Jenifer Avellaneda, aka @NuclearHazelnut on X, discusses with Mark Hinaman her discover of nuclear while growing up in Mexico, working in Vienna for the IAEA, her role as a probablistic risk assessment engineer at Westinghouse, and nuclear advocacy through twitter and other forums.
034 Jenifer Avellaneda aka Nuclear Hazelnut
[00:00:00] Jenifer Avellaneda: I mainly try to share my experience as a woman in nuclear and also a young generation in nuclear, because I’m not going to write the age gap that there is between, for example, my colleagues and myself or colleagues like my age is very huge, super huge. So what I’m also trying to do with this Twitter project or Twitter handle, is to reach out to younger generations and invite them to become part of this incredible industry. You know, you don’t need to be an engineer. You can be anything else but come to the nuclear side.
[00:00:35] 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 nuclear regulation. We need scientists to design new fuels, focus on net public benefits. We need engineers to invent new technologies. We need over absurd levels of radiation property entrepreneurs to sell those technologies.
Then we will march towards this. We need workers to operate a. Assembly lines that hum with high tech. Zero components on prosperity need. Diplomats and 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.
[00:01:39] Mark Hinaman: Welcome to another episode of the Fire2Fission podcast, where we talk about energy-dense fuels and how they better human lives. My name’s Mark Hinaman, and I’m joined today by Jennifer Avellaneda. Did I get that right?
[00:01:52] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yes, that’s great. Hi, mark and hello, everyone listening in.
[00:01:55] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, so Jennifer’s a risk analyst at Westinghouse, but she’s better known for her Twitter handle a nuclear hazelnut, so I’m very excited to chat with her.
Jennifer. We’ll dive into your handle on Twitter and some of your advocacy work, but why don’t you give the audience kind of a quick 30 to 60 second background intro.
[00:02:13] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yes, of course. And thank you so much again for the invite. So, hello everyone. Hello Mark. My name is Jennifer Avellaneda. I am originally from Mexico City.
I was born and raised there, but now I’m currently living in Texas, in the great state of Texas, United States country of its own. And yeah, and, Well, my passion for nuclear energy began at the young age of 12 years old, and ever since then, I’ve been actively advocating for its advancement and development and, you know, saying information out loud, and my opinion and trying to advocate for nuclear technology and energy as well.
I hold a degree in sustainable development engineering. From the Monterey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico, and well, my journey in the world of nuclear energy started with a very transformative experience that I had at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, Vienna.
I was doing an internship over there and during that I was working at the technical cooperation program, so I. Privilege to work hand on hand with many diplomats as well as project managers, by actively contributing and also developing certain, projects related, to the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies for different member states.
And fast forward now I am at Westinghouse Electric Company. I’m a nuclear risk analyst engineer, and I love what I do for a living. I’m very excited.
[00:03:45] Mark Hinaman: That’s incredible. I can’t wait to dive into a bunch of that. So, let’s talk about your time at, well, first off, I’ll say it back, make sure I heard you correctly.
So educated in Mexico. That’s correct. Yep. Work in Texas now. Okay. Yes. Why at such young age were you fascinated by nuclear?
[00:04:04] Jenifer Avellaneda: That is a very funny story. I like to read, thrillers a lot or many novels, but I usually prefer thrillers. And I got a copy of the Angelson Demons by Dan Brown, you know, the writer of, the Vinci Code.
And throughout that story, there’s couple of events that happened at cern, which is a center of development and advancement of nuclear technology in Europe. Many countries surrounding it. So I started doing my research, like for example, what’s antimatter, which is actually mentioned as part of the story.
And then one thing led to another and I ended up reading. All the information about, nuclear energy, nuclear technologies, nuclear power plants, and also nuclear weapons because hard to believe they’re very much related. Whenever you look for the word nuclear, you have those two, you know, the peaceful uses and not so the peaceful uses.
And that’s how my interests started back then. That along with the, with. Some news in the media that for the very first time I also heard the term climate change or global warming, and at the very young age, I got very concerned about those two things because it’s like, is the world is going to end?
What’s going on or what is happening with the weather? I feel like it’s okay, but it’s many times you get to read the media, or not only Twitter, but certain news, or even the radio, the newspaper back then. I used to read the newspapers, and you read all of these terms. And at that very young age, I was very concerned.
So I made like the relation, so if we have this technology, the nuclear technology, why aren’t we using it for peaceful uses? Why this is like part of the key. That we need to start developing, supporting, and, you know, continuously using in order to stop this climate change thing or this global warming thing.
