Mike Conley chats with Mark Hinaman about his career as an author, his discovery of nuclear, and his new series of books he plans to publish beginning with Earth is a Nuclear Planet.
[00:00:00] Mike Conley: Because the best way to, like save the planet is to let it be, is to reduce our footprint without reducing ourselves. Yeah, I just made that up. I like that also in the book, reduce our Footprint without reducing our, without reducing ourselves, and so we are a nuclear planet and it is non-productive to be afraid of the very material that allows us to exist.
Yeah. So we have to go beyond combustion, not back away from combustion.
[00:00:33] 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 that are in 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 need scientists to design new fuels. And focus on net public benefit. We need engineers to invent new technologies. Over absurd levels of radiation. Entrepreneurs to sell those technologies.
And we will march towards this. We need workers to operate a. Assembly lines that hum with high tech, zero carbon components. We have unlimited prosperity for all of you. We need diplomats, businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy.
In other words, we need you.
[00:01:42] Mark Hinaman: okay. Welcome to another episode of the Fire to Fission podcast. I’m Mark Heinemann, and I’m joined by a writer today. Mike Connolly, lives in la, was very adamant about being introduced as a writer and not a scientist. So, Mike, how you doing today?
[00:01:58] Mike Conley: I’m doing fine. June. Okay. Finally, we have a sunny day after.
Six solid weeks of cloudy weather proceeded by two solid weeks of rain. June gloom. It’s all, well, it’s more than June gloom. It’s May and June gloom. It’s like April, may, June, Gloo, may gloom, right? Yeah. Yeah. And it’s just like sunny southern California. So, You know, yet another example of why we shouldn’t depend on the weather for our energy.
[00:02:27] Mark Hinaman: Absolutely. Mike and I were bantering a little bit before we, hopped on or started recording, and so really stoked to dive into the conversation and learn more about his work. Mike, before we get onto kind of some of your current projects, why don’t you give us a little bit of background on how long you’ve been writing, what you kind of write about Yeah.
Where’d you get your start?
[00:02:43] Mike Conley: Oh gosh. I mean, I’ve been writing since I was a teenager and, I got into screenwriting early on and wrote a bunch of stuff and one got sold and it never got made and we’re not, still not quite quite sure why I haven’t been rewritten by Quentin Tarantino, which was kind of a nice pad on the back except he was so mad with the director’s comments that he we were told by the producer that he destroyed the screenplay and we’re like, You get rewritten by Tarantino and you can’t even read the damn thing as you Anyway.
I’ve been, got paid a lot to do a lot of, rewriting a lot in Hollywood. A lot of stuff gets written that never gets made. People will spend their whole careers writing and they never get made. So, things might change. I am, connected with a project that, looks like it’s gonna get funded, and when it does, I will let you know.
It’s kind of bad luck to talk about things now, but serious big time, no bs full till boogie features. All that good stuff. Yeah. It looks very, very good. So let’s just put it that way.
I’ll tell you you can pest me about it later. And when it comes to fruition, then I can give away the secret, but yeah, you can reference it. No, I’m not making it up. I mean, it’s actual like a no bs. Oh my God. This is gonna be a major motion picture kind of a thing, so we’ll just leave it at that.
So not making it up. So did you, did
[00:04:03] Mark Hinaman: you use, I mean you mentioned you write nonfiction now, but you used to write fiction. Yeah,
[00:04:06] Mike Conley: yeah. Well, about a dozen years ago, I was cruising around on the internet late at night and I got returned onto nuclear power, which I was fascinated by when I was in grade school.
And I started looking into it and reading up about thorium and molten salt reactors in particular. And so I joined Thorium Energy Alliance, which is a bunch of mm, nuclear advocates, fanboy scientists and outsiders that are ch have been championing, championing mo. I can write that better and I can say it, molten salt reactors and thorium is fuel, et cetera, et cetera.
It led to, mm, The last 12 years, I basically told these guys, I go, look, I’m a writer. Y’all are scientists. You explain it to me and I’ll explain it to the world. And they’re like, wow, who are you? Your, yeah, what are your credits? And so I just started listening and I started writing. And lo and behold, they liked what I write.
And so Eric called me about two years ago, year and a half ago, and he said, you know, he read an earlier draft of my book, which is now called Earth is the Nuclear Planet. And he said to be honest, is the best book I’ve ever read on the subject. That’s great to that effect. And I’m like, well, that’s cool.
And then he got himself a benefactor and funded me so I can sit at home in my pajamas and write And the book is that far from being on the market and it’s a hum dinger, so awesome.
[00:05:34] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. That’s Eric
[00:05:35] Mike Conley: Meyer. Eric Meyer of generation Atomic, who’s done amazing work on around the world with his.
His people, his Ls I call them. And you know, protesting and generating interest in nuclear power. And I tailored the book to be not only an, a general education for the non-scientist, but also as a promotional marketing educational piece for his group and outreach sort of a thing like here. Earth is a nuclear planet.
Read this and find out why.
[00:06:06] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. We, I know Eric Meyer personally, but I don’t think anyone, I don’t think we’ve had a mention of Generation Atomic on the show yet. So do you wanna give a just Yeah. Who they’re and what they do
[00:06:16] Mike Conley: and Generation atomic.org. They’re nuclear advocacy and outreach group and he’s just he’s amazing.
Yeah. I can’t remember. He has a master’s in, I think. Political organization or some sort of the kind of education you would get if you were to, for example, become a member of like the Minnesota State Democratic Party or whatever, and he just decided to take all his talent and put it into nuclear power.
