Mark Hinaman hosts an informal and open discussion with engineers, salesmen, and non-profit advocates in the oil and gas industry in Denver. This discussion was recorded as part of the Denver chapter of Young Professionals in Energy’s Discussion on Energy and Networking (DEN Talks) program. It’s meant to have 10 to 20 minutes of a presenter speaking on a topic and allow for 40 to 60 minutes of dialogue and debate to follow. Mark discusses nuclear energy and the opportunity costs associated with focusing on other forms of energy generation.
[00:00:00] Mark Hinaman: Most of us in this room work in oil and gas. In fact, all of us work in oil and gas except for one of us. So,
[00:00:06] RG: so you gonna name it? I was like, wasn’t it the whole deal of Secrets Grill?
[00:00:09] Mark Hinaman: I know, I know. Yeah, we can’t, we can’t say names.
[00:00:11] MC: So is this energy anonymous?
[00:00:14] Mark Hinaman: Energy anonymous. It could be, yeah. Anonymous.
Think about every hour that people spend building solar panels, building wind, on oil and gas projects. This is an hour that’s not spent building nuclear projects. And I don’t know if you guys have thought about kind of your careers in that way. Perhaps you have where you say, well, I wasn’t a doctor, but I’m spending my time producing energy for the world.
But specifically what kind of energy and is the amount of focus that you’re giving the maximum return on investment for your work that you’re putting in and for your time that you’re putting in. I think if you put more energy into designing those other systems, you’ll lose out on what you could have created by focusing on the technology and the resource that gave you your biggest bang for your buck.
[00:01:02] 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 operate a. With High Tech Zero Prosperity Football, diplomats, businessmen, and women and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations, the development transition sources of, in other words, we need you.
[00:02:06] RG: The trash party on it. Right? Right. Yeah. Now give me 10 minutes. I’ll be back to where I was. No, I’m kidding.
[00:02:15] Mark Hinaman: Oh my God. Defense trash. The trash party is one of a kind. It’s great. You see every, I see everyone there. I see all my friends.
[00:02:23] RG: You see everyone. And you don’t remember anyone you saw.
[00:02:24] Mark Hinaman: That’s not true.
[00:02:25] PM: I skipped it this year for that reason.
[00:02:29] Mark Hinaman: My company party was the same night. But it was very fun.
[00:02:31] RG: You still made it.
[00:02:31] Mark Hinaman: I still made it. I was late though, which means everyone was drunk. It’s very fun. So.
Okay. Real quick. So thanks everyone for coming again. This is, DEN Talks or we’ve branded as DEN Talks, discussions on energy and networking. Our goal is to do this discussion once a month here in Denver and have kind of small group discussion.
The goal is that everyone speaks, everyone ask questions. But to kick it off, we have a speaker or presenter on a specific topic. And so I’ll be the speaker and presenter tonight. We are recording it so that if we want to turn it into a podcast later, we can, we have that opportunity because we’re recording it.
And to protect the innocent I won’t say any of your names, even though I know all your names. And we’ve got the camera just focused on me. So you can retain anomynity secret and keep your identity secret. So, feel free to speak openly. But you know, there is one person in the group that if people work in the energy industry in Denver, they may be able to recognize based on her accent So, you know.
[00:03:25] RG: What are they gonna do? I’ve said crazier shit.
[00:03:27] Mark Hinaman: Yes.
[00:03:30] SM: An accent life. Yeah, that’s,
[00:03:32] RG: well I dunno, that would be hilarious to it. Southern sorority.
[00:03:40] Mark Hinaman: So yeah, we’ve got, we’ve got just obviously the camera and microphone here. So if you’re speaking on that side of the room for the rest of people listening or watching, we have a, how many, there’s eight people in the room.
Four nine. Okay. Yeah, nine of us. So, kind of small group discussion. I’m gonna give an overview and kick us off. So the goal is kind of five to 15 minute talk by me and then open it up to the room. Bigger group discussion for 30 to 45 minutes. It’s kind of our target. So, the topic tonight is nuclear energy.
Oh man. Yeah. Very surprising, right? Yeah. Dun duh. Everyone knows that. But I obviously you guys know that I love nuclear. I, I kind of struggled on what to talk about tonight because the topic’s so big. And we don’t have to stick to kind of what I’ve prepared to, to speak as an overview, but I wanted to have a kind of a thought provoking idea that maybe people haven’t heard, characterized, or phrased in that way before.
So with nuclear, like we could talk about, you know, uranium sourcing it, where it comes from, different types of reactors, the technology, how many they are, how it’s proliferated all over the world. We could cite safety statistics. We could talk about radiation and the hazards that it presents, or the licensing process or the waste, right?
These are all topics that like come to mind when you hear nuclear, but all of those are kind of boring and people have talked about ’em a lot. One thing that. I feel like people haven’t talked about or don’t talk about ,is opportunity cost.
So yeah, we’ve, we’ve got beers here as it’s meant to be informal and fun.
But opportunity cost when it comes to nuclear specifically with the workforce, emissions, and life. So I’ll hit on those three. But what, what is opportunity cost, right? We can think about this as the expense of you spending your time in one way and losing the opportunity to spend your time doing something else.
And people often don’t think about this when they’re thinking about their careers or kind of life choices. And so we’ll start off with kind of a par ball and then jump into workforce, emissions or environment, and life. But the parable that I like to tell, to characterize opportunity costs is think about two young women high school years or maybe even college years that live in a big family, maybe in a third world country.
Both have the opportunity to go to school and become good students and get a great education or help their family around the house and spend more time with their family and support the family’s immediate needs. And you can think about kind of the two paths that they might take. You know, one views her responsibility in the family and the home as being super critical and helping out with the dishes and the younger kids all the time.
But because of that, she doesn’t do her homework as often. Struggles in school, doesn’t get kind of the education that she needs, especially early on, and then doesn’t have the opportunities later in life and in her education to better herself, better her opportunities move forward versus the opposite route, which is girl takes time studying and while she’s reprimanded perhaps by her father at home and saying, you’re not helping out as much, you’re not doing dishes, you’re not helping family. She says, well, if I study hard, then I can become educated, go out into the workforce, and then send money back. It’s kind of a delayed gratification at a larger family unit, system size.
And for her, you know, she gets educated, she can go and then push forward get a better job, and then send money back to the family. So that’s kind of an easy way for me to characterize opportunity costs. And I wanna talk about, about it again with the workforce starting off.
So workforce in the energy industry.
We, most of us in this room work in oil and gas. In fact, all of us work in oil and gas except for one of us. So,
[00:07:13] RG: so you gonna name it? I was like, wasn’t it the whole deal of Secrets Grill?
[00:07:16] Mark Hinaman: I know, I know. Yeah, we can’t, we can’t say names.
[00:07:18] MC: So is this energy anonymous.
[00:07:21] Mark Hinaman: Energy anonymous. It could be, yeah.
Anonymous. But we think about every hour that people spend building solar panels, building wind, on oil and gas projects. This is an hour that’s not spent building nuclear projects. And I don’t know if you guys have thought about kind of your careers in that way. Perhaps you have where you say, well, I wasn’t a doctor, but I’m spending my time producing energy for the world.
But specifically what kind of energy and is the amount of focus that you’re giving the maximum return on investment for your work that you’re putting in and for your time that you’re putting in. So there’s a couple metrics that I like to use to characterize this idea. Which one is rate of return and return on investment for energy projects.
So you think about renewable projects if you talk to anyone in the renewable industry, if they can get like a six to 7% rate of return on their project and it pays out in 20 years or less, they’re stoked. Right? That they’re like, this is an incredible project. Right? Great economics looks great. That’s kind of garbage compared to what we’re used to in the oil and gas industry, right?
