[00:00:00] Everett Redmond: Hey it’s always good to reach out to your congressman and say, “Hey, we need, HALEU. We need to get things going.”
There’s no doubt about that. And Congress at the end of the day is gonna be, they’re the ones who authorized it. Now they can put pressure on the administration to move, so that’s helpful too. So that’s what I’d say, just get involved.
[00:00:18] 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 without America that is willing to, we’re the next generation, the need scientists to design fuel, focus on net public benefits. We need engineers to invent new technologies over absurd levels of radiation entrepreneurs to sell those technologies.
Then we will march towards this. We need workers to operate a. Assembly lines that come with high tech. Zero carbon prosperity for 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.
[00:01:23] Mark Hinaman: Okay. Welcome to another episode of the Fire2FIssion Podcast, where we talk about energy dense fuels, and how they can better human lives. Today we’re joined by Everett Redmond, senior Director of Fuel Affairs with Oklo. How you doing today, Everett?
[00:01:35] Everett Redmond: I’m doing well, mark. How are you?
[00:01:37] Mark Hinaman: I am. Ec static to be talking to with you.
I mean, on, like I just said, on this podcast, we talk about energy dense fuels and, we’re here to talk with you about the most energy dense fuel uranium.
So I’m, really excited for this conversation. Everett, before we dive in to uranium and fuel cycle and Halo, why don’t you give us some background on yourself?
[00:02:00] Everett Redmond: Sure thing. Happy to. So I’ve been with OK Low since September of 2022. Prior to that I was with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the trade association for the Commercial Nuclear power industry. I was there for 16 years doing a number of different things from storage and transportation issues of spent fuel.
To, advanced reactor work, which is what I was doing at the end, interfacing with all of the different advanced reactor companies out there. And then prior to, N ei I was with Whole Tech International working on, spend fuel storage, both dry cask and wet storage. And then, I’ve got a PhD in nuclear engineering from MI t.
[00:02:40] Mark Hinaman: What was the wet storage at Holtec? Was that actually in the spec fuel tools?
[00:02:44] Everett Redmond: Yeah, exactly. What? Yeah. Thank you for that. what wet storage means is in commercial reactors, lightwater reactors, the ones we have operating in the US right now, after the fuel is used and can no longer sustain the chain reaction, sustained fission, it is removed from the reactor and put into what we call a spent fuel pool.
Basically think of a large pool that’s about 40 feet deep, so the fuel assembly sitting down in the bottom in a rack. Easiest way to think about that is a like an egg crate. You know you have eggs sitting in their little spots. Fuel assemblies are same way in a crate down there in a rack down on the bottom with 20 feet of water sitting above them.
[00:03:30] Mark Hinaman: Awesome. And did you work on Hol Tech’s project in New Mexico? Was that around?
[00:03:35] Everett Redmond: No. That, that long ago or? No? Interestingly enough. So what you’re referring to is the interim storage project that they have in New Mexico, which they just got the license for from nrc. That concept. Was around at the time I was with Hol Tech, but Hol Tech wasn’t doing it.
I actually worked on a project called Private Fuel Storage, which was going to be a similar effort, although in Utah, where utilities would ship fuel and store it there. They also got a license but that never, never went anywhere. And so now whole Tech’s pursuing it again, business model’s different, so I wish him the best of luck with it.
[00:04:15] Mark Hinaman: Awesome. And why’d you pivot from Holtec to NEI?
[00:04:19] Everett Redmond: Oh, I’d been at Holtec for 10 years. It was time to do something a little bit different. In addition for personal reasons, we needed to move from the area. My wife, had her career opportunities, so that ended up with NEI.
Taken what I’d learned at whole tech and storage and transportation and now applying it to policy side of the house. Because NEI, as I said, it’s a trade association, so they represent the industry in front of Congress, the administration, and also the NRC on generic regulatory issues. So it was a perfect pivot there, but then I had the opportunity to get involved in Interim storage issues at NEI and non-proliferation issues, fuel cycle issues, a wide variety of things actually.
Which was great. And then I started the advanced reactor work that they were doing, and then ultimately that led me to wanting to get back into the industry, working for a private company. And here I am at Oklo. Awesome.
[00:05:16] Mark Hinaman: Yeah, the 16 years, I mean, we’re talking now in May, 2023. And That would’ve been 2007, 2008,
[00:05:23] Everett Redmond: 2006 is when I started.
[00:05:25] Mark Hinaman: 2006. Okay. At any ei. What a rollercoaster. I imagine it was full speed ahead, maybe in 2006 or maybe not.