Which is, you know, awesome. So he has that understanding that organizational skills and outreach and getting attention and how to talk to, and how to reach out to politicians, et cetera. And I told him that one of my goals is to get a copy of our book and every, the energy advisor of everybody on the hill, you know, everybody.
And hopefully we can pull that off. So yeah, so I’ve just been working with these scientists for years now listening and absorbing and being part of the team, being part of the group. And what I bring to the table is the ability to take their highfalutin stuff and explain it to regular people.
And apparently it works cuz people read it and they dig it. So we’re off to a good start. So, yeah,
[00:07:30] Mark Hinaman: that’s helpful. Yeah. When you dove back into the subject, what turned you on about it most?
[00:07:35] Mike Conley: Well, I’ll tell you in the late nineties I was reading up on peak Oil. And it became very there’s that big article, scientific American, the End of Cheap Oil, 1998.
It was like this turning point article and that was kinda
[00:07:50] Mark Hinaman: predictive. Yeah. I’m sorry. It got, it got said. That was kind of predictive. Yeah, it got cheaper.
[00:07:56] Mike Conley: The thing is, is the graph is the graph. There’s a finite amount of oil and you use it to a certain degree or whatever, and. You can change, you can change the graph a bit by introducing shale oil.
So it goes more into the future. I guess the future would be this way for the camera audience, but it’s still the same graph. And so this whole thing about, oh, we have shale oil now, or shale gas, or what the hell ever, and everything’s fine. It’s like, yeah, everything’s fine for the next like seven years, you know?
And so it can delay. Or put off that eventuality, but it is still an eventuality. And so the, I wish I could turn that off, but I’m, I can tell you all about reactors, but when it comes to phones, forget it. So I actually got very depressed, like existential depression, I guess you could call it, for a number of years.
It’s kinda like the game’s over. All this stuff, all this plastic, I mean, this is plastic, you know? Yeah. That’s oil. There’s
[00:08:58] Mark Hinaman: oil glasses, glass framed. Yeah, yeah,
[00:09:01] Mike Conley: yeah. The, my plastic glasses. Right. Exactly. And it, it’s kinda like, Oil is so all encompassing. It has everything to do with modern society, and it’s our energy and there’s only a finite amount and holy shit, what the hell is gonna happen?
And then I stumbled onto the latest work on, on nuclear power and I, and it was like this Ray of hope, and the thing I stumbled on was the molten salt reactors, which are just ingeniously designed. They’re stupid simple. I mean, they’re, they’re so stupid simple. It’s embarrassingly ridiculous how simple they are.
The guy that invented them or co-invented them is the same guy that invented the light water reactor. You know, it’s kind of like his, like reactor 2.0. And I was supremely impressed and it basically restored my hope. And then the ability to have civilization continue largely. As it has been. That’s cool.
Yeah, that’s, yeah. It’s way cool. And so I got involved in these people and I started listening and learning, and then I started writing essays and eventually decided one thing I realized is like, these guys need a writer. I spent like nine hours one day on the internet trying to learn what the hell a fast reactor was.
And when I finally figured it out, I’m like, well, shit, they could have done that one paragraph. I’m like, these guys need a writer. And I kind of went, Hey, I can write. And so it kinda led to that. And so I’ve been. The non-scientist guy amongst these guys going, tell me about it and I’ll explain it to everybody else.
And they’re like, okay, you know, all this highfalutin stuff. And I boil it down and well, now my best friend is a molten salt chemist and reactor designer. We’re like this and we’re gonna team up and Stephen Boyd. And we’re gonna team up and write my fourth book, which is gonna be called Power to the Planet, which is a super deep, deep geek dive.
Into all things nuclear and seawater, uranium and purex, and how come reactors work the way they do. And it’s just kind of like a big, kind of a nuts and bolts sort of extravaganza. But that’s the fourth book. That’s great. Still trying to get the first one out, but I have two others written and so I will have three books out this year.
Earth is a Nuclear Planet. The L n T report, which is about the linear no threshold, which we can discuss. Basically the concept behind linear, no threshold is the lie that there is no safe dose of radiation. It’s basically bad science, which we abbreviate is bs. And the third book is Roadmap to Nowhere, which is you’re familiar of course with Mark Jacobson’s stuff about a hundred percent renewables.
[00:11:50] Mark Hinaman: But why don’t you give the audience a background in case,
[00:11:52] Mike Conley: okay. Mark Jacobson is a professor, but Yeah. Yeah, he’s a professor at Stanford and he’s come up with this big proposal for 100% renewable energy to power the entire United States. All primary energy. Primary energy is any form of energy at all, not just electricity, like all energy, wind, and solar.
His program is 98.8% wind and solar. So it’s basically a wind and solar, a hundred percent wind and solar grid. No gas. No coal. Coal, no oil. And especially no nuclear cuz that’s the work of the devil. And so it’s become more
[00:12:34] Mark Hinaman: hydro than we currently have or really have capacity
[00:12:36] Mike Conley: for. It doesn’t, the thing about hydro Yeah.
Is we don’t, we don’t have that much capacity for it. In his, for example, in his. Grid that he prophesied for the, the mid-century. It’s 1,179 gigawatts. We have 89 gigawatts of hydro in this country if the reservoirs are full. Have you seen Hoover Dam lately?
[00:12:59] Mark Hinaman: I thought it filled back up this year. I don’t know.
Is it? I We’re getting more, yeah,
[00:13:03] Mike Conley: not this much. Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, so. The, so me and my co-writer Tim Maloney, who’s like a scientist, geek number, cruncher guy, I give all the numbers stuff to him. I’m the writer. Here’s the number cruncher. It works great. We looked at his, we looked at Jacobson’s plan and we looked at it and looked.