Oil and gas, you kind of, we target 25% rate of return minimum, but frequently there’s a hundred percent rate of return.
But on a project basis, it’s not like a shareholder basis. Sure. Project basis.
Yeah. Yeah. But frequently, I mean, because it’s volatile commodities industry the average rate of return of most oil and gas companies over the past decade plus have been 6% or less.
But on a project basis, they can be significantly better. They can also be significantly worse, and people lose their jobs, lose lots of money on it, which is problematic. Take one step further. Go to nuclear. There’s a common stat that’s often cited by a very popular podcaster. He’s actually a medical doctor up in Canada, but he’s the president of the Canadians for Nuclear Society.
He frequently says, for every dollar and there’s lots of data to back this up. For every dollar that you put into a nuclear project in Canada, you get a buck 40 out. And it’s just a tremendous resource. While kind of researching after this talk also, I came across a stat the World Nuclear Association put together a report about operating nuclear power plants and how much the electricity cost.
It’s less than a penny and a half, or one and a half cents per kilowatt hour, which is essentially at the lowest cost of energy that exists once you’ve paid off the cost of the construction of the plant. So that translates directly to kind of things that impact us most, and it, it all trickles down, which is kind of salaries, right?
And so taking three example jobs you could say, well, if you’re an engineer in renewables, oil and gas, or nuclear, how much do you get paid? So salary.com looked up a couple stats. Renewable energy engineer, 69,000 to 110,000 petroleum engineer, 97,000 to 125,000. Nuclear engineer, 80,000 to 140,000.
And so it’s, it’s just this. Trend that filters and perks throughout the entire industry. And that’s, you know, I used engineers as an example, but I’ve found that trend to be prevalent for landmen, for lawyers, for anyone working on those projects. So kind of really interesting. So the more time that people spend working on other energy projects, ultimately the less money they’ll make and the more opportunity costs they’ll miss by not working on nuclear projects.
So that kind of wraps up point number one for workforce. Number two, emissions, obviously carbon emissions. Everyone’s gungho crazy about how to minimize carbon emissions in society. Nuclear is the best. Every stat that you can look at, it’s leaps and downs better. So a chart that one of us in the room got together recently was carbon emissions per How many grams of CO2 are emitted per kilowatt hour?
So we’ll just list off some stats here. Coal’s a thousand natural gas is 450, solar’s 44 wind is down in the single digit teens, and then nuclears sub 10. So on an order of magnitude basis, right, nuclears a hundred times better than coal. So if you’re looking to reduce carbon emissions and even 20% better than wind, which is the next best?
So if you’re trying to minimize carbon emissions, then choose nuclear, right? Why, why would you not? Even better yet, is kind of the real example from environmental perspective of what’s happening in Germany right now where they’re literally destroying the village of lut Roth, and I probably butchered the pronunciation of that name, but if you guys haven’t seen pictures of this, go look it up.
[00:11:44] BT: Doesn’t the mine own the town? The mine owns the town. So like destroying the village, it’s the mine’s business.
[00:11:51] Mark Hinaman: That’s fair. Yeah. If the mine owns the town, right?
[00:11:53] BT: The mine owns the town. Yeah. So like they’re destroying their property, which like, they’re like kicking people out.
[00:11:59] Mark Hinaman: Touche, touche. But it is, it is a fascinating to see these images, right?
It’s just this mining operation that, you know, they didn’t destroy the infrastructure that was there yet,
[00:12:09] BT: The machine they use is absolutely enormous.
[00:12:11] Mark Hinaman: It’s enormous.
[00:12:16] BT: It’s like, it’s like the biggest, just look up Google saw you’ve ever seen. Yeah. And it is on an arm with the conf conveyor belt that literally just like,
[00:12:23] MC: well that’s the pictures talking about like.
[00:12:26] Mark Hinaman: It’s incredible. And I mean the, there was news that, you know, Greta Thunberg was get carried off by police and a bunch of people.
Kind of cuz they’re trespassing, right? But like, especially if it’s mine property then, but yeah. From an environmental perspective, like why do you have to level villages to be able to generate energy, right? So that’s opportunity cost number two.
Number three is literally life itself. Meaning if you could choose to minimize harmed humans, wouldn’t you want to choose the energy source that generates the most energy and causes the least amount of injuries and deaths globally, right?
And from every statistic that I’ve looked up, like regardless of how you skin the cat, nuclear is by and far the best. And so, I mean, frankly, air pollution’s killing three to 8 million people a year. Outdoor air pollution from Coalfire power plants is killing 3 million people a year right now.
Which is baffling. Indoor air pollution is between three and 4 million people a year. So this is, as many people as Covid killed are dying every single year. And we could cease those emissions by having no emission energy or zero or low emission energy of which people say, well, wind and solar can do that.
And I push back and say from the whole supply chain of wind and solar and the carbon footprint to generate and do the manufacturing for those products, the death toll and injury rate is still higher than nuclear. Even when you include Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, fukushima, like the largest nuclear disasters.
And I put those disaster in an air quote cuz they’re not really disasters, they’re just industrial accidents that everyone knows about. Can I
[00:14:05] PM: That’s including the supply chain of building a nuclear plant and extracting
[00:14:09] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. Your, and it’s every, everything. Yeah.
[00:14:12] RG: So question on that. The indoor air pollution, I’m assuming it’s coming from cooking propane , dung,
[00:14:18] Mark Hinaman: well, not propane. It’s typically in down poor countries that have particulate matter and are using biomass. Okay. Right. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Have scope.
[00:14:28] RG: So, so then with nuclear as a solution to that, you would have to create infrastructure from a grid perspective.
[00:14:34] Mark Hinaman: Yes. Right. Electrify the communities.
[00:14:37] PM: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s time component to that.
[00:14:41] Mark Hinaman: Absolutely.
[00:14:43] RG: Devil’s at beginning, I’m just
[00:14:45] PM: prominent speaker in, in the area would say to switch to, you know, natural gas on, on local cookers.
[00:14:50] Mark Hinaman: Oh yeah. Cuz you can do it immediately. Totally.
Support. That makes a ton of sense. Yeah, yeah.
[00:14:55] PM: No bias but prominent speaker in the local area.
[00:14:59] RG: Wonder.
[00:15:02] Mark Hinaman: Cool. So yeah, wrap, wrap it up. Basically to make more money for our families, prove the economy, clean up the air and save lives, transition to an energy source that solves all those problems essentially.
[00:15:13] SM: So one problem that obviously you’ve thought a lot about just from knowing you is the waste.
Where if you burn fossil fuels or manufacture solar or wind, it’s very much kind of a nimby situation where that waste, when you burn stuff just goes from the atmosphere and it disappears from your eyes. Or when you’re. Mining, like the people, other people in Germany, far away from this village are not affected by it.
But nuclear, they think that all this hazardous waste is just sitting there like, and there’s no solution for it right now. How, how would you address that?
[00:15:51] Mark Hinaman: The, the waste problem is laughingly small in my opinion, meaning the sheer quantity of waste that exists is so microscopic compared to every other gener energy generation source that we use that like it’s literally a non-issue, even if we transition to a hundred percent to nuclear, just sheerly from a mass perspective.
And the anecdote that I like to give is how much waste exists in the US and how much frack sand we pump in the oil and gas industry. So on frack jobs we’ll pump. Like 25 million pounds of sand per fracture, which converted to tons it’s, it’s what, 13,000 tons total for a job, right?
Yeah. In a week, right? So we’ll literally move and this is material that’s been crushed up and yeah, it’s sand, right? It’s not radioactive. You can throw it into a blender and it comes into a slurry and you pump it into the ground. But essentially once you pump it in the ground, it enters formations and geologic deposits that have been isolated for 70 to a hundred million years.
