. If, a lot of ’em are called zero power, which means that, they don’t. Appreciably impact the temperature of the of the water that, they sit in. So, whereas some are, a little bit bigger. I think the largest one might be m i t at like six megawatt thermal or maybe Missouri.
I don’t know. I have to go back and look at that.
[00:24:28] Mark Hinaman: I thought it was like 10 megawatts, but I, could wrong too.
[00:24:31] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. But yeah, you’re generally limited, in the size of thermal output with those research and test reactors. But they are, on many campuses around the country.
They’ve been, a lot of them been operating since the the Cold War and they’re operating safely and, but yeah, a lot of people don’t know that they’re there. They’re not always advertised necessarily on campus. but yeah, they have been operating there for quite a while.
[00:24:53] Mark Hinaman: So a lot of people say you can’t put. Reactors in the middle of an urban zone or in a population center, in a power hospital. But that’s kind of exactly what we’re trying to do with a lot of these micro reactors. Right. On college campuses, so. Mm-hmm. Why would these be safe?
[00:25:10] Jeremy Shook: So traditional plants have what’s called a emergency planning zone. And the, standard. Boundary for emergency planning zone is 10 miles. So what that means is that, if you live within 10 miles of that plant, then there’s gonna be basically any, anybody in within that 10 miles is gonna be under emergency planning activities.
Right? So, actually, just ironically, I live within the emergency planning zone for the McGuire nuclear station, but we’re about four miles away. So what that means is from practical perspective, every month or two, they do some siren tests. There were an accident, my kids would be taken from school to another place where we’d have to go meet them.
So basically it’s a way to to, provide, emergency response for the public that 10 miles was set, sort of, without, early on, in the I’ll say arbitrarily. Yeah. There was a little bit of science behind it, but yeah, somewhat arbitrarily and And so, there’s been a couple advancements recently that we think could help the deployment of micro reactors with this, with regards to this particular issue.
So new scale last year got approval for a methodology basically a risk-based methodology to determine the size of the E P Z. So the, general idea is that, the, there’s a thing called a source term. The source term is the amount of. Reactivity that would be released in, the event of an accident even though unlikely.
And when you look at the source term for a new scale or even a micro reactor, it’s smaller than a larger typical reactor. Typical reactors are, maybe two orders of magnitude larger in terms of thermal output than these micro tors. so that methodology, although, it was only particularly applicable to the new scale design.
The idea is that that could be leveraged for future applications. And separately, the NRC also came out with a policy two statement last year that said that they, would now be open to this idea of, locating reactors closer to population zones. Again, more of a risk-based approach to tumors who plain ins own sizing as opposed to the more, traditional fixed size of the E P Z.
So with those two exemptions in the last year or so, we think that there’s, that, is opening the door for this technology to be used. I mean, certainly folks will have to to go through the regulatory process with the regulator. But certainly those two things are going to, help the ability going further for the technology deploy, be deployed in, these markets.
[00:27:30] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, because with micro reactors, I mean, there’s, just so much less source, right? The actual potential for harm is less,
[00:27:37] Jeremy Shook: right? That’s exactly right. Yep. Yeah.
[00:27:40] Mark Hinaman: we didn’t have this as one of the questions, but do you have a favorite application.
[00:27:45] Jeremy Shook: Do I have a favorite application? I mean, they’re all interesting in their, own right.
One of the things that I’m, kind of going back to oil and gas that I’m real interested in is the, i, the potential for using nuclear to produce hydrocarbon liquids to replace hydrocarbons we dig outta the ground, right? So if you, if you think about it from a very macro scale, it took millions of years of.
Sunlight and and, and, pressure decomposition to produce these hydrocarbon liquids, and we’re extracting ’em out of the ground right now, but at some point, that will end, right, whether we run out or whether it be, and you’d probably know better than I do, but the way I think about it is we’d either run out or they’d be technically infeasible to pull out of the ground or just be too costly to pull outta the ground.
So, Or we’ll voluntarily choose to stop playing ’em out because we don’t want to, put CO2 in the atmosphere anymore. But the thing is, what, I’ll say from my perspective, I do think we will need hydrocarbons in the future. I mean, for two things. I think, when you look at right now, Electricity only comprises of 13% of our en energy use.
So the other 87% is in things like transportation and industrial and commercial heating, and that sort of thing. And so, I, definitely see potential for a, portion of that to be electrified. And then there’ll be a, probably a portion of that that’ll be challenging to electrify.
And so, the ability to produce hydrocarbons that can, fill that gap, I think will be important. The other thing is, we also use hydrocarbons as part of, daily life. All the different products that we make out of hydrocarbons, right? So plastics and chemicals, and all these sorts of things.