We read the whole thing four times and we’re like, This is bullshit. No, but no, and no, the, the more you read it, the flimsier it is. And so we’re like, well, screw this guy. We’re gonna design a 100% nuclear grid as a rebuttal, and we use his numbers to show that his plan is bs. That’s what roadmaps of nowhere.
My third book is here’s his theoretical, a hundred percent wind and solar, the grid. And we’re like, well, screw you. Here’s a theoretical a hundred percent nuclear grid. Let’s do a road test. And nuclear just mops the floor with, his idea. And again, we use his numbers. Yeah,
[00:14:11] Mark Hinaman: like his energy inputs or his, yeah,
[00:14:13] Mike Conley: you know, like, how many, turbines, how big are they?
Where are they? How many solar panels, how long did they last? How long does the electrolyzers last for the hydrogen production? How big is his hydrogen storage? And he has all these numbers in his paper, so we’re just added it all up and we’re like, I can give you really quickly, 10.6 billion solar panels. That’s billion with a B.
Yeah. 394,000 5 MW Wind turbines. Yeah, all of which will have to be replaced or repowered in about 20, 30 years.
[00:14:55] Mark Hinaman: Sounds like a great strategy if you’re a utility executive that gets compensated for capital deployment. But what was that again? I’m sorry? I said it sounds like a great strategy if you’re a utility executive that gets compensated for capital deployment.
[00:15:08] Mike Conley: exactly. Exactly. They’re getting compensated for capital deployment. You can put a hundred gigs in the field, install capacity versus average capacity and Right. The wind, solar companies are all touting install capacity cuz the numbers look great on paper, but most people don’t do the math is really arithmetic.
It’s not even math is that the average capacity is like, you know, 20 to 40%. So add another three or four times and then storage. He has all these batteries. In his plan, he has no operation and maintenance for the batteries. And this is an actual quote from his proposal is, assume perfect transmission and quote.
So we have a chapter called Assuming the Transmission.
[00:15:58] Mark Hinaman: That’s, and why that doesn’t work
[00:16:00] Mike Conley: and why that doesn’t work is because that include building the transmission. Well, he assumes that the transmission will magically be there. Oh man. And we’re assuming that’s like the worst assumption on the planet.
Well, here’s the thing is he is in this wind and solar is groovy world. So he’s in this world where everybody’s coming up at wind and solar plans, and so the unwritten assumption is that the transmission will be there. Because it has to be there. The point about a nuclear grid is you don’t need any extra transmission.
As a matter of fact, you can reduce your transmission corridors because with local power, you don’t have to ship it anywhere. So why have a reactor at El Segundo and ship the power in through acreage? That’s a million dollars a square an acre through down Los Angeles, the downtown, where you can have a reactor downtown.
And then dismantle that transmission line and develop the real estate or turn it into a park or whatever. And so the point about a nuclear grid is you would actually have a reduced footprint, although upgraded within that footprint. So, But a reduced footprint. And then of course, the footprint for nuclear versus wind and solar is, if there’s a word that’s, more descriptive, then minuscule, I’ll start using it.
But yeah, the scale. Is ridiculous. He actually has come up with 47,000 square miles of land, 3000 square miles of rooftop, and 46,000 square miles of offshore. Now, he doesn’t say these numbers, but you can divine it from his happy charts in his program. So we basically just dug in there and penciled it all out and we’re like, This is bad.
[00:17:51] Mark Hinaman: we, I mean, there’s a lot that you mentioned here and I wanna unpack some of it, but two, keep Oh, sure.
[00:17:56] Mike Conley: No, yeah. You have to reign me in. Go right ahead. No, all
[00:17:59] Mark Hinaman: good. All right. Yeah. The, I agree totally. This is first point, like the transmission assumption is a bad assumption, but it is one that a lot of society and everyone that touts renewables, like makes, is that, The building, these transmission lines will be easy and virtually free, which is radically false.
Like it’s radically building cross country projects and getting permission from landowners at the private state and federal level is really, really hard.
[00:18:27] Mike Conley: Yeah. You know, in Iowa and the state of Iowa now, they made it so it’s against the state constitution to use eminent domain to plow right away for a transmission line.
Yeah, that, I mean, that’s a big deal, right? It’s a huge deal and all that stuff about Maine. Oh, we’re gonna plow through your forest and run a bunch of wires to Massachusetts. Yeah. And then Maine is like, really? How’s that help us? Oh, here’s the money for your pristine forest. Oh, thanks. You know, I mean, it’s nuts.
[00:18:58] Mark Hinaman: Every example across the US of where people try and do this. It’s, it’s hard.
[00:19:03] Mike Conley: It’s more challenge. Well, the thing is, Princeton has actually went through the due diligence to devise. Road roadmaps for different grid scenarios and the N Z a net zero America Plan by Princeton. It came out I think in 21 or 22.
Very good. Their estimate for a a hundred percent wind and solar transmission system is about three points. 4.2 or 3.7 trillion. Wow. So we tacked it onto the Jacobson’s roadmap it that, and battery o and m operation of maintenance is the only two numbers we imported into his plan. Yeah. But he basically said, we assumed peripheral transmission.
And I’m like, well, that’s a 3.2 trillion assumption.
[00:19:55] Mark Hinaman: But it’s easy for an economist, right? And I mean,
[00:19:58] Mike Conley: assume a can opener. It’s, yeah, it’s ridiculous. And that’s because he’s in this world where it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that we will go wind and solar, therefore it will be built.