There hasn’t been migration of fluids out of there. And if there is, it’s not an appreciable quantities to move toxins at a level that’s dangerous to humans or the biosphere. So contrast that against, and that’s for one, one job, for one, for one. Well that we frack in the Permian Basin or a lot of places throughout America.
We pump. Just use round number, we’ll call it 10,000 tons of sand. Um, Contrast that against well let’s ask , I’ll ask the room, how much, how much nuclear waste on a mass basis do you guys think exists in the us? And this is the byproduct that’s in solid form still of an energy source that’s powered 20% of America’s electricity grid for the past 50 years.
Guess. I’m gonna put you all on the spot. Wait, we need an answer from everybody.
[00:17:54] MC: Hundred pounds.
[00:17:55] Mark Hinaman: Hundred pounds. That’s, no, it’s in tons. There are tons of it, but that’s his point. Yeah. You got the, I like
[00:18:02] RG: you set the ground. So the rest of our,
[00:18:05] MC: give us the number and then I actually have context for this if you want.
[00:18:09] Mark Hinaman: Okay. Well of course we want, okay, so sorry, I’ll, I’ll take you guys off the spot, but 70,000 tons of high level waste. And the number varies depending on how you count it, between 70 and 90,000 tons. Of high, high level waste that we have to manage
[00:18:22] RG: just shy of a hundred pounds.
[00:18:23] Mark Hinaman: You could just shy, just shy.
You could envision using the exact same process that we use to frack oil wells to dispose of nuclear waste and have it be gone forever in less than a couple months.
[00:18:38] MC: So, context that people don’t think about. When I worked for the Engineering Research and Development Center, we actually had a project for the US government, which is the bureaucracy. But cleaning uranium rounds are fired into a target in Arizona that is filled with sand and they have to dispose of all the sand and the depleting uranium rounds cuz it’s all radioactive.
And it’s tons and tons and tons of radioactive material that they’re disposing of because it’s. You know, war targets.
[00:19:10] Mark Hinaman: Do you know where they take it? What do you know where they take it?
[00:19:13] MC: I dunno where they take, I think it’s Nevada, but I don’t, our project was, our project was basically sift out the uranium and the sand and then recycle the sand. Yeah. So they could reuse it. Yeah. But anyway, so for context, I like that to, to bring both of those together.
[00:19:34] Mark Hinaman: Yeah.
[00:19:34] PM: Can you go back to the waste aspect of, you were talking about how the frax sand becomes waste. I, I guess I just don’t see
[00:19:41] Mark Hinaman: No, no, no. So the frac sand, I was just using that for a mass comparison. Gotcha. Meaning if you were to convert the nuclear, spent nuclear fuel into a form comparable to frack sand, and you crush it, pulverized it, and put in powderized form that you could pump it into the subsurface.
You, I mean an, an oil and gas well. They could accept all of the sand or a pad that could accept all of it would be on the order of, call it 50 to a hundred million dollars total expense to dispose of. Versus there’s estimates of six to 40 billion for Yucca Mountain, another dry ca storage. France just had a release of a project.
Notice that they’re gonna spend 27 million to build a mine to carry the stuff underground and just leave it in a mine for forever, which I think is radically unnecessary. So that’s my take on the waste. Now, contrast that against the other number that sta that I like to give is it would take just 25 windmills to make up the same amount of waste like onshore windmills to make up the same mass amount of waste as as much spent nuclear fuel as we have.
Okay. So there’s now thousands of windmills all over the place, and you think about like, The waste that’s created from plastic bottles and like permanent human footprint. I mean, those windmills aren’t gonna disappear from millennia. And yes, they’re not radioactive. They’re not radioactive. Sure. Yeah.
[00:21:05] BT: But they are like, there’s pictures of gas dump.
[00:21:08] PM: They, they’re on flowing, but windmill plates that they chop up,
[00:21:12] Mark Hinaman: it’s still trash. It’s like there’s, it’s a non-trivial human footprint that’s going to be impactful.
[00:21:20] SM: Has the radio activity been a problem?
[00:21:23] Mark Hinaman: No.
[00:21:23] SM: I was watching a TED talk on that. Maybe you can speak to it a little
[00:21:26] Mark Hinaman: that the radioactivity is not a problem?
I mean, so again, my comment on toxin and dose, you know, for something to be dangerous to you you have to ingest it or have it next to you that an appreciable dose for it to actually harm you. Right. What, what, what do you think overall? Yeah. Right. We’re all, we’re all enjoying toxins.
The dosages. Yeah. We, we need more dosage. Right. But it’s difficult to perceive because again, there’s so little waste how you would ingest or consume enough toxin to actually be harmful. Like when you actually work through the scenarios of, okay, well, like the containers have to break, and then you have to move the radioactive material and it has to move into the water table, and then people have to ingest it in appreciable quantities that it’s toxic.
Like it just doesn’t make sense. Especially when you look at the decay life of the most harmful elements and the most harmful isotopes. They decay quickly, generally, meaning you, you think about the danger of radiation and there’s two spectrums, so kind of radiation 1 0 1, right? You, you’ve either got a really radioactive isotope that is emitting a lot of radiation and it’ll kill you immediately.
Or you’ve got a low radioactive isotope on the long end, long tail of the spectrum that has like a 10,000 year, half life in the last forever, but it’s not emitting enough radiation to actually break down your DNA and give you cancer. The problem isotopes are those that last like two to six months have that level halflife because those can be harmful for you and they can stay in the atmosphere in the biosphere for longer.
That was the biggest problem with Chernobyl, meaning like big radioactive cloud went out, fell into farms and stuff back consumed by cows. People drank the milk, kids drank the milk elevated instance of thyroid cancer. Interestingly there was on, there’s only been generally one isotope identified as which is iodine 1 31 that has that kind of middle range dangerous isotope to be able to get and to be consumed and absorbed by humans and be dangerous. And so we’ve identified that there’s a huge decades long study called, you know, the whole Chernobyl accident and the Chernobyl Tissue Bank to address it. And so even if there were an accident, like we know how to manage it so
[00:23:57] RG: it doesn’t make me feel better. Is that wrong? Like, and I’m just fully amongst friend. I’m like, yeah, I still have that, that communication that was given to me like, radioactivity is bad. You know, you don’t wanna live next to this. That I’m like, okay, I hear what you’re saying. And I hear it from an intellectual perspective. From an emotional perspective.
I’m still like, no, not next to me. Thanks very much.
[00:24:18] SM: Do you avoid the doctor and x-rays and mri?
[00:24:21] RG: Actually, yes. I really do hate going to the doctor. I hear your point about like, you know, it is everywhere and that what’s the real risk? Like how do we get over that emotional piece?
[00:24:31] Mark Hinaman: I think that’s part of like this effort is like normalizing it with society.
Meaning, I mean, we teach our kids more about magnetism than we do about radiation and like frankly, magnetism isn’t that helpful?
[00:24:44] RG: Don’t tell that to a kid.
[00:24:45] Mark Hinaman: It’s very cool. It’s very cool. But like radiation people experience every day in their lives, right? But like, I mean, did you know an like an MRI scan you’re gonna scan me now has about as much radiation as, and I’m, I’m gonna get this totally wrong, but like a banana or a couple bananas, right?
Being like radio bananas have potassium, a certain iStop of potassium in them that is radioactive and
[00:25:07] RG: Banana’s are radioactive?
[00:25:09] Mark Hinaman: Yeah,
[00:25:09] RG: that is, that’s my fun fact from the day today. I just ate banana bread!
[00:25:15] Mark Hinaman: Just, well, no, there’s, there’s this, there’s this whole concept about radiation that like, and my belief is based on all the data that I’ve seen and just logically thinking about it, but there’s like a minimum amount that is dangerous.