So that’s how my interest in this nuclear technology or nuclear energy industry started. And ever since then, I have just, you know, kept reading books, novels, interviews, TED Talks, news. And not so long ago, I recently started using Twitter to share. The little things that I know, the little things that excited me and it has been an amazing journey ’cause there are many people out there with similar opinions as mine.
And even if we do not share an opinion, it has been also very interesting, to have educated discussions online. I. So it has been, a great journey, but that’s how we all always started. Love it. Thanks to Dan Brown.
[00:06:44] Mark Hinaman: Who knew? Too bad. They didn’t make a, they need to make a, did they make a film of that one?
Angels and Demons?
[00:06:51] Jenifer Avellaneda: I think so. But they change, the end. I don’t wanna be spoiler, but they did.
[00:06:58] Mark Hinaman: Okay. So, and then you spend some time at the I I e I always mess up this acronym, I A E A, the International Atomic Energy Agency. It’s a hard acronym. Yeah. Like why would
[00:07:11] Jenifer Avellaneda: it, but you get used to it.
[00:07:14] Mark Hinaman: Were you actually over in Vienna?
[00:07:16] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yes, I lived there for almost 10 months. 10 11, nice. Yeah. I’m jealous. I’ve always, but I didn’t learn German.
[00:07:24] Mark Hinaman: You don’t have to the, all the Germans speak English. They say they don’t, but they do.
[00:07:30] Jenifer Avellaneda: Have you ever heard, when they say life is too short to learn German? Well, it is because I give it a try.
[00:07:35] Mark Hinaman: Yeah.
Yeah. What was that like? What kind of projects were you working on over there?
[00:07:41] Jenifer Avellaneda: Most of the projects were already part of their nuclear energy program. So that depends on the member states, but I also learned that there are, types of projects. So there are the national projects, the regional projects, which include several member states throughout a certain region and also international projects, they’re inter interregional projects. I think they’re called , I forgot the name, interregional Projects in which, these projects can interact certain countries, at a certain specific area with other countries at very different location. So, these projects are mainly focused on the, of course, peaceful uses of nuclear technologies, but they’re not only focused on the nuclear energy, programs of these countries.
They’re also, related to, for example, medicine or agriculture or even space, development or research, you know, and, it was very interesting. I work with Latin American countries. So that was like, the area in which I was part of the technical cooperation program at the I a A. So I, I guess I was very lucky because that is, the direct interaction that the agency have with the member states.
So as, as I told you previously, I interacted women in diplomats and I got to hear from them directly what was going on at their countries. It was a very interesting experience. I am so lucky I got to experience that.
[00:09:08] Mark Hinaman: That’s great. Yeah. Yeah. So did you go straight to Westinghouse from there or did you have something in between?
[00:09:15] Jenifer Avellaneda: I got something in between, but it’s not related to the nuclear energy industry. Actually, I moved from Mexico to Vienna to work there, so I graduated, obtained my degree, moved to Austria, Vienna, worked there for a couple months, almost a year, and then I came back to the US because I’m very united with my family.
They were all living there, mom, dad, and a sister. So I came back here, started to looking for a job, and it approximately, it took me approximately six. Six to nine months to find this incredible opportunity at Westinghouse. But in the meantime, I was working at Salad, which is a restaurant. There you go.
So, you know, my background is it’s incredibly huge with many different skills.
[00:09:57] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. How long you been at Westinghouse Us?
[00:10:01] Jenifer Avellaneda: I’ve been there three years and six months so far.
[00:10:04] Mark Hinaman: Okay, great. Yeah. Mm-hmm. So your title is a risk analyst. What, what does a risk analyst do?
[00:10:12] Jenifer Avellaneda: That’s a very interesting question and, and sometimes I’m gonna try to, to do my best to simply explain it to you, but we, the risk analyst engineers at Westinghouse, we use a method that, it’s called probabilistic risk assessment.
And this method is basically used to systematically evaluate the risk involved on every stage of a complex technological entity. This time is nuclear power plants, and we currently use it to assess the potential risk associated with for example, national and international power plants, depending on who’s the client, of course.
And we evaluate the livelihood of an accident or a certain incident or event happening. And what would be the possible consequences of such events? And also how can we mitigate it? Not only the consequences, but if this happens. What else? You know, like what’s a plan B? What’s Plan C, D, and Well, when it comes to nuclear power plants, we do have a lot of information about many different systems or many different parts and the components that make it up.
So, for example, I may know how often a particular type of bulb has been used and how many times it has failed over a year. And all of this information help us to understand how often a certain problem might occur and how can we mitigate it in case that occurs. Or not. So that’s it, that’s what I do, and that’s how I enjoy it because I, I work very closely to any like topics and actions related specifically to safety, not only about risk, but safety as well.