[00:05:33] Everett Redmond: No, it was actually, so yes, you’re remembering Well, so when I came into NEI, we were talking about the Renaissance on nuclear. And that’s before natural gas fracking had taken off.
And then when natural gas fracking took off, well the Renaissance kind of went away. And a few other issues too. But it kind of went away. But then, over the last. Decade climate change and the challenges with that have built in. And so now you’re seeing that whole, and we don’t use the term renaissance and I’m not going to, but you see that big shift and focus on advanced reactors and new development now.
And every year it continues to get even more and more interesting and impressive. Yeah. It feels like there’s a lot of momentum building in the industry.
[00:06:19] Mark Hinaman: Oh, it’s huge. Especially since like the mid 20 film. Was there a specific project at EI that you worked on that I guess was most interesting to you or anything along?
[00:06:30] Everett Redmond: Well, so in any ei as I said, I did a wide variety of things. I actually kicked off the advanced reactor work, so it was a combination of us in Southern Company and EPRI that decided we, that any EI needed an advanced reactor working group. And so I led the formation of that, and then that kind of took on a, I don’t wanna say life of its own, but it really grew into.
All of the efforts that NEI are doing now. And then I really enjoyed interfacing on back into the fuel cycle. I’ve been doing that a lot too. So interfaced with the Blue Ribbon Commission, that was after the Yucca Mountain project was terminated by the Obama administration, so that was really a unique opportunity there.
So just a number of different things.
[00:07:14] Mark Hinaman: That’s great. We’re aware of you and I’d met you at a conference previously and we had chatted previously about kind of halo fuel and fuel in the US and what a bunch of advanced reactor companies had been pontificating about doing. And you’re, extremely well educated on this topic and so wanted to get you on the chat about it.
So, HALEU. What, is HALEU and, why is it important?
[00:07:36] Everett Redmond: So, HA stands for high assay Low and rich uranium which means. Uranium enriched in the element U 2 35 in the isotope 2 35 to less than 20%. So let me kind of start at the beginning. When you dig uranium out of the ground, it is a metal.
When it comes out of the ground, it has 0.7% U 2 35, and. For practical purposes, the remainder of it is U 2 38. We need to take that and enrich it, increase the amount of U 2 35 to be able to use it in a reactor. And real quick, the way that process is done is you take the uranium out of the ground, it’s referred to as yellow cake because it ends up looking like a powder as an oxide.
You take that and then you convert it to uranium hexa fluoride. There. From there, you send it to an enrichment facility, which is a set of centrifuges. So think about a salad spinner where you spin things around and the, heavy stuff goes to the outside. You’re using the same general concept here, although, A little bit more technically advanced to spin uranium, hexa fluoride and enrich it.
And you enrich it up to about 5% for the fleet. So 5% U 2 35. And when I say fleet, I mean the reactors that are currently operating in the US which are PWRs, pressurized water reactors, and boiling water reactors. After you enrich it, it goes to the fuel fabricator. Now for us and many of the advanced reactor companies and almost all of the non-water cooled reactor companies, we need enrichments higher than that.
We need enrichments somewhere between say, 15 and 19%. There is a demarcation line at 20%, so anything below 20% is referred to as low enrich uranium. Anything above 20% is referred to as high enrich uranium. The commercial industry only uses low enrich uranium. So that’s where we’re gonna be, but we’re gonna be right up there at 19.75 percent for most of what we need.
And so, We need high assay, low and rich uranium because the design of the reactor, so ours is a micro reactor. OK Low’s designing a 15 megawatt electric micro reactor that is liquids metal cooled using metallic fuel. And it’s a fast reactor so uses fast neutrons predominantly rather than thermal or slow energy neutrons that the fleet uses.
And so as a result of the design and the characteristics we need. The higher enriched uranium, as do many of the other non-water cooled companies. And then that leads into, I think, some of your next questions in terms of supply.
[00:10:21] Mark Hinaman: So the why, the higher enriched, I mean, is it, going to last longer? Is it have to do with cross section?
Like what, are some of the benefits of having the higher enrichment?
[00:10:34] Everett Redmond: Well, the, so, the need for it has to do with the design of the reactor and the physics associated behind it. So fast reactors, for example, operate differently than lightwater reactors. There’s huge advantages to ’em and to the design.
We’re. We’re working on not the least of which is you’re not using high pressure systems, you’re using liquid sodium. It has automatic feedback mechanisms, so there’s some really great advantages to it. But that design as a result of the fast reactor needs to have the higher enrichment, excuse me.
And then some of the thermal design that are, tri based fuels, which is a like graphite balls in a sense. Pi billiard ball size or ping pong ball size need high assay, low and rich uranium, because of the design, it also enables us to have a core life that’s gonna be about 10 years or longer.