And in fact, there’s some studies that demonstrate that lack of radiation is very dangerous in your life. Second with my brain, meaning like, and, and a good way or great way to conceptualize this in my opinion, is using gravity as an analogy for radiation where. Above a certain level, gravity is super dangerous.
Right? Like one to two stories, gravity will mess you up, right? Like you’ve, you fall, but if you had no gravity, your body would weaken. Right? Your muscles would atrophy, you know, and so,
[00:26:00] RG: That’s actually a really good analogy.
[00:26:01] Mark Hinaman: Right? And so like, you need to have the right amount of gravity in your life to like really create your body and, and have it be resilient.
You know, do squats, lift weights, and you’ll become a stronger human being. But again, minimum level will kill you. And let’s not be, let’s be clear about radiation. It will kill you at certain levels, at high enough levels. It will kill you very quickly. Yeah.
But it, the, the dis the debate and the dispute, and there’s a lot of scientific debate about this, but it’s, is there a minimum threshold and they, that’s called l and t, linear, no threshold, that at a small enough level, it’s not dangerous.
[00:26:38] BT: Isn’t it fair to say like, With the nuclear fuel and radiation, but we’re, we’re putting that all in one bucket. Yeah. For like the fuel of the 1960s versus modern reactors that France is is using to SMRs to these micro reactors, like the fuel that the nuclear, that air quotes brought, it’s not like, it’s not the same thing.
Right. Or mixing like desal two stroke and then let it all together.
[00:27:05] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, that’s, that’s a fair, that’s a fair analogy, is protective. They’re, there’s different types of reactors. People are using different enrichment levels at, at its core, most reactors on the planet still use uranium 235, which is a specific isotopic uranium to generate their power.
Like it’s the, it’s fissile. Yeah, all the, all the reactors in the us, most of the, any light wa water reactor that exists globally the variance is how much uranium 235 they use in it. So some of the smaller systems want to use more. And so right now reactors in the US use about 5%. They want to use up to 20%.
If you get up to 80, 90%, then you make a bomb, right? Or it’s 80,
[00:27:51] SM: you’re not allowed to produce more than 20% without. What’s that? Or ei a
[00:27:56] Mark Hinaman: IA e a, the International Association of, sorry. International Atomic Energy Association has, has international treaties that says don’t make more than 20% enriched uranium 235.
Cuz if you do then we think you’re using it for military reasons instead of energy. And so that was Eisenhower, right? This originated out of the Adams for Peace, the old, those global international treaty. So 20 percent’s kinda the max, but to your point, yes, there’s actually a lot of people don’t know this and I didn’t know this when I first started looking into the topic cuz I was like, well it’s been around since the, like fifties and sixties.
Right. Surely we’ve innovated since then. In general, the answer is no. Meaning the US has over 90 reactors operating today at over 50 plants, power stations, and there’s really only two designs, and you’d call it kind of one a, one B designs, meaning they’re similar but subtly different. And we haven’t really explored the a plethora of other designs, meaning like in the fifties and sixties, they’re doing mad science stuff.
That’s incredible. And you go read about the history of it, there’s over 50 different types of reactor designs, many of which they built prototypes of. And some universities have small prototypes of that have intrinsic safety advantages. They have commercial advantages that are incredible and like should be exploited, but we’re not,
[00:29:18] PM: not to go too far back in the conversation, but earlier you were mentioning, you know, the waste aspects.
And one of the things that the oil and gas industry has definitely done with hydraulic fracturing is our biggest waste aspect is isn’t sand but it’s produced water that comes from a well. And yeah, you know, we’ve, we’ve gone along the routes of you know, making that resourceful by using it for frack jobs. You hear a lot of stuff about, you know, potentially being able to turn nuclear waste into energy in future, you know, future applications.
But I haven’t heard about it really since school. Is that kinda like picked up at all?
[00:29:52] Mark Hinaman: So you’re thinking probably of closing the fuel cycle, but that’s another way that they characterize it. Meaning there are technical ways that you can take spent nuclear fuel, break it down chemically separate components of it, meaning like take elements over here and take the valuable elements over here and the actual trash and go throw it away.
Literally recycling and then re bombard it with neutrons, meaning treat it, but basically use it for energy again. Yeah.
[00:30:18] GE: Meaning nuclear reaction to treating neutron. They need a nuclear reactor to treat it.
[00:30:24] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. There’s a specific type of nuclear reactor that can do that. Yeah, I’m just saying like it’s not a, you’re not closing the loop cuz you’re using an, you’re using a kind of, what’s interesting is when you take the spent nuclear fuel, you can actually, I mean if you have a breeder reactor, the amount of energy in that you put into treating the fuel, you get more energy out and more fuel out.
So it actually creates more fuel. Which like, sounds like a Rube Goldberg machine, but it actually works like it’s kind of crazy. It’s, you know, you’re not actually creating energy, but you are getting more fuel, useful fuel out than you had originally, which is incredible. There’s two primary problems with it.
It was generally stopped from a security perspective. Meaning it’s relatively easy to make fissile bomb grade material with it. That was a big point. But if we have appropriate security measures around that to get around it, and France currently reprocesses it. Yeah. The bigger issue is it’s just expensive and u uranium, despite what you may ever hear is abundant.
It’s cheap. It’s available. Yes. We have to enrich it. Which means, again, I said uranium 235. That’s one of the isotopes that’s fissile that we want. It’s only about 1% or 0.7% of what exists naturally. So you pick up a rock of uranium, only about 1% of it is the useful stuff. The other 99% you gotta separate and throw away.
[00:31:51] PM: What is the nuclear lifetime.
You say it’s abundant, you know, from estimation?
[00:31:54] Mark Hinaman: Forever. Forever. I mean, I, without being flippant. Yeah, we, we could easily, like there’s enough uranium exist on the planet. The big problem right now is it, or when people say, oh man, we’ll run out of uranium. We don’t know where it is. Generally, we haven’t explored for in abundance.
We find it everywhere. Like it’s in all mining tailings, it’s in all top soil. It’s one of the most prevalent. Resources on the planet, but it can be very diffuse. So finding concentrated pockets of it is the challenge to make it more economical to mine.
[00:32:33] PM: Another question I had earlier on so it’s kind of going back a little bit, but if, if you could design, obviously you’re very big into nuclear.
I’m very big into energy. I like all energy sources. I don’t really wanna put any down over the other. I think we should contribute a lot of research and a lot of funding into oil and gas, into wind, into solar, into nuclear into hydro, into anything. How, how would you design grid, you know, being a big fan of nuclear?
[00:32:58] Mark Hinaman: So this goes back to statement originally, or kind of the intro or talk that I started with, which was opportunity cost. Yeah. Meaning, I think if you put more energy into designing those other systems, you’ll lose out on what you could have created by focusing on the technology and the resource that gave you your biggest bang for your buck.
I agree with you, but, so if, if you wanna balance breakdown for me a hundred percent I’ll, I’ll be, I’ll be explicit. We’ll call it 10, 10% or less from renewable sources that predominantly diffuse low power usage. Meaning like if you’ve got a remotely powered battery pack, like an I OT system in a remote area that doesn’t need a ton of power, and you can have a 12 volt battery there that’s charged by a solar panel, that makes a ton of sense.
From a grid perspective, wind and solar make very little economic sense to me, and that’s driven predominantly from energy return on energy invested. But so call it five to 10% renewable just from that application. I think until we, you scale up nuclear to be generating synthetic hydrocarbons, so I would take care of the rest of the 90% with nuclear and then manufacture synthetic hydrocarbons out of air and water.
Build excess power with nuclear because it’ll be the cheapest long term and manufacture and basically replace. Now I, in our lifetime, I don’t think oil and gas will go away because the raw material that we use oil and gas for is so valuable that it’s never gonna disappear. Meaning 50% of oil that we produce is, goes into not lighting it on fire, right?