[00:11:55] Mark Hinaman: Gotcha. Okay. And I mean, before we started recording, you mentioned that you guys are in an outage right now. So is that for a specific plant or you’re helping out, like with the turnaround?
[00:12:06] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah, it is actually the outage of unit one. Well, it’s going to be the outage of unit one in October, Comanche.
Yeah, but you know, also risk catalyst work before we even schedule the outage, while we schedule it and we are designing it along with the managers of the plant and then during the outage and after the outage, during the start of, of the plant. So, A lot of work.
[00:12:38] Mark Hinaman: So I had, I had these questions written down, but the, do, do you think the level of risk that the nuclear industry takes is too much, too little?
Is there, are they too safe? And I wanna preface this a little bit with looking at other energy sources and I mean, I come from, not the nuclear industry, but certainly other energy background. And then when I hear about some processes that occur in the nuclear industry, I. I, I kind of scratch my head and think like, wow, the cost benefit of this, like what are we protecting against?
What’s the hazards? So I’m curious on your perspective, like are there some things that you do that you’re like, man, this is kind of frivolous and we could get around it? Or other things that you’re like, well, we should actually pay a little bit more attention to this.
[00:13:19] Jenifer Avellaneda: I think that’s another very interesting question that I get asked a lot.
Like, how much is too much talking about risk within the nuclear industry? And I do believe that nothing in life comes with that risk. You know? And as a nuclear risk analyst, I can tell you that the risk and mitigation of, of it is something that the nuclear industry takes very careful consideration, unlike other industries.
I don’t think it is too much, but probably the media or the people that it’s not that has no experience with this type of industry thinks that, eh, there’s more that we can do that it’s not enough. You know? Never, and lemme tell you, like you’re chasing on the contrary. I guess we’re, yeah. Yeah. I guess it’s easier to build.
I don’t know. Many other things than a nuclear power plant. And sometimes because of this, and it’s okay, it’s okay to to be careful. It’s okay to have certain risk assessment. I understand it, but it is not balanced, you know, within the industry. And yeah, I think that’s part of an issue. Yeah. But no, it’s never too much.
[00:14:37] Mark Hinaman: Okay. So let, I mean, if you can, let’s talk chat a little bit about Westinghouse. I, and it’s okay. Mm-hmm. All good. If you give a party line, ’cause I know they’re a big company and you’re not a spokesperson for them, so, but I, what, what kind of projects does, I mean, well first off, let’s just give an overview of who Westinghouse is for folks that are unfamiliar, which would be uncommon if they know about the nuclear industry and they’re listening to this podcast.
But if they don’t, then, you know, they may not. But yeah, the. Let’s start there, then I can ask about kind of, a couple other systems, so, sure.
[00:15:06] Jenifer Avellaneda: So Westinghouse Electric Company, I love where I work and you can tell by how I speak about my day-to-day activities. Yeah. Well, it’s a company that was initially developed by George Westinghouse, so he’s a founder closely to the nineties, fifties.
So it’s been a long time since this company was created and it was always been fo it, it has always been focused on the development and advancement of engineering projects and technology, you know, so we not only work with nuclear power plants, for example. We also develop certain technologies for households or sector technologies for even other type of industries.
You know, my focus is on the nuclear energy technology. And we not only do, for example, risk assessment, we also develop new technology we are also focused on many different areas regarding the development and also improvement of existing technology.
So that’s what we do as a huge team.
[00:16:04] Mark Hinaman: I love it. I’m personally really excited about your guys’ uh, Vinci Reactor, right? Like Me too. Yeah. Do you wanna give the audience kind of an overview of
[00:16:12] Jenifer Avellaneda: what that is? Yeah, of course Vinci, it’s like a prototype of a micro reactor. So what does that mean? There are to put it on a very general way, there are three types of nuclear reactors.
So it could be the conventional ones, which are the huge nuclear power plants that are able to feed electrically a whole city. And then we have the small modular reactors, which is a smaller version of these type of reactors. And these ones, Like produce less, less power compared to these stationary plants.
But they can be transported. So they can also, for example, feed small towns or small projects for example, either if you are building at a certain area that is not actually surrounded by power lines or you get to use an SS m r and they’re great. And Vinci are a smaller version of this smart Ular reactor.
And this one is still under development and under the request of certain permits and approvals. But it’s the idea to be like a smaller version of an SS m R, right? So it’s going to be transportable, same as the other one.