Therefore it doesn’t have to be in the proposal. And we’re like, well, it has to be in your proposal, but not ours. Yeah. Give you an example. If you dismantle the dam to restore run of the river, that dam still has. A transmission system connected to an existing corridor. Still useful. Dismantle the dam. Put a reactor there, kick it back and watch the river flow and make clean energy 24 7.
Not when there’s enough water, but 24 7. that’s what
[00:20:39] Mark Hinaman: they wanna do in the Pacific Northwest, right? Yeah,
[00:20:41] Mike Conley: exactly. There’s all these dams, they wanna dismantle the Washington River. Yeah, yeah. They wanna dismantle all these dams but people forget is those dams have great transmission, what do they call it?
When you take the power from the, I should get a little more technical with this. You take the power from the dam and then you fiddle around with this, you can export it. That whole fiddling around station, I guess you call it the transmission station interconnection, right? Yeah. I’m not, I’m embarrassed that I don’t know the term I should.
[00:21:09] Mark Hinaman: All good interjection or substation or,
[00:21:11] Mike Conley: yeah, there’s, thank you. And the corridor it is connected to is all valuable stuff. Put a reactor there. Yep. I agree. That’s great idea.
[00:21:21] Mark Hinaman: Call attention to about the Jacobson report at least. I mean there, were some people that.
Tried to do this or, you know, peer review his work and then ended up he sued them for defamation. Are you guys worried about that?
[00:21:31] Mike Conley: Oh yeah. We mentioned it in roadmap to nowhere that Christopher Clack and his buddies wrote up a devastating thing we call the clack evaluation. I think it was in 2019, and it just skewered Jacobson’s stuff, although it did it in such a highfalutin science paper.
Manner that, I mean, you need a guide to get through it. If you’re not a PhD, I have PhDs that I can use for guides. And, but long story short Christopher Clack was sued by Jacobson for defamation. And Jacobson also sued p a s proceedings, which is the magazine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Case was thrown out and the judge said he had a payback clx legal fees. Yeah, that’s, and so I’m just, if he wants to sue me, go right ahead. I got a 20 year old car. You can take that. You know, I mean, like, knock yourself out, Jacobson. The point being is science should be settled in the laboratory and not a court of law.
I agree. Yeah.
[00:22:40] Mark Hinaman: That’s a great practice. Yeah. Well, thank you. Let’s circle back to your first book earth is Nuclear. Yeah. Earth is Nuclear Planet Earth Planets. The overview, I’m sorry,
[00:22:54] Mike Conley: what’s. What’s it about? Oh, just a bunch of nuclear stuff. No, it was originally called fear of a Nuclear Planet.
What we were addressing in the book, or what we addressed in the book is the various fears that people have. Fukushima, Chernobyl, radiation cancer the expense of nuclear, how long it takes what do you do with the waste. And then when we’re writing it, we’re like what we started getting into.
Kind of a cool thing about how in a. Actual literal sense, life would not exist on this planet if we didn’t have radioactive material in the core to keep the core molten. And so this planet is a nuclear planet, we wouldn’t be here trying to clean up our own mess if it wasn’t a nuclear planet, because it is the.
That generates our magnetic shield, which keeps the solar winds from blowing away our atmosphere, which is what happened. With Mars. Mars is core cooled, which they’re just like confirming now. We kind of stuck our necks out about three, four years ago when we were writing it. Like, I know they’re gonna figure this out, and sure enough they did.
But well, it’s true. And, but, so we have uranium and thorium and potassium four and Rubidium 87 and all this nasty stuff in the core of our earth. It keeps the. Outer core molten, it circulates. We have a magnetic shield, we have a breathable atmosphere, and here we are. So we are living on a nuclear planet and our contention is that we should take this material and learn how to use it to live here cleanly.
Because the best way to, like save the planet is to let it be, is to reduce our footprint without reducing ourselves. Yeah, I just made that up. I like that also in the book, reduce our Footprint without reducing our, without reducing ourselves, and so we are a nuclear planet and it is non-productive to be afraid of the very material that allows us to exist.
Yeah. So we have to go beyond combustion, not back away from combustion.
Jacobson and his pals, one of, and who’s that knucklehead? The Rocky Mountain Institute.
[00:25:24] Mark Hinaman: You’re, there’s a few. Yeah. Your words.
[00:25:28] Mike Conley: That guy. Yeah. It’s my landlord. Yeah. He can sue me. He thinks that earth is a knucklehead planet.
That if we have enough energy, oh my God. All the bad things we’ll do with it. We need just enough to keep the lights on. Oh, yeah. Ery Levin, I think is true that, yeah, that guy. Yeah. And so words too. Yeah. I
[00:25:45] Mark Hinaman: support your,
[00:25:45] Mike Conley: your viewpoint on that. Well, thank you. And, and so the thing is he and Eric and Jacobson wanna go back away from combustion to a pre combustion state of harvesting natural energy.
And when it, where it occurs and all this other crap, Ola, it’s like, that’s great. If you have a half billion people, we have eight. Yeah. You know, and we need, need to go beyond combustion and make fire obsolete. Yeah, that’s, our contention. And so all this stuff I’ve been blabbing about is all kind of like in the book.
And what’s the book about? It’s about that. I like
[00:26:20] Mark Hinaman: it. Yeah. That’s really cool. I bet that’s gonna be
[00:26:23] Mike Conley: awesome to read. It’s a humdinger, I’m telling you. I mean it, and it is readable. I’ve written a lot of comedy. Comedy for me is easier to write than drama and so the book, if you don’t get a couple of belly laugh out of the book, you’re not paying attention.
There’s some zingers in there. But basically it was the idea of being an entertaining. Informative, educational, all that good stuff. So I pretended I was writing a long letter to my sister. Hey Sue, guess what? I figured out 500 pages, you know, and so it is written in a coffee dinner table, sort of conversational voice.