Like literally creating plastics and products.
[00:34:42] RG: It’s a very eloquent way of saying it, not lighting it on fire.
[00:34:45] Mark Hinaman: I mean, thank you. Did that answer your, I mean it, yeah. If I were to wave of magic wand tomorrow and say Zero emissions America, a hundred percent nuclear could be the utopia,
[00:35:01] MC: but I don’t know if you ever get rid of oil and gas, because I don’t think any energy source has ever been discarded except for whale oil.
I think everything else still exists. Wood.
[00:35:12] RG: Good point. Coal.
[00:35:14] PM: I actually, I burn whale oil at my house, so just so it’s just to be transparent. There’s no names on this. Right? So much.
[00:35:24] RG: Question for you. I think we’re at the same conference with tph. It was like the disruption conference. That was a great one. Yeah. And they had this, the nuclear guy and I don’t know where he was from, so I just call him the nuclear guy.
Coming to talk about all the exciting developments in terms of design of the facilities. Yeah, he said a lot of stuff. I didn’t really understand much of it. Fair. It sounded very exciting and very impressive. Is any of that actually deployed? Like what, a year and a half later? What to you?
[00:35:49] Mark Hinaman: No. In short so timeline for many of the new reactor developers is kind of late 2020s.
So 2027 is the earliest target that I’ve seen for having a new reactor built. Okay. And deployed. There’s, I mean, we could have about a four hour discussion about why and how to fix that. So I’ll try and summarize it. Number one is there’s a chicken in the egg problem in the industry. So anytime that you’ve got a resource that is so good.
[00:36:22] MC: And what do you mean by good?
[00:36:23] Mark Hinaman: Sorry?
[00:36:24] MC: What about, what’s the metric you use?
[00:36:25] Mark Hinaman: Sure. So the re the metric that I like to stick to is energy density, right? So you get so much out for putting in so little you can outrun your project building and efficiency. So, you know, growing up my dad would always say, you know, we just get too damn efficient at getting the stuff out of the ground.
So you think about oil and gas demand is pretty inelastic, meaning it stays pretty constant. Year after year. But supply can fluctuate rapidly, right? So people go out and drill a bunch more wells, bring a bunch of production on, price goes down, production declines, right? And, and so supply is much more elastic, but demands inelastic, meaning like people burn about the same amount every year.
So when you get really good at getting oil outta the ground, price goes down. And we saw that from the shale revolution, right? The shale boom since 2010 has been incredible and price has collapsed or stayed constant, essentially ever since. And so that’s what I mean by good. When you’re really good at doing energy projects, it gets really cheap for the consumer.
So think about that situation in the sixties and seventies. They built a bunch of nuclear plants and they had these highly trained technical people to do it, but then suddenly demand for electricity fell and they didn’t need as many people and they weren’t building plants anymore. And yet you had this workforce that was trained to go out and like be specialists in this industry.
And so they pivoted strategically and kind of smartly to chase something else, which was safety precautions and regulations never get repealed. We talked about radiation. People are terrified of it, right? You mentioned it yourself. It’s okay because it’s generally misunderstood and so these safety regulations kind of blew up and they never get repealed.
But because of the tremendous resource that exists in nuclear energy, it could meaning like it could afford bloat in, in the government, bloat in the regulatory scheme up until basically the industry collapsed. Meaning like when they started building nuclear plants, they were the cheapest and most profitable plants to build.
And currently there is just about the same amount of concrete steel and material to build nuclear power plants as there is in coal or gas, fire power plants. There’s more concrete because they have a, a containment dome, but it’s an immaterial amount.
[00:38:54] PM: We’re not building those either though, right now. Coal,
[00:38:56] Mark Hinaman: Contrast that well, but like to build a coal plant or a gas plant you could say is a billion dollars to build nuclear plant is $10 billion. That’s 9 billion of paperwork essentially, and regulatory bloat that exists, that’s unnecessary. And so that’s problem number one for why a lot of these projects are going slow.
It’s because like the number of rules that it takes to actually get something licensed and built is outlandish and it will continue to be outlandish unless really the public changes it. And so because that nuclear has pretty slow timelines, but people are actively trying to work in the current confines of how the system’s built.
You know, the, the companies that are licensing new reactors, I know generally all of them. I’ve spoken to many of them. We’ve done other podcasts with a bunch of them. And they all agree that the regulations that exist are wildly unnecessary. But it’s slow because of that. So.
[00:40:03] PM: Would you not agree that there’s regulations that exist on other energy industries that are wildly unnecessary?
[00:40:08] Mark Hinaman: Oh yeah. It’s. Absolutely. And so again, going back to like economics,
[00:40:15] GE: Oh hey, Chris wright!
[00:40:16] PM: Oh, hey. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:40:20] Mark Hinaman: A hundred percent like my, no, no, but my point is like the more energy dense that something is, the more it can afford and carry the burden of the regulations. Yeah. Meaning wind and solar have hardly any.
In fact, I remember talking to you several years ago and you’re like, this company is getting permits to kill, what was it, 5,000? 25,000 eagles.
[00:40:40] BT: Yeah. A year. Yeah. There’s a presidential pardon?
[00:40:44] Mark Hinaman: Presidential pardon! To kill thousands of eagles at a wind farm.
[00:40:51] BT: Don’t even disclose how many eagles to kill. Whoa.
[00:40:54] Mark Hinaman: Right. And that’s great. And so that’s my point, like low energy density, like rampantly playing by a different set of rules. Meanwhile, like nuclear power plants can’t kill anything or anyone ever, but indirectly, because we’re not using them, we’re killing millions by burning coal.
[00:41:10] BT: I mean, the other way, I mean some of the, the offshore wind farms we’re talking about with the whales and birds and there’s all weird
Weird advantages that they’re giving in the environmental front that they just like wave along over, whether it be Joshua Trees in the desert or whales in the ocean, that people are just, that they, that green agenda has like rolled out the red carpet for these guys and they don’t.
[00:41:38] RG: I will say like, I love oil and gas, we all know that, but like we didn’t get a reputation outta nowhere.
Yeah. Like the
[00:41:44] Mark Hinaman: Oh, for hundred, hundred percent.
[00:41:46] RG: It’s something that we have to wear and go, we need to do better. Yeah. And it needs to be safed to be like, Learning from,
[00:41:53] Mark Hinaman: I’m all for having, having good regulation. Yeah. But it needs to be levelized and normalized in like cost benefit from each, you know, like I, I think that’s the biggest thing to me,
[00:42:04] PM: industry experts, right?
Yeah. Like a lot of, what was it in Colorado recently worked before I, I moved out. It was you know, the board got changed and it was a lot 180 1. Yeah. It was a lot less focused that were industry experts, you know, making decisions on oil and gas legislation. And it’s just, you, you want people who know the industry making the rules.
Right? Like, I don’t, I don’t want somebody who really is always focused on other areas telling me, you know, what’s gonna be best for, for what I feel like I’m an expert in.
[00:42:37] Mark Hinaman: Yeah.
[00:42:38] MC: What I’m hearing from you is, is that maybe this message about bureaucratic red tape being bad isn’t best coming from an oil and gas person. It’s about Harry.
[00:42:49] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. What would be the best place to have it then?
[00:42:53] BT: Perhaps a Different messenger. Yeah. A different background.
[00:42:58] Mark Hinaman: What do you think?
[00:43:00] JP: I think that that was well said.
[00:43:04] Mark Hinaman: Piggyback answer, right? No, I’m, who do you think would be the ideal messenger?
[00:43:08] JP: First. Kimberly first. Yeah.