It’s going to need less maintenance. Less fuel will the risk analyses are doing good. So less damage control to put it that way, or less risk to have consequences or bad consequences, the ones that we don’t like.
[00:17:36] Mark Hinaman: Gotcha. Yeah. It’ll be an incredible technology once it’s released. So, but I mean, the AP 1000 right.
You guys designed this reactor? Mm-hmm. And you’ve built several of them across the world in China and Georgia, like it’s. It’s a really cool technology and really super safe and yeah, I
[00:17:52] Jenifer Avellaneda: dunno, it’s safer, even more safer than the ones that we have
[00:17:56] Mark Hinaman: didn’t need to be any safer and we made it safer. Right?
[00:17:59] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yes. Because of pressure, if you ask me. But yeah, it’s okay. I guess it’s okay.
[00:18:06] Mark Hinaman: Well, cir circling back on this idea, um mm-hmm. You know, the, there’s a video that Brett Kugel, mass. So he Right. He is the titans of nuclear guy. Mm-hmm. And he’s, he’s spoken a lot publicly, but he put puts out this industry about like, why is everyone so scared of nuclear?
And he kind yeah. Kind of brings together some compelling points in the video and says, well, they sell fear right at the core, like that we’re not building new reactors, so they’re selling fear. Mm-hmm. As an outsider, I sometimes agree with him, like when I look at it in the industry, and I, I think that’s kind of hit the, what the industry’s chased for the past 10, 20, 30 years.
And certainly changing now with building new reactors. But I’m just curious on your take on that.
[00:18:49] Jenifer Avellaneda: Well, I do agree with certain parts of his of, of his video. You know, there is always going to be room for improvement on how we communicate about nuclear energy to the public. You know, in, in my opinion, historically, nuclear energy has faced challenges in public perception due to mainly because of misinformation and misconceptions.
And it is crucial to focus on and balance communication that emphasizes the benefits and not only the benefits, but also the safety measures and the huge potential of nuclear power. So engaging, for example, in open and transparent conversations while addressing the concerns of the public and also educating them.
Can help to reshape thenar the narrative surrounding the nuclear energy. So I’m not going to say he was lying. But there are certain, for example, even terminology or technic systems that people usually don’t understand and, and I like this example very much, which is about criticality. Do you know what this criticality refers in the energy industry, nuclear energy
[00:20:02] Mark Hinaman: industry?
Others may not. So, so
[00:20:05] Jenifer Avellaneda: long story short, criticality when whenever you hear the reactor has gone critical on a movie. Like, oh my goodness, something is going to, you know, work its way out of the boom. And, and we don’t want that. But ity, in fact, refers to a state in which a nuclear reactor or other physical material system is able to sustain.
Self-sustaining chain reaction, you know? So in a critical state as we call it, there is a balance between the production and the of Nutrients within our system. And this allow us for a sustained nuclear fision reaction. You know, everything that enters goes out and, and that’s an equilibrium. So whenever you listen, the reactor has gone critical.
It’s time to clap. It’s time to be happy, because that’s a good thing. So,
[00:20:59] Mark Hinaman: I, it’s almost like you could rebrand it and say the reactor is visioning in a balanced state.
[00:21:05] Jenifer Avellaneda: Right. The reactor is stable. Yeah. It’s, it’s sustaining a chain
[00:21:08] Mark Hinaman: reaction. Cri critical sounds like, I mean, it’s a negative word, right?
It’s kind of an Yeah.
[00:21:14] Jenifer Avellaneda: Unfortunately it’s some negative, even though that’s not the meaning of it. Yeah, according to this context, but it’s one of the many examples that I usually use with my family or with my friends, trying to explain that it is not bad. It is actually okay to use the word criticality, because that way you get to show people the correct vocal vocabulary, you know?
Yeah. So that, that’s also a good thing. It’s not like, oh my goodness, I’m never going to say nuclear. Another example is that when I recently started working at these supporting this nuclear power plant in Texas, I saw a couple of documents in which the name of the plant was different. It was called Comanche Peak Steam Generator Station.
While that is true because we generated steam at that plant, they decided to take out the word nuclear because that was a scaring other contractors, just because he had the word nuclear. You know, that’s another example. Why should we be scared about the word nuclear?
[00:22:12] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, it’s so strange.
[00:22:14] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah. And that happens and, and probably I have many more examples about it, but that’s an example.
And that’s also something that I look to do or I was looking to do ever since I started my Twitter account to use a correct vocabulary. And for those who doesn’t know, Let me teach you, let me give you the resources so you can have a, an informed decision or an informed opinion better way.