So, You’re gonna see with many of the non water cooled reactors, a bit of a change in the refueling strategy. So, for example, our core is gonna be in there for about 10 years. Currently, the fleet, the lws refuel about every one and a half to two years. So they’ll take a third of the core out, replace it with a third fresh, and keep going.
Some of the newer. High temperature gas reactors are going to do online refueling, basically replace a couple pebbles every day sort of thing. And then there’s another company working on fast reactor technology somewhat similar to ours. It’s gonna have a 10 to 20 year lifetime as well.
[00:12:13] Mark Hinaman: Got it. So it’s time between refueling and the physics of power reactors are designed.
Correct, yeah. Yep. That makes sense. Okay. What are some of the main sources of uranium? And I preface this question with, or I’d like to preface it with sometimes you’ll hear people talk about, oh, we have a limited supply of uranium, where, you know, even if we went all nuclear, we would run out of uranium and 70 years if we used all of this strategy.
And then you hear other people say like, well, no, there’s lots of it in the ocean. And it’s actually like, kind of a renewable resource, but it’s just very diffused like, what’s the answer to this question?
[00:12:48] Everett Redmond: Yeah, so that’s a, great one. I would say that, we’re not gonna run outta uranium anytime soon.
Okay. It’s interesting when I was growing up and, that state to me just a little bit, but when I was growing up, there was conversations about running out of oil. Well, we’re not talking about that anymore.
[00:13:05] Mark Hinaman: Well, we are, but they’re just like, it’s gonna be a couple hundred years instead of in five years.
[00:13:10] Everett Redmond: exactly. As the need at what price increases that we
[00:13:12] Mark Hinaman: gotta run outta oil.
[00:13:13] Everett Redmond: Well, and that’s it. And that’s what it comes down to is, you invent new technologies to do mining, to do extraction and stuff like that. You mentioned, for example, uranium and seawater. It is in seawater, and that’s certainly a place for it.
We don’t get uranium from seawater right now because it’s cost prohibitive to do so. But you know, as you need more and more of it, you’ll find it. So we’re not gonna run out of uranium anytime soon. Now with that said, There are some other technologies which, I’ll probably touch on in a bit, but let me back up to your question a little bit more.
So, uranium right now comes from a couple different countries. Mining Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia are kind of three of the primary ones. The United States does mining as well. Wyoming, maybe some other areas. But we don’t supply a great deal of it. It’s a little bit more expensive to get.
Uranium here than it is in the other countries I mentioned. So those are the predominant
[00:14:08] Mark Hinaman: Why is that Everett? is that a function of. The concentrations or the regulations and mining practices that we might use in the US versus in other countries?
[00:14:18] Everett Redmond: Yeah, that’s a really good question and unfortunately I’m not able to really address that because I just simply don’t have a good answer for that.
I’m pretty confident in saying though, that the regulatory side of it’s not that big of a burden, unless of course it drives, certain. Practices in terms of how you actually mine safety and stuff like that. But mining is depending on the state is not regulated at the federal level. It may be regulated at the state level.
[00:14:50] Mark Hinaman: And I apologize to our listeners if there’s sounds like there’s honking or sounds in the background I’m recording from Yeah. Random spot in California. So.
[00:14:59] Everett Redmond: Oh, you’re good. I actually can’t hear any of it, so I think we’re fine.
[00:15:03] Mark Hinaman: Excellent. Okay. Cool. So, HALEU. I mean, if we’re doing this for design and many of the advanced reactors want this new type of fuel, and it’s not necessarily new, we’ve used it before.
We’ve used it in research reactors. We’ve used it. Mm-hmm. The military’s used it a lot. But some of the industry talks about supply chain constraints. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[00:15:26] Everett Redmond: Yeah. It’s a big issue actually. It’s a huge issue. So the same technology that’s used to enrich up to 5%, those centrifuges are the same ones that will go up to 20%.
However, What they’re gonna do is they’ll, the companies would build, we call ’em Cascades. So groups of centrifuges together is referred to as a cascade. They’ll build specific cascades for going, taking the enrichment above 5% and taking it up to 20. The companies. Understandably so. Don’t wanna make an investment in that building out that technology unless they have a guaranteed order book.
Unless companies sign an agreement, sign a contract. I shouldn’t say an agreement. Sign a contract that says, I’ll take the uranium from you at a certain price, no matter what else happens. In other words, if you don’t even sell a reactor, you take it. And this creates a challenge for, the advanced reactor companies, cuz we’re not in a position quite yet to sign those contracts.