Okay, excellent. Because people that they don’t wanna like page the, like, I love Christopher Clack and what he did, but the average Joe is not gonna read that and they need to. So I made it readable and nothing on Chris. I mean, what he did was invaluable, but that’s what I do. I take all this highfalutin stuff and make it so my plumber can understand it.
[00:27:26] Mark Hinaman: So when should people expect it out?
[00:27:28] Mike Conley: Well, hopefully it’ll be out in August. We’re just doing the final edits now. And they’re gearing up the whole publicity thing, which I guess this is a part of. Hi. And yeah, and then it’ll be very quickly followed by its short companion book, the l and t report, which is the subtitle of which is how the linear No Threshold Model of Radiation Safety.
Made the world afraid of nuclear power, and it tells the history of the how the erroneous concept that there’s no safe dose became entrenched in the human psyche and in regulations. Isn’t
[00:28:08] Mark Hinaman: it so bizarre that, I mean, it’s literally like a boogieman that Yeah, we became so afraid, and I say the collective we became so afraid of something that is so not dangerous, right?
Yes. It’s like being afraid of butterflies. Yeah. You get the butterflies around you, they can probably smother you and kill you, but yeah.
[00:28:24] Mike Conley: Oh yeah. Never know about those damn butterflies. Six months, you know, like if the butterfly lands on the right neuron in the right lobe of your brain at the right time of day, you might come down with cancer.
[00:28:37] Mark Hinaman: it, I mean, it sounds ridiculous, but when you dig into the science, it really is
[00:28:41] Mike Conley: that ridiculous. It really is. I just as one, one example, you know, before the Russians invaded when Chernobyl was just sitting there, you would get more radiation flying from, say, New York to Chernobyl to go on a tour than you would be spending three days at the plant.
Now, of course the Russians kicked up all the dust and it’s not that good. But the dust is eventually gonna settle again, and in the meantime, it’s the largest natural wildlife habitat in Europe and the. Mutation rate of the local floral and fauna is maybe this much more than some pristine island somewhere in the Pacific.
It’s entirely inconsequential. Yeah, entirely inconsequential. Another one I just figured out is somebody visited the Fukushima reactors and they were standing next to the fuel pool. The used fuel pool and they did a radiation count and they go, oh, it’s like, 0.07 micro receivers per hour. And so I do the math and I’m like, yeah, wow.
If your office desk was next to that fuel pool, I, and you worked eight hours a day, you would get 140 milli severs a year, which is less than if you lived the Gura party beach in Brazil.
In 1956, the British Medical Research Society estimated that 140 severs a year would be the limit beyond which you might have to start worrying about cancer.
[00:30:16] Mark Hinaman: Why did they estimate it at that?
[00:30:18] Mike Conley: I’m not sure exactly why I have to read it all again, but that was their, conclusion, I think is in paragraph 52 or 54 of their 1956 report.
But it, it was not sure exactly how they
[00:30:32] Mark Hinaman: phrased. It seems reasonable that, you know, you would set the dose limit at that
[00:30:35] Mike Conley: limit. Well that, was what they came up with, which was quite embarrassing because their publication was designed to come out on the same day as the US publication called Bear one b e a r one and Bear One’s conclusion was there was no safe dose period.
Hmm. So the Brits are saying 140 millis a year, and the US is saying zero. Yeah, so that was kind of embarrassing. But so those are all the kind of things we explore, in earth is a nuclear planet. So it was sort of, a general education for. The under informed or the curious, written in plain language with 500 end notes, depending on how deep they wanna dive in with source material and Gotcha.
Here’s an article on it and here’s the source paper on it, which one you wanna read. So it’s sort of like a portable library.
[00:31:32] Mark Hinaman: How’d you guys organize it? Did you tell it like a story or just like a narrative? Oh
[00:31:37] Mike Conley: gosh, how did I organize it? Well, I don’t write with an outline and so
[00:31:42] Mark Hinaman: it was really tell like I send an email
[00:31:44] Mike Conley: mark.
I dunno. Oh my God. It was tough because I. Didn’t write with an outline, and then after I wrote it, the outline that I’m like, well, shit, this paragraphs should be here and this chapter should be over here. We did a bunch of shuffling around, but we start with Fukushima. And then we get into a brief explanation about isotopes and ions and all that stuff.
So, and then we get into half lives, the chapter’s called The Half-Life Well Lived. And so in the heart of the book goes into the whole, the nonsense about how there’s no safe dose of radiation. And it got so deep that we actually
I wrote a companion book that sort of a deeper dive. Into this heart of the book. Yeah, so that’s how the LT book came to
[00:32:32] Mark Hinaman: be. You’re like, this
[00:32:33] Mike Conley: is for one Yes, exactly. The lt,
[00:32:35] Mark Hinaman: let’s take it as an excerpt and, we’ll make it on a, as a sequel or a next one. Yeah.
[00:32:39] Mike Conley: The chapter got so fat. I’m like, I mean, it got, it got to be 20,000 words and I’m like, this is a book in itself.
And Tim is like, oh, we go ahead and write it. So I wrote it and He helped me edit it, of course. But yeah, so it’s a, earth is a nuclear planet, is a broad-based general education, and then the l and t report is a deep dive into what’s the heart of the book, which is, the idea is to destroy.
The false idea that there is no safe dose of radiation. It’s just utterly, completely, and totally not freaking true. It’s provable beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the guy, Mueller, the guy that came up with the idea, there’s no safe dose of radiation. He never wrote and published an experiment by which others could check, replicate.