[00:43:12] Mark Hinaman: People closest to, yeah. So what’s your, what would be your take if
[00:43:18] JP: industry as a messanger definitely raises like a, yeah.
[00:43:20] RG: No one trusts us. Like it’s not from nowhere. It’s like no one trusts the, no one trusts the government. Like no one Trust Edelman. Someone did a study that was like, no one trusts big business, the government and polluters.
[00:43:34] SM: They’re motivated with their own interests, of course. So optically, it’s terrible. But also like community has no, in general has no expertise about anything they’re trying to oppose so it, right?
[00:43:46] PM: Like it’s, it’s a tough, tough one.
[00:43:48] Mark Hinaman: What, what I find interesting is communities that benefit from energy projects typically support them, especially like financially, right? So the three opportunity costs I listed today were, in my opinion, how people probably think about energy as a whole.
Which is like, what am I getting out of it, right? What’s my salary from working on energy projects? And then what does it do for the environment? And then, oh, there’s people dying in the Congo because they’re mining batteries in they’re enslaving children. But we don’t worry about that cuz they’re not my backyard. You know,
[00:44:19] RG: Throw that in there!
[00:44:20] Mark Hinaman: Don’t worry about it. But so like when surveyed, most of the data that I’ve seen from surveys that and this is true when I’ve lived in energy communities, meaning I grew up in an oil, oil and gas town. Very pro oil and gas, very pro the coal mine, right? Like it brought in money, it brought in livelihood and wellbeing, and created economic prosperity for that community.
The same is true for any community that houses a nuclear power plant, right? I mean, generally some of the most prominent supporters are people that live adjacent to nuclear power plants.
[00:44:52] RG: I wouldn’t ask anyone in Commerce City to do this question. That’s what I would say.
[00:44:55] Mark Hinaman: Oh, sure. People that are adjacent to the Sun Suncor Refinery may not feel the same.
I kind of agree. Yeah. Yeah. They’re not members I can say. Yeah. Maybe yeah. Refineries are a different story in my, yeah. Right. They, I, I, I also, I mean, I, I could almost advocate for stronger emission controls on refineries, so, but I’m predominantly upstream and am not as well versed, but from what I’ve seen,
[00:45:20] RG: Yeah, I have no comment. Just from a That’s fair. Yeah. My friends out there, communications people.
[00:45:25] PM: Yeah. Talk about a lot of like, opportunity costs. That’s kind of your first starting point. But I feel like you also agree that this is gonna take time. You wish it wouldn’t, but it is gonna take time.
Yep. So from a time opportunity perspective, I mean, really focusing on third world countries here, you know, you don’t go from, you know, cooking off of a dung fire to having nuclear power the next day. So on, on earlier asked you about your grid question, you know, does that apply to third world countries?
Like, like how do you see third world countries where we have social energy, poverty problem? Like how, what, what’s Mark’s opinion?
[00:46:09] Mark Hinaman: How would I solve it? Yeah. And how to get that up to speed. So, Moving electricity and moving electrons takes a lot more infrastructure than moving gas canisters. Yeah. And turns out hydrocarbons are incredible as a resource, and they’ve employed and changed, like they’ve changed the world, right?
We exist as a society because we can figure out how to control energy and power and light stuff on fire effectively, in a controlled way, which is incredible. I love it. It’s super easy and simple to buy a gas stove and then go to your local market, buy a, a propane tank or liquefy petroleum gas, carry it back to your house and hut, and suddenly you’ve got clean, clean burning in your house.
And I think like we should continue because that’s accessible. It takes very little infrastructure. You can ship the stuff anywhere, like, and it literally transforms lives overnight. It’s awesome. So I, I fully support that approach. To, as, as an immediate solution to the problem of moving from indoor cooking that has smoke with lots of particulate matter and causes respiratory disease to a solution that’s clean, burning fuel, you know, and you can cook inside.
Now if you’re trying to, to electrify a municipality or if you’re trying to electrify your community and you don’t have in infrastructure, but you want infrastructure, and you show up and you say, Hey, we’re gonna, and we want the caveat of it’s going to be carbon free because apparently that matters to some people.
Sorry. It, it matter. It doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as what you just said, like, we’re gonna better human lives and save someone today. But if you wanted to be carbon free, then your options, like if you can build a hydroelectric dam, you’re gonna flood a ton of area and destroy that ecosystem, but, It’s pretty effective.
Then if you can’t do that, if you have the choice between wind and solar or nuclear, go build a nuclear power plant regardless of size. Meaning there are people that are developing technologies now that would be the equivalent of one megawatt to 20 megawatt diesel generators that will be cheaper, long term, safer, have zero emissions, and can power a small village or town and be reliable.
Right. And be reliable and be beyond all the time.
[00:48:27] PM: What, what’s the exclusion of a, a natural gas generator in that, in that argument, you’re talking solar,
[00:48:34] Mark Hinaman: it’ll be more expensive and it has carbon emissions. Okay. Could ask me carbon, carbon debris If you, if it, if you demand that it be carbon free, which if you demand, sorry, my yeah, my, my comment earlier was many people care about that.
Yeah. Right. Yeah. Sorry, sorry.
[00:48:47] RG: So then if, like, if the point of this is to reduce emissions and try to stop climate change or at least reduce the impacts. Yep. I was at, I think it was a COGA annual meeting and there was a presentation about if we just displaced all of the world’s coal with natural gas, that would move the needle more than anything else.
We’re doing 50%. That’s it. I didn’t have the numbers, so I didn’t wanna say it.
[00:49:13] PM: It’s an easier sub, but, but I, I think to Mark’s point while it
[00:49:17] Mark Hinaman: Opportunity, cost opportunity, yeah. Yeah. You just replaced by 50% but you didn’t get to zero.
[00:49:23] PM: But you didn’t get to zero. Yeah.
[00:49:24] Mark Hinaman: In fact, to stop climate change, we don’t have to get to zero, we have to go negative because if we stop all emissions tomorrow, the amount of carbon that the same atmosphere is still accelerating climate change,
[00:49:33] PM: but a change of 50% tomorrow is better than a change of,
[00:49:37] RG: it’s gonna take time to deploy,
[00:49:38] Mark Hinaman: but it takes time to, to deploy. So this is my qualm, medium step. I, I agree. And I, I see the logic with, oh, well, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll go from, you know, all the coal, we’ll put the coal out of business, we’ll replace the natural gas.
It’s the fastest way to, for us to stop emissions. It’s, it’s a, and to that I kind of disagree, meaning like, it’s a, it’s a bandaid, right? You’re not stopping.
[00:49:59] RG: Yeah. Honestly, genuinely, just curious. Like, why isn’t that a good solution for the like,
[00:50:03] PM: but to me, 50% tomorrow is better than a hundred percent in 10 years, because we’re gonna start working towards carbon free.
Let’s do what we can every day. Let’s, let’s make changes tomorrow. Let’s make changes a S A P while still having our eye on the prize on, you know me, I’m a big proponent of nuclear. I love nuclear energy. I love all forms of energy. But nuclear has a special place in my heart because it’s the rare one that can be carbon free, low cost, reliable. Tell me another energy source that can do those things. There isn’t one.
[00:50:40] Mark Hinaman: Hydro’s pretty good.
[00:50:41] PM: Hydro’s good.
[00:50:42] RG: You just shit on the hydro!
[00:50:45] Mark Hinaman: It has killed more people than nuclear ever has.
[00:50:47] PM: But you have, you have more issue true with ecosystems and, and things like that. So you can add that, you can add that stipulation, like don’t impact ecosystems.
Nuclear is great, but it, it also, it
[00:50:57] BT: I would say like the hydro, like if you look at the Hoover Dam, like the Hoover Dam like turned the west into a power and, and farmer, like it enables all of the California cuz all that water goes out, right? They stores great. They use it. It’s been awesome. So I feel like the, the hydro piece, like creating that big.