[00:22:35] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, I like that.
You’re a good spokesperson. I mean, I, you’re compelling to listen to and you can break things down pretty easily. I mean, I’ve only talked to you for a short time, but I’ve, I’ve already realized that, so thank you. I appreciate it. I like the criticality example. I especially, well, let’s call it like under balanced vision or overbalanced vision rather than critical or.
Cool. Well, let’s talk a little bit about Twitter. So, as I said at the beginning of the episode nuclear hazelnut, that’s, that’s your handle on Twitter. Before we dive into the kind of why Twitter I wanna know why mm-hmm. Hazelnut.
[00:23:11] Jenifer Avellaneda: So that’s a very funny story and hopefully you won’t get disappointed with, with the, with what’s behind it. So, my last name is Ajara, which in Spanish is very similar to the word Aja, which in English means hazelnut and Aja or even hazelnut, has been my nickname for a couple of friends and even family of mine, and they’re still calling me that way.
So when I started with this little project of Twitter, I was like, what should be my name? Nuclear Jennifer. No, that doesn’t sound cool. That doesn’t sound exciting. What about nuclear hazel lodged? It’s a small and nuclear, you know, so that’s the story behind it. I know. Oh, it’s fun. I know.
[00:23:55] Mark Hinaman: So, I mean, has Twitter been useful for you?
You’re pretty active on Twitter, right?
[00:23:59] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah. Although not lately I’m gonna blame it on the outages, but I try to, whenever I hear certain news or certain amazing advancements, I try to share it through my Twitter. And I know with a simple, like in a simple retweet or a simple share, a. That information will reach to many more people that I can ever imagine.
[00:24:22] Mark Hinaman: So, I mean, you’re, you’re more active than me. I’m just, I’m scrolling through your Twitter, Twitter now and posting a couple times a week or several times a week, like certainly more.
[00:24:32] Jenifer Avellaneda: I try to do it, you know, more often than I actually intended. And I’m also behind the, the account, one of the many faces behind the US Women in Nuclear Instagram account.
So whenever I hear something very interesting, it’s like whether should I share it on this platform or both platforms. You know, it’s always have like many things in mind, but I try to be very active. I try to share my experience. I not only wanna share the news, for example, because anyone can read the news if you have access to the internet, but I mainly try to share my experience as a woman in nuclear and also a young generation in nuclear, because I’m not going to write the, the age gap that there is between, for example, my colleagues and myself or colleagues.
Like my age is very huge, super huge. So what I’m also trying to do with this Twitter project or, or Twitter handle, is to reach out to younger generations and invite them to, to become part of this incredible industry. You know, you don’t need to be an engineer. You can be anything else but come to the nuclear side.
[00:25:41] Mark Hinaman: I like that. Do you think it’s been effective at changing hearts and minds?
[00:25:44] Jenifer Avellaneda: Probably, although I’m not looking to change people minds, I’m trying to inform them. I like, and there you go, here is information. Here are the resources. You get to have your own opinion. You know, I’m, I’m not an influencer. I’m not try on being an influencer, but I like to share with you what I know and, and where to look for information according to my experience.
And there you go. Yeah.
[00:26:08] Mark Hinaman: You have the tools how everyone talks about echo chambers and listening to their tribe and getting caught and just talking to the same people. How have you, have you thought about that? Or how, how do you break out of that? I don’t know if Twitter or the algorithm. I dunno, what’s an, you say something and then it’s echoed by your peers and that people there, there’s confirmational bias, right?
So people only kind of listen to what their ideas are and there there’s not adequate discourse or, yeah.
[00:26:40] Jenifer Avellaneda: Well the things that I also, and thank you for teaching me a new, a new term. Part of what I also try to do is to create Educated discussions or conversations throughout anything that I post and I’ve seen, for example, someone, yeah, we should all turn off nuclear, shut it down because it’s very bad.
Look at Germany. And there another person is like, no, I have this report, for example, from the m i t, the latest report of the m i t that says nuclear energy. It’s a key component, you know, to keep fighting climate change or to keep fighting global warming. And, and there goes like a thread, you know, people responding to one another and I, they also teach me, I, I can also learn from what I’m reading, and that’s what I try to do, not only to echo what I said or, or for people to share it.
No, that, that’s not my main purpose. My main purpose is as I told you, to give you the tools and, and to give you a sneak peek of what it is to be working within the nuclear industry. That’s,
[00:27:38] Mark Hinaman: I love that. So that tape, I, I like the mm-hmm. This idea about also learning. You know, I, I remember back before Twitter, which is weird to think about, and before a lot of social media mm-hmm.