We are, for example, OK Low’s gonna deploy our first reactor and then other reactors to follow afterwards. In fact, we announced that we’re gonna cite two and three in Ohio. So we’re making some big plans, but we’re not quite in that position yet to sign those long-term contracts.
Neither are the other companies. And so in the United States you’ve got one commercial richer right now, reco which is located in New Mexico. You have another company, Centris, who is bringing online a pilot facility. I think it’s actually up and running now in Ohio and then internationally you have the Russians and the Russians can supply high assay, low and rich uranium right now in whatever form you want it.
And we want it in metal form. Other companies want it in oxide form. But the issue with Russia is, the invasion in Ukraine’s basically made that a. Untenable situation. So Russia’s off the table. And so we need to develop this enrichment capability. I shouldn’t say develop, it’s really deploy this enrichment capability here in the United States to build it.
Go build it. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And so you know what the government’s trying to do, the Department of Energy Congress, Congress instruct in d o E to make that investment. I mean, all of the enrichment in the United States historically was funded initially by the government and then taken over by the private industry.
So this would be similar. The government would help fund it through a. Probably purchasing high assay, low enrich uranium. So signing those firm contracts for say, 10 years of offtake, for example, and then they would turn around and maybe make that material available to the industry. Also, once the enrichment capacity as stood up, it’s actually quite simple for them to then add on additional cascades and expand quickly.
As with anything, you’ve gotta build out your supply chain, so, You don’t have companies out there building a ton of Centri Fus right now, so it’s gonna take a while for ’em to ramp up. And once really, somebody says go and the money starts flowing. We’re looking at about four years before we can have significant commercial enrichment capability in the us.
And so that would come. Soon, hopefully get that money flowing. So we’re waiting on department of Energy to issue a draft request for a proposal. So we see how things are going and then the industry will respond. Gotcha.
[00:19:07] Mark Hinaman: Is there, or are there certain companies that are better suited for this, or would this be an opportunity for a new player to step in?
[00:19:16] Everett Redmond: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, the four primary companies that are doing enrichment Leading the way, if you will. Urenco has operating facilities in multiple countries or no operates enrichment in France. Then there, and they had, a license for a facility in the us but because of the economic situation with the downfall of the Renaissance and stuff that chose not to pursue that, then their centrist, which.
I mentioned has a pilot facility in Ohio, and then there’s global laser enrichment, which is new technology. So laser enrichment technology. They don’t have an operating facility yet, but they certainly are interested in pursuing and enrichment for both the low enrich uranium and less than 5% and high assay, low in rich uranium.
And then I’m aware of another company or two that might have an interest in getting involved. So you never know until the RFP comes out and see who responds. But the four dominant ones at the moment are URENCO, Orino, Centris, and and g l e. And no particular order there.
[00:20:24] Mark Hinaman: Why wouldn’t one of these companies step up, and make the investment now, is it really a chicken and egg problem?
Meaning there’s like no current. Fires, of the fueled, but the buyers are kinda in a tough spot because they don’t have a guaranteed fuel supply. And so how, how do they get fuel long term to Yeah. Get investment from,
[00:20:43] Everett Redmond: Some, yeah, it’s completely a chicken, the egg problem. and it’s unfortunate.
So one of the interesting things about centrifuge technology, those salad spinners, if you will, Is once you turn ’em on, you keep ’em running. So once you turn on the system and you start pumping uranium, hexa, fluoride through it, you pretty much gotta keep ’em running and keep it operating. Those centrifuges don’t, from a technology perspective, don’t like to shut down, don’t like to ramp up and wrap down.
So they just keep ’em running. So that creates some additional challenges you’re not gonna wanna bring on. More capacity than what you need because you gotta keep sending material through. So really the enrichment companies are not in a position right now to bring on that capacity, make that investment in it without that guaranteed contract.
I mean, we see similar challenge actually in supply chain, for reactor components and things like that. I mean, a company, a supplier doesn’t necessarily wanna make that investment in building out a facility or additional equipment or stuff like that, unless they know they’re gonna have more than one contract.
It’s just, not really worth it unless you’re,
[00:21:54] Mark Hinaman: it would be bad business. You’re responsible.
[00:21:56] Everett Redmond: Exactly. Exactly. And so for companies like ours, it’s a challenge because, we’ll get to the point where we can sign the contracts for the, long term offtake and we’ll need the capacity to be there when we get there.
But as you noted, we cannot. Deploy reactors without fuel. Now, interestingly enough for us, and thankfully for us, our first reactor, which I mentioned targeting 2026 we’re actually gonna use halo that comes out of reprocessing recycling of old spent e experimental breeder reactor to fuel at Idaho National Laboratory.