I like to tell people I, like my iPhone. I’d like to, keep, be able to use the the comforts of modern civilization. So I, guess the ultimate point of that is I do think we’ll need to be able to have the ability to make hydrocarbons in the future after we stop pulling on the ground.
And I think nuclear energy is gonna have to play a big part of that, right? Just because of the amount of energy that’s required to do that. And the reliability and, a hundred percent uptime that it can provide. Or very high up time that it can provide for those type of facilities.
So that’s one that I think is really interesting. And we’ve been collaborating with a number of different members and governmental authorizations, and there’s definitely folks who are becoming really interested in that. And then the question becomes, Well, where do I get my carbon from?
I can make hydrogen by, that’s, fairly easy, right? I can use electrolysis to make hydrogen, or there’s different methodologies and we actually have a, paper we’re working on now that actually is gonna catalog all the different ways you can make hydrogen from using nuclear energy.
But then the question becomes, well, where do I get the carbon from to marry it with a hydrogen? And so, then you start thinking about, well, where do I have concentrated sources of carbon out there? So places like pulp and paper mills. So we’re doing a pulp and paper workshop this summer looking at using, how do I reconfigure the pulp and paper process using nuclear energy to potentially get biofuels or other, Processes Or other products out of that.
You also start thinking about, other biomass trying to concentrate that and, ship that to refineries. You also look at, why don’t we also have a paper looking at municipal solid waste. So, you produce methane with with a waste treatment process with digesters and looks, it turns out that if you raise the temperature, the digestion process, you can actually increase the met the rate of methane production.
So looking at all these different places where we can have, we already have concentrated sources of carbon to to be able to produce, whether it’s a gas or a liquid, those hydrocarbons that we can then use. For all the things that we do today. So that I think is, from a sort of a broad civilization standpoint, I think is really interesting.
And that’s some work that we’re, they’re gonna be looking to do going forward. But all the other markets I think are interesting. You start looking at downstream chemical processing data centers, data centers. There was just an announcement a couple weeks ago developer’s gonna build a gig gigawatt data center up in Virginia.
And they’re planning at some point to add six SMRs to power those data centers. And so, district energy, sort of a little near dear to my heart because I spent some time working on it. So yeah, I think, there’s just a lot of really interesting applications and what I’ve been trying to tell people is we need to, think on constrained and think broadly speaking with these new technologies and thinking about where we need to go to civilization.
To to maintain our, way of life. I think it’s really
[00:32:04] Mark Hinaman: I totally agree. It’s exciting for me to hear you say that or hear, you think about the, I’ll say sin, sin fuels or synthetic fuel approach. Because I, completely agree. I think a lot of people don’t realize what portion of hydrocarbon production goes into manufacturing materials, and we just use ’em as a raw, raw source.
Mm-hmm. But if you can manufacture them out of air and water, all it takes is cheaper energy. And so if you make the energy and I, when I’ve done the math, it’s like three to four times cheaper than what it would cost you to get down the ground then yeah, you can absolutely do it. Technically we, know how to do this right.
So that yeah, I agree. Yes. That’s an exciting application. Are there. Some of these applications that you think will be helpful for building more nuclear. And I’ll caveat that with, or add to that question by saying, you mentioned military healthcare, education, college campuses, backup power manufacturing, chem plants.
Like, who do you think are gonna be some of the first customers and first movers to wanna build some of these systems?
[00:33:08] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. So I, think the answer to that is I think the military is gonna be the, first mover, there’s the Air Force,
[00:33:14] Mark Hinaman: it’s kinda a, safety move for them, right?
[00:33:17] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. I mean it’s really, it’s for them it’s really resiliency and security of energy supply, right? So, the Air Force came out last year with an R F P for not a research project. I mean, this is a commercial. 30 year p p a, that they want to procure electricity and steam for a base in Alaska, the Olsen Air Force base.
And they want that with provided with nuclear energy. So that R F P went out last year. I think the applicants provided proposals the beginning year. So we’ll see kind of where that goes. But I’ve seen some preliminary, remarks by D O D that they’re looking to maybe put in.
Dozens of, reactors at military installations over the next 10 to 15 years. So I think, those will probably be, the first big mover. I think also I think there’s the potential for, some universities depending on the size of the system and, I’ll say the general acceptance, I think the acceptance of nuclear would, vary quite a bit across that market.