Or in the MySpace days, really, you know, I there, there I was, I was entering industry and I remember thinking about, ’cause I mean, I was coming out of engineering school and. A lot of people were the smartest guys in the room. Right. And you’d look it up to executives and managers and you’re like, how did they get all of this knowledge?
And how do they make decisions? What’s their process? Right, absolutely. And like, how are they bringing in information? And that was a question that I asked frequently with, it’s like, how are the decision makers in society and companies like actually bringing in information? What news outlets are they reading?
What, you know, data sources? Do they have. Yeah. What newspaper? Right. Newspaper. And what, what subscriptions do they subscribe to? Yeah. And I think your anecdote about like being able to share information quickly on Twitter and really find a lot of what you need and a lot of what you don’t need it’s like really valuable sometimes.
So I think it’s, it’s fun that you, you shared that or identified it. What was this women in Nuclear, women in Energy, that page that you mentioned that you’re a contributor to?
[00:28:55] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah, so there’s an organization throughout, well I think it’s globally presence, but there are like a few chapters or a couple of different chapters. They could be regional or even national. US Women in Nuclear is an organization part of one of the many chapters that actually exist. Part of the Women in Nuclear, which is an organization that tries to unite women, not only women, also men.
Everyone is welcome, but mainly women because we tend to be a minority within the industry, the nuclear energy and technology industry. So this one, it’s kind of, give us the tools to be more interactive and to get to know people out there that it’s in the industry and probably have some of the challenges that we are experiencing.
For example, as women whenever you enter the company, you generally see only men taking very important positions, you know, like VP or president or manager. And, and that is something that we are trying to change. Like, hey, if I have the qualifications, if I have the skills, I want to keep contributing to this company or to this organization.
So women in Nuclear and US women in Nuclear put together a certain, for example, presentations or, or tools to prepare and improve yourself to fight for those type of of positions, for example. And if you are not interested on pursuing a leadership position, they can also help you out.
What’s interesting you, what are you right now? Well, I do this for living. You should come here and, and let me talk to you about what I do and you could apply, I could help you. You know, it’s just an organization that, that Relates women within the industry.
[00:30:42] Mark Hinaman: That’s great. Something like that. I think that’s very positive.
I, I’m aware of, so I live in Denver and there’s an organization in town and I, it’s a nationwide group, but it’s called Women’s Energy Network. And so several of my friends volunteer for it, but kind of, it sounds similar and right. It’s all, all people are welcome not just women but they’re yeah, they, but they wanna promote and further the careers and of women and empower them to be successful.
So, I’m hopeful that it’s changing. Right? Absolutely. I would love to see more women in the industry. I think it’s fantastic.
[00:31:12] Jenifer Avellaneda: It’s getting better. We are getting there.
[00:31:13] Mark Hinaman: Okay. So you had a few specific tweets that you were most recent. And depending on when we’ve published this, I’m sure you’ll have more so people can go and check that out. But there’s some kind of fun stories that I wanted to chat about with you.
So is this a pe The nuclear. Nuclear and Brazil. And actually maybe more broadly, because you, you were a i e Yeah, yeah. Curious on your perspective. Nuclear and kinda Latin America. Like, do you think that there’s potential for growth? Mm-hmm. Do you think that there’s going to be more nuclear in, in Latin America?
Like, how do we, how do we make this happen? Or maybe just, what’s the Brazil story about? If you remember? And if you don’t, that’s okay.
[00:31:52] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah, no, I do. I mean, regarding your question involving Latin American, the Latin American, and the Caribbean, Unfortunately the energy industry, including the nuclear energy industry, it’s strongly related with political advancements, you know, and political beliefs.
So, and I’m going to put as an example Mexico first because that’s where I grew up. Everything has to do with the misconception of nuclear energy. Because many people, including, for example, my family when I started, you know, like, saying out loud, I wanted to do this for a living, they were like, oh my God, you’re, that’s really active and you’re gonna get cancer.
And they’re like, no. In fact, nuclear technology can cure cancer. So, those. Those type of misconceptions and also political challenges is what’s driving the path or the development of nuclear energy and nuclear technologies through all those countries. Now that you mentioned these exciting news about Brazil GRA unit three.
So they have a nuclear power plant called gra, I don’t know the full name and I’m very sorry about that. I should. But the first two units, GRA one and GRA two are currently they represent approximately 3% of electricity provided or produce nuclear energy produced in Brazil. So what they.
Our trying to do basically is to restart the construction of Angra three, which is going to be a third unit, a third P W r reactor. The construction of it originally started in the 1980s, but it got suspended twice in 2010, and I think 2015, everything because of political challenges. Everything because of political challenges.