So that was high enrich uranium fuel that went into EBR two. It was used. Now they’re processing it. Converting it into Halo, and we’ve got access to five metric tons of that, which will fuel our first core. So we are set for the first one, but then after that, I’m in the same situation as everybody else.
[00:22:56] Mark Hinaman: The earmarked for the first load to prove, have proof concept, demonstrate that it works, and then.
[00:23:01] Everett Redmond: Yeah, I’d be cautious on the word demonstrate for just a second. I want to emphasize what we’re doing. The reactor is gonna be licensed by NRC and it will be a commercial reactor. It is the first one, so it’s kind of a demo in that sense, but it is win every way It gonna be.
[00:23:19] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. It’ll be very commercial. Yeah. Expect, good. Delineation there.
You mentioned Russia earlier and that, we can’t or aren’t perhaps receiving fuel from them, but the US was, I mean, am I wrong in this, when the conflict started, we still had commitments that were happening and Right.
[00:23:37] Everett Redmond: We do still actually, the US fleet, many of the current operators have long-term contracts with Russia, which are still being fulfilled. But the ability to and nobody would wanna sign a new contract with Russia. So long-term contracts are still being fulfilled, but you never know what’s gonna happen with that, given the situation.
But yes, there is still material coming in right now. But the ability to sign new contracts is really off the table.
[00:24:06] Mark Hinaman: How much does it cost? Is there a cost difference between low and wrench, uranium and Klu?
[00:24:12] Everett Redmond: Yeah, there is actually and the easiest way to think about it is in order to. So, as I said at the beginning here, you’re taking uranium out of the ground and then you’re enriching it up. So every time you take uranium, which starts with 0.7%, U 2 35, and we enrich it, you end up with some leftovers, which is lower enriched.
We call it tails. So to make say a thousand kilograms of. 19.75 enriched uranium, I’m gonna need a whole lot more uranium out of the ground than I will to get to a thousand kilograms of 5%. So there’s gonna be a huge cost difference because of the fact that, one, I need a lot more uranium to begin with, which then means I need to pay a lot more for more conversion services.
Which then also means I have to pay more now for enrichment services. So it just compounds. So there is gonna be a big difference. And it could be a factor of eight to 10 more expensive. It depends. There’s actually out there for your audience folks. if you. Google UX calculator, you can take a look at, that the online tool that can give price estimates based on spot prices right now for conversion services, enrichment services, and uranium services.
[00:25:34] Mark Hinaman: The nuclear industry touts all the time. The it’s super energy dense, and we love that the physics, are real and demonstrate that, but some people say the fuels. Super cheap or should be cheap, but we have to do this enrichment step. How does that impact, when I’ve heard estimates it’s like 20% to a third of the cost of reactors or reducing the energy is just the fuel.
[00:25:54] Everett Redmond: So it’s gonna actually depend very much on the design. So for smaller designs like ours the fuel is gonna be a significantly larger portion of the cost of the plant. For large reactor, take a thousand megawatt reactor like Vogul three and four, that are coming online now.
The fuel is a drop in the bucket. Now, yes, you have to continue to refuel every 18 to 24 months. Put a third of the core in, but you know, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the price of the plant. And the other thing I’d emphasize here about nuclear relative to other things is, as I mentioned, so for the existing fleet, You have fuel onsite in there.
The plant operates. We refer to it as breaker to breaker. So from the time you come up to the time you go down one plant actually just completed close to 500 days continual operation, and that’s unheard of when looking at other energy sources out. There, be it natural gas, coal, wind, or solar. And then also, so we have fuel on site for our reactors.
It’s gonna be about 10 years before refueling. With coal, you do it daily, you bring coal in all the time with natural gas. Oh, that’s right. It’s a pipeline. Yeah, exactly. And with gas, it’s a pipeline, and with wind and solar, you don’t have any of that, but it’s not operating all the time.
So there’s unique things here. So when looking at fuel, yes, fuel is not cheap, but you have to look at it in that overall context of the cost of the plant and the cost of operations. So fuel is really not, for us it’s a bigger percentage than it is others, but perfectly economically viable for us as well as others.
[00:27:39] Mark Hinaman: How many people will it take to operate one of.
Do you know that?
[00:27:47] Everett Redmond: No, I don’t. I’m not sure how many people are, out there at KO’s facility right now. And I don’t really wanna speculate on that.
[00:27:54] Mark Hinaman: I’m, it’s a pretty big facility. It’s, I’ve looked into it. Yeah, it seems like, and I’ve met a few people that work there. Yeah. Yeah.