[00:33:30] Mark Hinaman: which I don’t think the gravity of that is adequately. I. Like represented or talked about in the world and I, I mean, people will be able to read your book and read the report. We don’t have to dive in the whole history here, but Mueller, the guy that you referenced is essentially the father of this theory, linear, no.
Threshold theory. Yes. Yeah, that essentially the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has based all of their decision making on, right. The American regulator that’s viewed as the gold standard globally and has forced there to be. Millions of pages of documents and rules and processes to guard against this danger of minuscule tiny levels.
No safe dose of radiation Exactly. Prevented nuclear from being proliferated all over nuclear energy. Exactly. Right.
[00:34:17] Mike Conley: So Exactly. And that’s what we need to kill. We need to
[00:34:20] Mark Hinaman: kill that this happens or that this happened and yeah, it’s, I don’t know. I find it. It’s a fascinating story. I can’t wait to read your book and I’ll be
[00:34:30] Mike Conley: sure to share.
Well, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll send, you the word doc on, the l and t report. We’re really close to being done. There’s a half dozen things I highlighted I need to check on other than that is done. But it is the bottleneck. Yeah, and Naso, the National Academy of Science and Engineering and Medicine just kicked the can down the road by coming up with this 300 page proposal that they go, oh, it’s gonna take a bunch of different agencies and it’s gonna cost a hundred million dollars a year for at least 10 years.
And the subtext is if we can get the money check back with us in a couple of decades. In the meantime, there’s no safe dose, therefore. It’s almost impossible to build a reactor. It takes forever and acot the fortune cuz you never can be too sure. You know? Yeah. We point out it. It’s not,
[00:35:21] Mark Hinaman: but I You’re being serious, right?
[00:35:23] Mike Conley: it’s, oh, I’m being serious. It was, the Nasim report. I can’t remember the name of it. It’s like, let’s everybody be as scared for another two decades. The Nassim report basically comes out with like, Well, we’re gonna have to engage. We’re gonna have to readdress this. But to do that, we gotta do it with a bunch of different government agencies and it’ll cost at least a hundred million a year and take at least a decade, maybe two.
And until then, we have to assume there’s no safe dose, therefore, Win this solar. We can’t have reactors and good luck keeping your lights on. Yeah.
[00:35:58] Mark Hinaman: So do you guys come out with a recommendation then at the end of the book? Or do you just identify the problem? Well, we
[00:36:03] Mike Conley: do. Yeah. Our, recommendation is basically that we need to put this on the table for a discussion now, and also
we need to approach it with the idea that, You have to prove there’s no safe dose as distinct from, you have to prove that it’s not dangerous. Contrary, someone has to prove that radiation is dangerous in low doses, which is be below 100 millis a year. That’s considered low dose. They’re assuming. That it is dangerous and want to think, assuming that until it’s proven otherwise, which they call the precautionary principle.
Yeah. Okay. The precau of
[00:36:54] Mark Hinaman: opportunity, cost and loss.
[00:36:56] Mike Conley: Well, yeah, that the precautionary principle is the presumption of danger without proof. Yeah, and what we’re saying is after 70 years, there’s a plethora of proof that is not dangerous in the low dose range, and it is rather incumbent upon the naysayers to prove that it is dangerous, rather than scientists to prove that it’s not.
What you’re doing is you’re putting, the precautionary principle puts scientists in the position of proving a negative. Yeah. Oh, we have to invade Iraq because there’s WMDs. We’ll prove that they are. Prove that there isn’t. Therefore we better invade. Yeah, because you can’t prove that there isn’t. And after 3,000,000,000,040 600 American lives, it’s like, oh, well, you know, I guess, oh.
Yeah, they sold, and then China gets the oil, you know? Yeah. That is a precautionary principle. It is the assumption, and it’s not a principle at all. It’s unprincipled, you know, because it, it puts someone in a position of having to prove a negative. You can’t prove that there’s not Bigfoot. Look at this photo.
See that fuzzy thing over there that could be Bigfoot. And until you can prove it’s not Bigfoot, we have to assume Bigfoot exists. Yeah. And so we turn it on the head saying, well back at you mofo prove that it does exist. And until then, why are you stopping us from building a clean energy source, which the Koreans are doing for $2,300 an installed kilowatt on time and on budget.
Which is one of the cheaper, cheaper than a coal plant.
[00:38:42] Mark Hinaman: Cheapest, reliable, deployable power systems in the world.
[00:38:45] Mike Conley: Yeah, exactly. By far. Yep, by far.
[00:38:50] Mark Hinaman: It’s really, it’s kinda embarrassing from as Americans that, you know, we
[00:38:54] Mike Conley: can’t do this. And Yeah, and we gave the South Koreans that design. Yeah. It was the, I think in general electrical design in the eighties and they fiddled with it and good for them, you know, and now they’re cranking ’em out like sedans.
And we’re at Vogel building hand tooled hyper cars. You know? Yeah. And the Koreans and the Chinese are like Chach, Chach. There’s another React chch ch. And they work and they have ’em blown up and all the good stuff. And the Fukushima reaction is the only reason why they melted down is because the bone has the built it, but the backup generators in a basement on the beach.
Tsunami, they coined the word tsunami.
[00:39:34] Mark Hinaman: They knew this was gonna happen.
[00:39:36] Mike Conley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know what’s really ironic about it is the closest reactors to the epicenter were onagawa. You might have heard Onagawa is a power plant in Japan that was closest to the tsunami. Their generators were on high ground.