And so I think you may be, you may see some in there. I think some behind the meter applications, particularly heavy industrial and data centers. I think you’re seeing some movement there. Like I mentioned, the that data center project up in Virginia that was announced a couple weeks ago and also Dow and X Energy are now so X Energy is now working with Doo on their A R D P award.
They’re gonna put four x XC 100 units. Down a DA facility in Texas to provide heat and electricity for that process. So, yeah, so I think the way I see it, those will be the three kind of main markets to that. You’ll start to see some, movement going forward. And then it’ll, we’ll just kind of see with the broader energy market, like what happens.
With the grid and the electricity and, cost of gas. I mean, probably better than I like in oil and gas. Like, what’s the future hold for for commodity prices? It’s,
[00:35:06] Mark Hinaman: man, no,
no one knows that. That’s right. Right. We’re, we’re all betting on it one way or the other every, every single day,
and nobody does.
[00:35:13] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. And one, one of the interesting things too, I think about is, what’s the value of, stability of energy costs, right? How do I think about if I’m a manufacturer, I’m using, natural gas right now to provide, to make steam, how do I think about the risk of that energy supply going forward?
So I think, I think that’s something that companies might be thinking about as they look at decarbonizing going forward. So,
[00:35:39] Mark Hinaman: Got it. Do you think a bunch of these applications will help build more nuclear?
[00:35:45] Jeremy Shook: So what I can say there is, our, research program overall that I work in, so I lead the nuclear belong electricity area.
We’re part of the advanced nuclear technology program, which we do research in the entire spectrum of new nuclear. Everything from basically research planning all the way down through. Commissioning and turning over to operations and maintenance and actually even really the first fuel cycle in the operations of maintenance.
So we look at, developing enabling technologies or optimizing technologies. We’ll look at guidelines on how to do certain things, like how do I set my project up, how do I contract, for EPCs or for oem, new entr plus up OEMs. So we do all this research and really the research is, I’ll say, The point of that research is, in a couple different areas.
One is, enabling the option two, reducing costs, three, reducing risk and then four enabling different missions. So if I kind of had to summarize it, those are the four big buckets. So, to the extent that we can do those things, we believe that that will help accelerate the deployment of nuclear.
But you know, there’s a lot of different factors. We’re not investors or we’re not companies making decisions on whether to deploy capital for that, type of project. So we’re just trying to do the work that will accomplish those four objectives and then, the market will make those decisions going forward.
[00:36:59] Mark Hinaman: Gotcha.
Well, we appreciate your guys’ help. Last question for you. What’s the most impactful action that society can take to build more tomorrow? I certainly appreciate what you guys are doing. If a new idea is, is that project, then that’s great, but what else could kind of the broader collective we do?
[00:37:17] Jeremy Shook: Again, I think In terms of, again, I can’t really comment on policy or anything like that. That’s a little bit about our, swim lane. But I think again, like just kind of focusing on the work that we do, then those four areas, enabling technology, reducing cost and risk.
And looking for missions and I’d say just generally, people keeping an open mind about the technology and trying to understand the, just try, really try to understand the technology and what it can bring to the table, I think is important.
But Yeah, in terms of like, whether we need more policy or more incentives, I can’t really, can’t really comment on that.
[00:37:50] Mark Hinaman: Okay. Well, I, in that case, I, do have one more question for you. Think thinking about timeline TW 2026 is when you guys aim to have this project finished, but how fast do you think some of these new systems will come to market?
So I, think, let ask, it’s interesting.
What’s the world look like in like 20, 27 to 2030? Will some of these systems be available and be commercial?
[00:38:14] Jeremy Shook: Yeah. So, I think when you look at the there’s some of the, the micro reactor projects, so, USS and C for example, is a micro director vendor.
They’re looking at a project in Canada, in Chalk River, and then also at the University of Illinois. That’s the technology that’ll be deployed there. From what is, I’d say publicly available, it looks like both of those products would be kind of wrapping up in that timeframe. Again, this is a benefit of that size of technology.
It has a potential for much more rapid deployment than a larger unit. I think on the SMR side, I think like companies like X Energy with their gp. Are targeting, roughly in that timeframe as well, at least as, publicly available information. And then I can say, in conversations with our members, a number of our members are looking at deployment timelines into the early to mid 2030s.
Obviously again, that’s gonna be dependent on a lot of different factors, cost of capital, supply chain, a lot of different things. But yeah, we do see, the opportunity for, or we do see the potential for deployment of these technologies within the next 10 years.
[00:39:12] Mark Hinaman: Awesome.
Well, Jeremy Shook, thanks so much for the time. I really appreciate it.
[00:39:15] Jeremy Shook: Yeah, thanks Mark. Yeah, it was a pleasure.