Meaning, I would guess between 50 and, I’ll give a broad range, three, 400 people maybe, but I’d surprised if it’s more than that.
Do you think that like old coal mine sites would be kind of an ideal site to cite a new plant like this? I’m just, spit balling here. If we, if there was a coal mine that was closing and they wanted to repurpose the surface and. Shoot, there’s even some nine tailings there. I don’t think it’d separate and try and get some uranium outta it on site.
[00:28:25] Everett Redmond: Like, well, I don’t think that would happen. But different sites, you can build an enrichment facility pretty much wherever you want to. As I said, you got one in New Mexico right now, one in, Ohio. So you could do it kind of wherever you wanted to. It’ll be interesting to see what the companies choose to do.
I would expect that some of the existing sites would be used for just basically expanding capacity. Now with that said, there’s another aspect here to High Asay loan Rich Uranium, which I haven’t touched on, which is, although I kind of alluded to it, I said, I need metal form of uranium. So when, yeah. Let’s talk about that.
Yeah. When Uranium Hexafluoride is enriched, it comes out of the enrichment plant as uranium hexafluoride. Right now for the Lightwater reactors, it is sent to the fuel fabricator where they converted into uranium dioxide, pellets, ceramic pellets that are used in the fuel. For us, we need metal and we’re gonna take uranium metal and make it into fuel for others they need uranium oxide and n and the uranium hexa.
[00:29:27] Mark Hinaman: Fluoride, is a gas when it comes out, right?
[00:29:29] Everett Redmond: Yes, it is. Well, it’s a gas, at higher temperatures and a solid at lower temperatures. There’s a sublimation point in there. But anyways yeah, let’s just say it’s a gas. We’ll go with that. So. You’ve gotta convert it into uranium oxide or uranium metal, and that’s gonna be done at a different facility and by a different company.
So it’s not gonna be uran, it’s not gonna be centers, it’s not gonna be g l e that does it because that’s not what they do. They do enrichment. So somebody else would do, we call it deconversion, if you will, decon, deconvert from U F six into something else. That facility is gonna have to be built and.
Where is up in the air. It depends on the companies and what they wanna do.
[00:30:11] Mark Hinaman: And so that doesn’t exist now, but that’s an opportunity in the US that, hey, we anticipate there’s gonna be lots of advanced nuclear reactors being built. They all want Halo. They’re all getting licensed and designed right now and applying for licenses with the NRC to have Halo.
There’s been hundreds of millions of dollars in investment being put into this project right now and. Where’s it gonna come from? And this step has to happen.
[00:30:35] Everett Redmond: So absolutely, there’s no doubt about it. You have to have, you have to have the enrichment and then you have to have that deconversion of uranium, hexa fluoride.
And each individual company could do it if they so choose to build out that capacity. But it’s preferable for us to have another company do that, and who specializes in it and do that Deconversion. Yeah. So you had shipped
[00:31:00] Mark Hinaman: from the enrichment facility to the de diversion and then use that plan, right?
[00:31:04] Everett Redmond: it to them, right? Yeah.
[00:31:07] Mark Hinaman: You said four years. Why? What’s the four year target for standing up one of these facilities?
[00:31:12] Everett Redmond: It really just is the practical time it takes. There’s a licensing effort with the nuclear regulatory commission, which could be 18 to 24 months, and then it’s building out the supply chain and the demand and getting ’em.
Getting the supply chain stood up and executing on the project. So it, that’s really, that’s your practical time to do it. I wish it could be shorter, but it’s not gonna be able to be much shorter, if any.
[00:31:39] Mark Hinaman: But with 2026 you guys building your first reactor, and, I mean, other companies coming out, the announcements have been, Hey, we’re gonna have more reactors built, hopefully by the late 2020s, early 2030s.
That’s good timing, right? I mean, it would be good to start now.
[00:31:56] Everett Redmond: Oh no, absolutely. In fact, I could probably, okolo could probably deploy another reactor in, would like to deploy one in 27 and 28 if we had Halo. Your audience may have seen Terra Power made a public announcement at the end of last year that, and they’re one of the advanced reactor demonstration program winners, the DOE program.
They made an announcement that they’re pushing their date out to 2030 start date because of lack of halo. So, it has a direct impact right now, and we’re really waiting for the government, the administration, the Department of Energy to move forward here. Congress has put money into it. More money is needed. .
[00:32:37] Mark Hinaman: How much have they put in and why is there more money needed?