Nothing happened to those reactors. Fukushima is down the coast. They had their, generators in a basement on the beach and they melted down and, oh, nuclear’s dangerous between the two towns, there’s a little place called Sendi. Have you ever heard of a Sendi stone? No. Acei Stone was carved in the 16, 15 hundreds by old Japanese masters warning about tsunamis and do not build on the beach because of tsunamis.
Yeah, that CEI is between Onagawa and Fukushima. Wow. That’s the kinda stuff we touch on in the book, is that the tragic irony of stuff like that. And the Japanese government even admitted it was because of their culture and insularity and sticktoitiveness that nobody spoke up about the blatantly obvious bad design of not the reactors, but the site on which they built the reactors of Fukushima.
[00:40:56] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. But even still, I mean, nobody was harmed or killed from radiation. Like nobody in the public was hurt.
[00:41:03] Mike Conley: Nope. Nobody.
[00:41:04] Mark Hinaman: The worst with the advocates that say that this is one of the best examples of why nuclear is safe, like the absolute, which is
[00:41:12] Mike Conley: what we say in the book is ironic. Ironically, the Fukushima was the testament to how safe nuclear power is, is the worst dose.
If no one had evacuated, the worst dose would’ve been 10 milli seavers. Was it 10 millimeters? Yeah. Which 10 to 30, something like that. Which is equal to a CT scan. Yeah, so they evacuated 1600 elderly people who died in the frigid march weather to avoid a CT scan.
[00:41:43] Mark Hinaman: Seems irrational. So I think the point that we’re hitting on here, Mike, or that you’re hitting on repeatedly is like this net benefit to society point, right?
Yes. And being able to call attention to it effectively through irony and through satire and through telling stories, it sounds like. But I mean, is there exactly what we’re doing? Is there perhaps another story or. I don’t know, fact about the industry or something that comes to mind that is, is fun or funny to you that you find interesting?
I don’t know. It might be ridiculous or frustrating, but Sure. I know that’s quite question.
[00:42:15] Mike Conley: according to statistics, and this has been recorded for decades in America, about once a year an American will be shot by their own dog. The dog will step on the trigger. Generally, you know the gun’s in your purse and the dog steps on the purse and shoots you, right?
Yeah. So in the last 70 years of nuclear power, there’s been about 70 dog involved shootings in America. In the entire history of American nuclear power, there’s been 16 fatalities and three severe injuries. The three severe injuries were a fuel processing centers. Three people died from an experimental reactor to the melted down in 1961 at Idaho National Labs, and there have been 10 construct non-nuclear.
Construction and accident construction and inspection accidents. Okay, so in the entire history of American nuclear power, you actually factually buy statistics. Have a better chance of being shot by your own dog, the main harmed by nuclear power.
[00:43:31] Mark Hinaman: That’s I’ve never heard that comparison. I will start using, that’s how we start the book. Yeah. I will definitely start using it because That’s incredible. Yeah, it’s just amazing.
[00:43:40] Mike Conley: Nobody talks about it. Well see that, the, humorous perspective I bring to it. So isn’t
[00:43:45] Mark Hinaman: it? I mean, from that, from my perspective, then, It to be spending any more dollars to make it safer, feels irresponsible.
I mean, some could go as far as criminal, right? That like we’re wasting money and time and not utilizing this energy source that is, it’s
[00:44:04] Mike Conley: fearmongering and it’s there. I’ll give you an example about fearmongering. There’s a woman on my street, she and I live on a hill. She walks up the hill. At night by herself wearing a mask.
You know that Now, you know, COVID killed a lot of people. That felt like a
[00:44:25] Mark Hinaman: gas mask or like a gorilla mask. No, I mean,
[00:44:27] Mike Conley: and then and N 95, she got so flipped out and took it to such an extreme that to this day, She and I watch her cause I stay up late at night, have a cup of coffee and, and here’s what’s her name, walking up the hill and it’s a steep hill.
Yeah. With an N 95 mask on. Totally alone
[00:44:49] Mark Hinaman: in elevation. You know, you’re in LA near sea level. She’s just trying to make it harder to blurt, breathe, and.
[00:44:55] Mike Conley: It could be that. Yeah, it could be that. Yeah. Right. Exactly. Yeah. Or she’s,
[00:44:59] Mark Hinaman: society has fear, mongered her into irrational
[00:45:01] Mike Conley: behavior. Yeah. And, that’s exactly what it is.
And the fear, the, we get into the fearmongering and you know, Stuart Weir excuse me, Spencer Weir, you might have heard of him. We wrote the, the Rise of Nuclear Fear great book. And he goes into the how deep in the psyche. That nuclear power can reach. I mean, here’s the deal. You have a scientist that can actually change an element from one element to another.
This is alchemy. Yeah. Okay. That flips people the hell out. Yeah, because you are fiddling with the building blocks of the universe. But you know what? We got eight to 10 billion people on this planet and it’s getting kind of toasty around here. We need to man up or girl up, or whatever the hell you wanna call it, and learn how to reuse what we have sensibly instead of being afraid of the exact thing that can solve it.
We have 4.5 billion tons of uranium in the ocean. That can be passively harvested with synthetic sponges for only slightly more than what mine uranium costs. So, we’re suggesting that we have an American nuclear grid with reactors built in America, fueled without mining from the sea. That surrounds us on three sides.
And it is entirely, completely, totally 100% practical, feasible, and doable. Starting today. That answers
[00:46:45] Mark Hinaman: the question of are we gonna run outta uranium? Right?
[00:46:48] Mike Conley: Well, yeah, well, exactly, because that’s one of the things is like, if we have a nuclear grid where we can get all the uranium, well, two answers.