Body of water for a, you know, an energy reservoir has, like, there’s a whole cool rec thing, let’s go water skiing, but it also enables like the forming of cities. Cuz cuz California’s a huge water problem in West and, and as we’ve seen lake bulbs coming down and they have like water consumption is going to be a problem.
So I think hydro is, is a great place to, to help build those communities. If you look at the west over the last 50 years, like the, the people have moved, like you look at like the air populations of arizona and Des climates have just, the populations have just,
[00:51:45] SM: you know, what would build that better? Building a nuclear power plant to run desalination plants.
[00:51:50] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. You go and then pump the water upstream.
[00:51:52] PM: What my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, cause I know a lot of people here look at energy, but my understanding is we’re running out of hydro locations in the United States. If not now.
[00:52:02] BT: Yeah, there were, yeah, for sure.
[00:52:03] Mark Hinaman: And to be able to permit them would be a disaster.
[00:52:06] BT: Correct. Well, I feel like your comment on the, the switch to gas, like the transition’s like a hundred year plan, Yep. Like in the, and so I looked at like the Comanche plant down in Pueblo, and I don’t know how big that, that’s the last coal plant in the state, right?
[00:52:20] Mark Hinaman: No, there’s, there’s a bunch more. A bunch more I thought. Yeah, we, we’ve talked about it. There’s two coal plants closing in Hayden and Craig that the timing of when they’re closing and the timing of when new reactors, like TerraPower’s and Kairos are likely going to be commercial or prototypes, first plants could be built.
They’re ideal candidates to replace those coal plants with
[00:52:42] BT: Thank you. Cause that’s where I was headed. Yeah. So like, but so the problem with like decommissioning a plant is that Xcel’s got that plant in a 40 year plant built into the rate base. And if you shorten its lifespan by 20 years, like the, the rate base, like the, the consumer gets to eat the cost, right?
And. That’s where I look in the United States. I say, well, why do I, I don’t really care about nature. My grid is mostly in a good place. My electricity costs aren’t really high. If we just keep doing what we’re doing, like I don’t care. Yeah. But like, that’s why I say it’s a like a hundred year plan. Like you as things wear out or need to get replaced and then like you take Comanche or these other ones and you, okay, it’s time for their life is over, we’re gonna revamp it. Gas, add on.
[00:53:27] SM: It’s a very selfish perspective because how many people are dying every year from coal plant emissions and
[00:53:32] Mark Hinaman: 3 million global,
[00:53:33] SM: global gas emissions? And
[00:53:34] BT: Sure. But I mean, China emits more
CO2 than the United States and it
[00:53:38] SM: doesn’t, doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it better.
[00:53:41] BT: Why do I have to hurt myself? Like I’m not gonna punish myself and my community because I buy everything from China I don’t like, I don’t. I’m not willing to be the market player. Ah, I’m not gonna
[00:53:53] Mark Hinaman: go like a deeper philosophical, moral question. Yeah. Love
again, the, you know, people dying, people don’t care about. Yeah. That’s,
[00:54:04] PM: we’re talking about this right now. And, and, and the easy, the easy short term fix is, is to swap things to natural gas. That, that is a,
[00:54:11] SM: I don’t buy it because people are gonna want life out of that plant. And so that natural gas plant, well, as a short term fix, just like Mark is saying, a nuclear pan plant, because that’ll run.
Yes. So it’ll take some time to get online, but it’s not like someone’s gonna run a natural gas plant for five years and then build nuclear.
[00:54:28] PM: Right. I agree. I, I agree by that. Where we did.
[00:54:30] Mark Hinaman: So you lose your opportunity costs.
[00:54:32] PM: I am, I am Build energy. I am.
[00:54:34] MC: You’re realistic.
[00:54:35] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. I want, I want, well, he’s under the confines of our current regulatory and economic system.
Well, I also, they are the, some of the easiest projects to deploy.
[00:54:44] MC: I, I think you talk about like people near nuclear plants and. How they’re as nuclear plants like that’s pretty rare. Like how many nuclear plants did you say were in
the us? Like 70,
[00:54:54] SM: 90.
[00:54:55] MC: 90.
[00:54:55] Mark Hinaman: Between 90 and a hundred. I lose count because some are closing, some are threatening to be closed.
[00:55:00] MC: Being a person who grew up right next to a nuclear plant, grand Gulf nuclear plant, most people don’t know.
[00:55:06] RG: Is bricks, california look like hot?
[00:55:10] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. That’s like people don’t know that we’re drilling for oil in Los Angeles, right? Yeah. That’s US. Or Georgia, right? Yeah.
[00:55:19] MC: And they’re like in like what? What you spoke on.
[00:55:22] Mark Hinaman: Well, generally people energy, like it’s a hot topic and it is the root of all like in industry or modern prosperity, but people are Yes. Uneducated about energy. Yeah. I think
[00:55:33] MC: you have this versus natural gas and the realism of him. You have this hill to climb with so many things like radiation is the start for layman, and then you have everything else to climb. Yeah. With that.
[00:55:49] Mark Hinaman: But I love climbing mountains, all this first step you have,
[00:55:55] PM: you have is your average layman. Yeah. You have 10 years of, of red tape and changing public mind at a minimum. And until that, no, I just,
[00:56:05] Mark Hinaman: no, I’d say three to four years.
[00:56:07] SM: It’s also chicken or egg. Yeah. If they don’t get built, how is anyone gonna,
[00:56:10] Mark Hinaman: and if it’s gonna take us 10 years, then we’d better urgently start Now we should. Yeah. A hundred percent agree. Right? But like, why would we not start immediately?
[00:56:18] PM: If it’s gonna take you 10 years? Do things to impact the environment today that don’t have the same amount of red tape while you’re, you can put your energy into that.
And I think other people, not me, should put their energy into swapping coal to natural gas today. But that’s where I’m at.
[00:56:41] Mark Hinaman: Different perspective. I like it so, We haven’t heard much from you. We haven’t heard nearly as, as much from you or hardly anything. Learning talk. Yeah, we’re learning. We’re just absorbing.
Well, but so ask, ask questions. Surely, do you guys have questions that have been front of mind or like, I mean,
[00:56:57] TC: I’m interested in future question. You know what we were talking about? How do you switch this third world countries to straight to nuclear? It’s like, it seems like there’s a small distributed battery system that could be hooked up to more renewable sources.
That’s really small scale deployable. It seems like you also need a very strong social safety component in order to keep a, a nuclear plant. Safe’s a good point. You go into these countries that don’t have a big military or something and you end up.
[00:57:34] PM: Can we talk about the military or the, the nuclear plants in ukraine?
[00:57:40] Mark Hinaman: The nuclear plants in Ukraine.
[00:57:41] PM: Much about ’em, just cuz I don’t know much about it.
[00:57:45] Mark Hinaman: I, I mean, I haven’t probably researched them as much as I should, but generally they’ve remained safe the entire, through the entire conflict.
[00:57:52] MC: You’re wrong.
[00:57:52] Mark Hinaman: They’re huge assets.
[00:57:55] PM: But it’s been like a deal of like, please don’t, please don’t attack these. So there’s not a problem. Like, that’s been a deal. Right. Where in total war is that considered in? Is is,
[00:58:05] Mark Hinaman: I mean, if you’re attacking somebody that has a, you know, war chest of t and t right next to your village, that if it blows up, then your village blows up too. Like,
[00:58:14] PM: but I’m talking about like in the future, two countries who are not right next to each other.
Because right now I feel like the problem for Russia, Putin would, if he could, the plume would, if, if the plume did not affect his people, Putin would, yeah. Do you not agree?
[00:58:28] SM: Let’s assume they do buy. Is it even that dangerous?