[00:32:40] Everett Redmond: Yeah, so they’ve put in 700 million right now, and that was in the Inflation Reduction Act last year, and 500 of that’ll go directly towards enrichment capabilities. So that’s enough to kick this off. And they authorized the program, it’s called the Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Program.
It was authorized a number of years ago now. And so they finally put some significant money into it. But why are we gonna need more money? Well, You’re looking at, if you were to buy, say, 20 metric tons of high assay, low and rich uranium a year that could be, and do that for, say, 10 years on a contractor, you could be looking at close to $2 billion or more in cost.
Now the Department of Energy will say we’ll know exactly what they’re planning to do, so I’m speculating at the moment. But, one option is for them to buy the material and then turn around and make it available, sell it back to the industry, or they buy the material. And we have the industry can come in and buy it directly from the enricher number of different combination options, but you’re gonna have to have the money to be able to do it.
So 500 million’s, a good number to kick it off. It’s not sufficient to complete this project.
[00:33:58] Mark Hinaman: So, just circling back to some of these numbers, but 20 metric tons a year. What is that number? Significant? And I think you mentioned 5,000 tons or five tons. I’m forgetting the order of magnitude here. Like how much?
[00:34:10] Everett Redmond: Oklo needs five metric tons. For what, what we utilize. So that’s what we are doing and the Department of Energy has already talked about. They had an industry day back in October, and they were talking about maybe incentivizing 20 to 25 metric tons a year. So that’s a really good start.
In terms of what’s needed. The Nuclear Energy Institute, actually when I was there, I drafted the letters. So there’s some letters on NEEA’s website that talk about what the potential need is for, Halo. And it’s considerably more than 25 metric tons a year from a variety of companies. But 25 is a good starting point if the department can do it, cuz as I said, You’re able to build out additional capacity quickly.
So it’s not like, if it’s gonna take me four years to build out, say 20 metric tons of capacity, I don’t have to wait another four years to get 20 metric tons up capacity to go up to 40. I get that first four years, I get my 20 metric tons of capacity. They will have licensed the facility for much larger.
So they won’t have to do licensing efforts necessarily, and they’ll just add centrifuges as they go along or whatever it is on the deconversion side. And so you’d be able to build out that additional capacity, much quicker. So 20 to 25 may not solve, all of our problems, but it’s not necessarily intended to, it’s intended to kick it off and get this whole thing going.
[00:35:43] Mark Hinaman: The total demand,
Like you said, not problems. We might need a hundred, 200, 500 tons a year, right? If OK. Close’s building X number reactive year and the X energy and completely, the radiant guys and there’s a lot of people that are using or have plans, U USS M C have all have plans essentially to use.
[00:36:04] Everett Redmond: It’s gonna take off. The whole nuclear industry is gonna take off here. We’re talking to a number of different customers. We have 700 megawatts of interest in MOUs and Lois, and you’ve seen, and one thing that’s really fascinating is X Energy’s Teamed up with Dow.
So you have a chemical company now that’s interested in new nuclear and that’s just gonna be the first. So we’re gonna see nuclear being used for a lot more than just electricity, which is gonna make this skyrocket. So yes, the demand is gonna go up dramatically. Once we start really deploying these.
[00:36:39] Mark Hinaman: It’ll take capital investment
from the enricher and from the deconversion group.
Cause like the enricher has to buy the uranium from the miners. Right.
[00:36:48] Everett Redmond: So interestingly enough the way it’s done in the United States is a company, a utility will go out and they’ll buy, they’ll buy each of the services separately. So they’ll go, buy the uranium. Okay. And then they’ll pay to have it shipped to a converter who they will then pay, to do the conversion services.
Then it’ll get shipped to the enricher who they’ll pay to do the enrichment services. Then it gets shipped to the fabricator that they pay. At the end of the day, what they receive at their site, at the reactor site is a fuel assembly. So a simple analogy would be instead of you going out and buying a car, From somebody, you actually go out and buy the tires from one person, the engine from somebody else, the doors from somebody else, and have another person put it all together.
[00:37:36] Mark Hinaman: Yeah. And you retain title to all the components along the way. Exactly. At the time that you take it up outta the ground to the time that it gets delivered as a finished product at your.
[00:37:46] Everett Redmond: And they do that because it’s the cheapest way to do it. They can control cost at each step of the way.
I mean, we’re never gonna do that for a car because it just, I mean really, it just, let’s go buy a car.
[00:37:58] Mark Hinaman: People become experts in the car company, become experts. Put the cost on them to do that. Yeah. Are there any outside movers or that say parallel industries that you think could be. Entrance into this, meaning like if somebody’s really good at doing stuff outside of nuclear and they’re like, oh, well, we’re a chemical plant. And so the deconversion process could be easy for us to step in or are used in oil and gas all the time. I assume like a technology company that services an adjacent industry, you could step in.