One seawater uranium, which the advantage being that since it’s fresh, U 2 35 or 2 38, that you can spin up until 2 35 enrichment. You can use it for old school reactors. Yep. So you don’t have to advance the generation four, which is fast reactors, which is the fast neutron, the faster the neutron flies, the nastier stuff, it could break apart.
So all the stuff that you can’t, that a Lightwater reactor doesn’t burn, you can throw it in a fast reactor and it will burn. But you need the fast reactor. Yeah. With seawater uranium, you can run any reactor that’s ever been built. With no mining, zero, none, and there’s 4.5 billion tons of it. We did calculations and if we used all of it, you could literally run the entire planet.
All primary energy that we currently use , the entire freaking planet, currently uses all forms of energy for 240,000 years. We figured they’ll have fusion figured out by then. Yeah,
[00:48:04] Mark Hinaman: yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Mike, we’ve talked about a lot. We typically ask I guess kinda three, three final questions.
So we’ll dive into those. And, I mean, you’ve talked a lot about steps we can take to build more nuclear, but I’m curious about what your recommendation would be for the most impactful step
[00:48:19] Mike Conley: we could take for the impactful what, I’m sorry, I have bad ears. I apologize. That’s
[00:48:23] Mark Hinaman: okay. What, what’s the most impactful step?
That we could take to build more nuclear, A S A P,
[00:48:32] Mike Conley: aside from killing l n t and harvesting seawater uranium, what I think would work really good, honestly, hire the Koreans to come over here and build one of the reactors for $3,700 a kilowatt hour in 50 months with the idea that we’ll watch them do it and learn from them. Yeah, because here’s the thing, there’s all this thing about, oh, it takes too long and it costs too much money.
Well, let’s get the Koreans over here to show us how to do it with a reactor that we designed. And then we watched them and it’s like, oh God, I think we can do that. We’re, you know, we built liberty shifts. We built 3000 liberty ships in World War II without computers, cell phones. We use slide rules.
2,600 of ’em were floating at the end of the war. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever on God’s green earth that we cannot build reactors for about what the Koreans are building them for and as fast as they’re building them. And if we can’t figure it out, we can literally, physically actually hire them to do it for us.
So Jacobson has a textbook talk about a textbook case of nuclear misinformation. He has a freaking textbook that explains how reactors take 19 years and cost like eight to $12,000 a kilowatt. How did he figure that out? Because he looked at Vogel and he looked at Otto or whatever you call it that went in Finland.
That took forever in a day. Yeah, and that’s his standard. Wow. That is a textbook, no pun intended, case of nuclear misinformation. So, yeah, so my answer, hire the Koreans and watch them because that reactor has been approved for, for Build on US soil, so it can literally actually be billed tomorrow on US soil.
I like that
[00:50:28] Mark Hinaman: recommendation. I’ve got some people to email and, and talk about that.
[00:50:32] Mike Conley: Every now and then I come up with a good idea.
[00:50:34] Mark Hinaman: I like it. How can people help? How can listeners help
[00:50:38] Mike Conley: buy my book?
[00:50:39] Mark Hinaman: Buy my book? I agree. I’m you
[00:50:43] Mike Conley: some friends. And the reason why is you need a general education. You need to get up to speed.
Americans should be as generally familiar with reactors as they are with automobiles. Yeah, I agree. And. If they’re not, they need to get up to speed because it is the vehicle that is gonna take us into the future.
[00:51:09] Mark Hinaman: Okay. So with that, what’s your vision of what the future looks like in the next 10 to 20 years?
Leave us on an optimistic note.
[00:51:16] Mike Conley: We get this l and t crap all cleaned up, that we, start building reactors like sedans instead of hyper cars. We take a cue from the South Koreans and the Chinese and just roll up her sleeves and get down to it and harvest the uranium We need out of the ocean to run the darn things and also build a deep geological repository in a place.
This geologically sound yucca was built. The decision to build Jaco was a political decision, not a science decision. You need. The right kind of rock to put it in below, well below the water table, all that kind of stuff. What is the like the one in Finland, they just got finished building.
Oh yeah. The Finland steep. It was built in the proper kind of rock. If the casks were to fail, it would take 500,000 years for that stuff to percolate up to the surface. Yep. Because it was built in the right kind of rock. So we need a Jeep Geologics depository built in the right place, and we need to start building like the Koreans and the Chinese.
I like that. You know, we need sedans. We don’t need McLaren’s. We need Corollas. Yeah, perfect. I’m sorry if I’m getting too animated about this, but Oh, you’re passionate
[00:52:38] Mark Hinaman: and you’re engaged. I love
[00:52:39] Mike Conley: it. So that’s a good way to put it. Yeah, I thought it was the coffee. That’s perfect. I really have really enjoyed talking with you.
[00:52:47] Mark Hinaman: I have too. This has been a great discussion. I can tell we’re literally when you released your book, and I mean, when, you get super popular and we can never talk to you again. That’s gonna be tragic. But before then, we’ll have to have you back on and yeah.
[00:52:59] Mike Conley: Talk to. So, yeah, wait till that movie hits and pester me about it because the deal, should be going down and if it does go down, I will get incredibly busy.
But I told the producer and I told Eric, I go, I got two things to write. Now is set of one. I gotta work on this movie and I gotta work on these books. But yeah, I gotta do it. I mean, I gotta do it cause I gotta do it, you know, I’m down for the count for nuclear. It is my purpose in life to have the US build a nuclear grid in my lifetime, and I’ll be 70 next year, so get off the can and hire some Korean, hire some Koreans.
I know what they’re doing.
[00:53:39] Mark Hinaman: I love it. Mike, thanks so much for the time.
[00:53:42] Mike Conley: Welcome. We’ll talk soon.