[00:58:31] Mark Hinaman: I think that’s a talked about That’s, and I think it’s, I, I don’t think so. I think it’s, I mean, so much of the, I mean, Fukushima is the worst nuclear accident that has ever happened.
Three gigawatts scale plants melted down completely like their whole system that had no coolant system. Go look at videos of it. It’s crazy. One of the roofs, like one of the buildings filled with hydrogen and the roof blew off. This isn’t a small roof, it’s like an industrial facility, and it completely blew off.
It’s crazy. There’s videos of it. Nobody died from radiation. Thousands of people died from the evacuation.
[00:59:12] GE: My recommendation is to tell Zelensky to
do it. Yeah.
[00:59:26] Mark Hinaman: Right. Dear, dear, dear Putin, we, why? But I mean that the harm that that does to your country is devastating. And I mean, if you’re invading somewhere and you’re like, well, we’re gonna destroy their biggest power assets, like, so, like why? Why do you even want to invade?
[00:59:43] SM: Then that’d be like, what is this about? Anyway? That’s fair. Yeah.
[00:59:48] PM: Well, I mean, for them it’s, it’s the cold winter, right? Like if, if you can, if you can take away their ability to heat their homes, you can break their spirits, I think is what Putin’s thinking. So he’s been very strategically attacking energy infrastructure. Yeah. Yet he has still been leaving nuclear mostly alone.
Because wind in that area blows from Ukraine. What else? Yeah. Yeah.
[01:00:17] Mark Hinaman: And it provides so much power. So if it’s okay, they’ve, they’ve been blowing up transmission stations, which are easy to replace, but not immediate to replace. So it’ll be a season long thing, right? Like Yeah, if you want, they’re blowing up trans.
Yeah. Now listen, I heard, I mean, one of the energy ministers of Ukraine speak, he spoke remotely at a conference that I was at, and yeah, it’s terrible what’s happening. Meaning like, there are people that are cold, there are people that are getting hurt, they’re torturing, they tortured people at the nuclear power plants. They invaded them. It’s horrible.
[01:00:48] PM: Who bombed Nordstream Two?
[01:00:52] Mark Hinaman: That’s, that’s beyond the scope, that’s beyond the scope of this conversation.
[01:01:00] PM: I wanna know, I’m sorry, I was curious, what if we could go around the table and give your perspective.
I’m a hundred percent with you, but I’ve heard, I’ve heard different opinions, so, but you know that, that’ll be my, that’ll be my den talk
footage on there now.
[01:01:21] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, yeah. More, more questions cuz we’re, we’re up on an hour now I have a question about, but I’m, you know, I’m enjoying the conversation, but yeah.
[01:01:32] RG: Okay. Maybe we’ll spare some other questions. I saw an article about something with the Department of Energy. And nuclear and that they had this exciting thing that happened where they were able to create energy from less energy.
But I don’t really understand what happened. Like I read it and I was like, no, none of those hits. I don’t really know what I mean.
[01:01:51] Mark Hinaman: So you’re talking about the can you explain it Net positive or net energy gain for Yes. Fusion? Yes. So this was a project that has been around for not 15, 25 plus years.
It’s an old project at the Lawrence Livermore Lab. They have a department called the National Ignition Facility. They have hundreds of lasers that are all focused onto a single point that basically they blast off all the lasers at the same time. It compresses a tiny pebble of hydrogen to be super small.
And when that happens, the hydrogen fuses together and creates fusion, which is nuclear energy still, but kind of on the other end of the spectrum, meaning, Generally, everything that we use in modern reactors is fission. So we start with really big atoms. We break ’em apart. When they break apart, there’s less mass than there was originally.
E equals mc squared, lils energy. Similar thing happens at the end of, or the small side of atoms. When you take the smallest atos and you fused ’em together. The sum of the mass before is less than the sum of the mass after the difference is released as energy. Their whole point with this experiment was to prove that you could put less energy in than you would get out.
Meaning the reaction could be self-sustained. It’s a big science project. Took ’em long time, a long time, and lots of money to do. There are lots of problems with it. The fusion guys don’t like to talk about it. I was like, no one talked about it. In the articles I read, they frequently say there’s no radioactive waste.
There’s a ton of neutrons that get emitted and can irradiate materials. There’s a. There’s no direct stacks. Yeah, there’s stacks of engineering problems associated with some of, some of which have been solved, but like I’m stills are made patient too. Yes, yes. But the containment, we have solutions and the, but the containment of where your reactor is and controlling those neutrons and what gets radiated can be very different.
[01:03:54] SM: It’s so hot that, that we don’t really have the technology on a large, it’s the sun. Yeah.
[01:03:59] RG: So why was everyone so stoked about it?
[01:04:00] SM: Because it’s been tried for so long.
[01:04:02] RG: Oh, they finally got it.
[01:04:03] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. It’d never been done before.
[01:04:06] GE: That’s released is like insane.
[01:04:11] Mark Hinaman: Lasers are cool. Lasers are cool. Okay. Now I mean I’ve done, when the announcement came out, I mean, I’ve been following NIF since I graduated from school.
I mean, I used to have a Google. That I got literally emails when any news article came out about When you have a Google? Yeah. Honestly, like back before you Google it, some really cool right there. I dunno. Does anyone still use them? Not really. They were never, yeah. But no, I stopped following it after about two years when I realized that no progress generally was being made.
It’s cool to, it’s very cool to, it might be good.
[01:04:43] TC: I think the thing that strikes me from this conversation, I think nuclear has a huge branding problem.
It needs to be called something else other than the The weapons of nukes. Sure.
Because that’s a great point. Just fission for me. Yeah. Fision fuel. It should be fission fuel because that’s a great, great one.
I went to college near the Hanford site and that is a huge nuclear weapons.
[01:05:06] Mark Hinaman: That’s a big bureaucratic problem facility on a geological field. My girlfriend’s mom has spent her career cleaning that place up.
[01:05:13] TC: Wow. So, you know, I mean, it is, Incredible.
[01:05:16] Mark Hinaman: It’s a big, it’s a big problem. Now, that’s not nuclear energy.
That was from the weapons complex. They were storing gobs like
[01:05:24] TC: It’s called the same thing. Yeah. It’s crazy. Yeah. It needs to be called fission energy or something like that.
[01:05:28] MC: You have to latch on to politicians and change narratives. You have to, you have to like get people that are in office that have public view that like can change people’s mind because people aren’t gonna, no offense, listen to this podcast.
You can talk to your neighbor about it. Or you can Facebook or Twitter or whatever and you’re still like,
[01:05:56] RG: If you think of power of a rebrand, like I think nuclear needs a facelift.
[01:05:59] PM: Take this of a better phrase. Become a politician. Come on man Up. Oh yes.
[01:06:05] MC: Yeah. I have a lot of skeletons in my closet.
[01:06:11] Mark Hinaman: He’s a sales guy and what, what’d you say? When I first showed up, he was like, well, the two rules of being a sales guy are, I’m really good at lying and I bribe people. Guy, your name is a blackmail. Blackmail.
[01:06:25] TC: Skeleton era.
[01:06:29] SM: Skeleton.
[01:06:30] PM: No, we are in the middle of this skeleton era. What do you, what do you mean? No, you can get canceled for anything. This is, this is the skeleton era. No,
[01:06:39] RG: some people just have to be canceled. That’s my other hot take. I’m like, cancel them outta here. So that’s, it’s.
[01:06:51] Mark Hinaman: Cool. Well, this has been good. I mean, we’re just over an hour, so thanks. Thanks for the time. I think we’ll, we’ll wrap up there.
[01:06:58] RG: Thanks, Mark. You’re all smart.
[01:07:00] PM: Okay, now name everybody’s name.