College also economical or college changing government, but it was strongly related to political events that were going on within that country. And well, there’s almost 60% of this project that has already been completed, so, You know, there’s a small step. Yeah. Or a couple of more steps to have it. And they’re expecting for this plan to start operating probably at the end in 2026, more or less.
So I guess let’s cross fingers so we can welcome another reactor, commercial reactor in Latin America. Yeah. At this time in Brazil.
[00:34:28] Mark Hinaman: Why, why doesn’t Mexico have nuclear?
[00:34:33] Jenifer Avellaneda: We do have, we do have nuclear, we have two. Yeah, if I, if I’m not mistaken, we have two bwr. So they’re boiling water reactors and they’re located in Veracruz at the Gulf of Mexico.
Very interesting. And we also have research reactors. They’re located in Toca, I think, which is near Mexico City. And that reactor issue usually used for research and development purposes. And the other one is to produce electricity, which more or less represent two to 3% of Mexico’s electricity, if I’m not mistaken.
All right. I’m not sure about those numbers, the two or 3%. What about the, the development of this technology in Mexico? I don’t know. The current president is scared about the word nuclear. I, of course do not agree with him, but it is what it is and, and they are approximate to have an election. And I guess we’ll see how it goes.
It’s always very complicated and it’s unfortunate at the same time that it’s not mainly focused on scientists opinions or exper and experience, you know, but in politicians,
[00:35:42] Mark Hinaman: Laguna Verde provides three to 4% of Mexico’s electricity. Look at that.
[00:35:45] Jenifer Avellaneda: That’s correct.
[00:35:47] Mark Hinaman: I didn’t know I learned something. That’s great.
Yeah. You also posted about Kairos pilot project.
[00:35:54] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah, I guess the, the reactor call Air
[00:35:57] Mark Hinaman: Airman. Herin Air ma. Yeah.
[00:36:03] Jenifer Avellaneda: All we know is not the brand, not the luxury brand, whatever reactor. So, according to that, that new. Imis will be building an additional reactor next to ESS one, and this one is going to be ESS two. And this would be the subsequent, what was the word? Subsequent iteration, demonstrating the complete system architecture and the sign.
Of the company, Kairos Power, right? So they’re basically trying to focus on building up something from all the information that they already gathered and developed from the other design, which is ER one That is very exciting because as permits just keep being approved. That means the nuclear energy industry or nuclear industry itself keeps growing.
The more development, more research, more advancement, and, and who knows, probably the next nuclear power planets on its way.
[00:37:03] Mark Hinaman: That’d be awesome. So, I had this question listed, and you don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to, but do, do you think the N R C will ever be reformed or maybe even if that’s necessary?
I don’t know.
[00:37:14] Jenifer Avellaneda: Bureaucracy has always been challenging to probably understand or, or even to talk about, because I’ve been in both sides on the side of the public eye and on the side of the private eye. And there are many things going on. And, for example, an energy reform would depend on, on political dynamics, which can change over time.
As we keep saying, as an example of Latin America, so, for example, public sentiment technological advancements, industry developments, learnings, and, and policy considerations all play a significant role in shaping discussions and potential reforms. So I would like to say, please, N R C, just whenever you see submit, just approve.
But, but there’s a process behind it. Unfortunately, it’s, it usually takes longer than expected. But I guess it is what it is. Whether or not it needs to be reformed, I don’t think it’s on me. I would say probably they need more people. Okay. But why? If they don’t, I don’t know because I’m not in there, you know?
But that’s my opinion from, I like that from the outside.
[00:38:34] Mark Hinaman: Okay, so, mm-hmm. Jennifer Nuclear hazelnut. This has been great. What, what are some of the most impactful steps that you think we can take to build nuclear A S A P and how can people help?
[00:38:44] Jenifer Avellaneda: Simple answer, and I’m going to repeat the, the word. Simplifying and expediting the permits. You’re from the nrc. Okay. Alright. Standardizing certain things, standardization of process, or probably pre-approval of certain designs, you know, also financial support. There’s a lot of of support to solar, wind, and, and that’s a good thing.
But what about nuclear? Don’t forget about nuclear. 24 hours, seven power and many, many, many jobs. So don’t forget about nuclear. Give us financial support. Pre-approval. Yeah. Standardization.
[00:39:23] Mark Hinaman: I love that. That’s what I say we need. Before we end, I, I wanted to circle back ’cause I, this just came to mind in, in your job as a prob mm-hmm.
Assessment are using that, I mean, are you using, are you using a lot of statistics and then like data and so like, you’ll use like no hypothesis to or t-test to like say what’s the probability or con, right. I mean,
[00:39:45] Jenifer Avellaneda: Yeah, it, it’s a lot of probability to put it that way. We certainly gather two type of data.
One is coming directly from the plant and the other one is historical, historical data coming from all the industry. And we compare that data and then we come up with the number. And that number ends up being, you know, this is the probability of getting core damage, for example. Super small, super, super small is, is a number times 10 to the minus seven or to the minus six, super, super small annually.
So that’s what we do. We basically gather a lot of information. As I was previously explaining to you for the example, I have a valve on this specific system and it has failed only once when called upon in a year. So I get my number, boom, boom, boom. And this is a probability and I have like, Many different other valves and many different other systems.
And those numbers will be up to give me a number, which is the probability of having, for example a certain event. And what would happen if I lost this pump? Oh, I have this other one. What would happen if you lost a plan B? I have a plan C. You know, like, yeah, I know how to handle it. So that’s why the probability of having.
Almost any type of events on the SAR events are very
[00:41:06] Mark Hinaman: small. Interesting. Yeah. I’m curious. I mean, if you, if a plant exploded, all of the data that we have now demonstrates, in my opinion, when I’ve looked at it, like the probability of people dying and being hurt from a radioactive release is also very small, meaning like, The very, very small, first of all.
So I guess if you trace it all the way to the finish line, then like the, the probability is near to zero anyway from, for the hazard. So like what are we actually protecting against?
[00:41:41] Jenifer Avellaneda: Absolutely. So, first of all what I was going to say is, for example, if you are thinking something for like Chernobyl.
That won’t ever happen again. Like ever and
[00:41:53] Mark Hinaman: ever. That’s, even if you did, the number of people that died was minuscule compared to other energy accidents.
[00:41:59] Jenifer Avellaneda: For ex for starters, now we have a containment, you know, like a that little house that houses, houses, the, the reactor. We have a containment, which is like approximately one meter, meter and a half thick.
So imagine that. And, and secondly not only speaking on the technological side, which is chances are near zero I’d also like to say that any nuclear power plant, and I’m now speaking from the ones that are in the U Ss A because are the ones that I know the most work hand on hand with the people in charge of the locations there.
So, for example, it sits They are, are continuously working with all the people in charge of managing the emergencies. You know, and they have a plan and they have annual meetings or twice twice a year. I don’t know how often, but they do have meetings and it’s like, okay, let’s go over the steps again.
If this happens, what would we tell people? So they, they are continuously working hand on hand with the people in charge of managing the emergencies at the, at the town or even the cities depending on the location of the plant.
And they go step by step, okay, if this happens, I’m going to tell you this, and this is your person of contact and you should do this. You should guide the people to this place and blah, blah, blah. So there are even rules and it is planned. There’s been a risk assessment for that. So even if you’re wondering, okay, I have the worst case scenario and the containment didn’t work, what should I do?
You know, there’s a plan. Yeah. There’s a plan of that. So, as I was telling you, we have a plan, a plan B plan, C plan, all the letters on the alphabet. We have many ways of mitigating certain events of happening, and even if they happened, we also have many ways of, you know, approaching the consequences.
[00:43:56] Mark Hinaman: Okay. So, Jennifer, leave us with your most positive vision of the future. What, what’s the world gonna look like in the next 10 to 20 years? And how are we gonna help to get there?
[00:44:06] Jenifer Avellaneda: Hopefully nuclear, go nuclear. That’s, that’s the thing. Yeah. I, I wanna see more people involved in the nuclear industry. Not only the nuclear energy industry, which is the one that I worked on, but as we’ve been talking about that are many benefits surrounding the nuclear technology, medical, agricultural in the space in the water on our rivers.
A lot, a lot of benefits, and we need people to start working on this. As, as I told you, there’s a huge age gap that we have right now between, for example, myself and, and, and my colleagues, which are. Super experts on the nuclear energy industry, but come to the nuclear side. You don’t need to be an engineer.
You don’t need to be a scientist. You could be for like your a policies or a marketing people. It, it doesn’t matter. Everyone, every profession is welcome throughout the nuclear energy industry and we need more people to keep developing and to. Not only supporting, improving, but also taking advantage of the many benefits of this technology, including the energy, which is 24 7 clean energy.
There you go.
[00:45:15] Mark Hinaman: Jennifer, thanks so much for your time. Really appreciate it.
[00:45:17] Jenifer Avellaneda: Thank you so much, mark.