[00:38:30] Everett Redmond: Yeah. I mean, it’s certainly, it’s not outta the realm of possibility. It’s just not. Easy to get into it on the deconversion side, I don’t know. It’s a chemical process, so certainly there could be other companies out there that do it. Whether or not they specialize in it, they already do it.
It’s one thing to take technology that you have and, works versus taking Some of your technology and adapting it to it. But there are some things like the laser enrichment that GLE is working on is really interesting and, could change, the landscape a bit in terms of enrichment capabilities.
So there’s certainly some good opportunities out there. So, we’ll have to see. And I would say though that, as the industry, the nuclear industry starts to grow more. And we need more and more enrichment. You never know who decides at that point in time that, Hey, yeah, I want a piece of That’s idea.
[00:39:29] Mark Hinaman: You mentioned licensing with the NRC 18 to 24 months. That’s not that long or that, I dunno, compared to the other licensing process,
[00:39:35] Everett Redmond: for the enrichment facilities and stuff like that. They’ve all, so Centris has received a license from NRC. Your ranko received a license from nrc, they know how to do it.
It’s just a matter of turning the gears and getting it done.
[00:39:50] Mark Hinaman: So there’s a lot that we’ve unpacked here. In your mind, what’s the most impactful step that we can take to solve this problem?
[00:39:58] Everett Redmond: So, the thing that’s needed immediately, on Halo is for the government to get that draft R F P out, the request for proposals.
So they’re gonna put it out, they’re gonna get comments from the industry, which would be. The customers like us that want, Hey Lou, the enrichers that want to, sell, Hey Lou can get that feedback and then take that feedback and turn it into a final request for proposals and get it on the street.
It’s unfortunate it’s taking,
[00:40:26] Mark Hinaman: but that’ll act as the catalyst.
[00:40:29] Everett Redmond: Yes,
[00:40:30] Mark Hinaman: correct. Try and help kickstart investment in this space.
[00:40:33] Everett Redmond: Right. It’s unfortunate that it’s taking as long as it has because the Department of Energy did an industry day in October and they had targeted December to have the draft R f P out.
[00:40:44] Mark Hinaman: and here we’re in May and it’s not there yet.
[00:40:47] Everett Redmond: Correct. Right. and then once they get it going, Congress will need to add more money, appropriate more money, and the industry keeps pushing on that. The industry as a whole keeps pushing on Congress for appropriations. So we keep doing that and we’ll continue to do that. And we continue to push the department.
But the thing that has to happen first and foremost, is get that RFP out.
[00:41:08] Mark Hinaman: Is there any way that people can help, or if, somebody listens to this and they wanna help in some way,
[00:41:12] Everett Redmond: or, hey it’s always good to reach out to your congressman and say, Hey, we need, HALEU we need to get things going.
There’s no doubt about that. So, and Congress at the end of the day is gonna be, they’re the ones who authorized it. Now they can put pressure on the administration to move, so that’s helpful too. So that’s what I’d say, just get involved. Gotcha. Okay. It’d be great. I bet Congressman would love to hear people calling up and say, Hey, we need Halo.
That would be a good one.
[00:41:41] Mark Hinaman: That’s awesome. So leave us with your most positive version or vision of the future.
[00:41:47] Everett Redmond: What’s the world gonna be like in five, 10 years? So, this is really exciting to me because in the last five years what I’ve seen is, we. You’ve got climate change, which is a huge problem and you’ve got companies investing in it.
That’s why we have advanced factory companies. That’s why OK. Low’s here. That’s why other companies are here, is to help provide clean, reliable energy for solving the climate change issue mitigating climate change and what you’ve seen as congress. Bipartisan votes and passing legislation.
Three or four different pieces of legislation, well as funding and tax credits, which is huge things that we wouldn’t have expected to occur. So now we got the foundation. So where are we going? Well, you’re gonna see a huge ramp up. As I mentioned, we’ve got 700 megawatts of interest right now. You’ve got.
There’s energy shortages. I mean, we don’t talk much about it in, in the United States, but there are areas where you cannot come in and build significant industry because there’s not enough power. I was reading something about data centers, which is, and data centers are vitally important to where we’re going now and where we are and where we’re going.
Like a doubling of the amount more than doubling the power needs for data centers by 2030. You’re talking like 35 gigawatts of power total. I mean, that’s huge. Huge. And they all are gonna want carbon free energy. I was hearing a utility, a large utility talk that they’re getting calls daily now from customers who are like, what’s an smr?
How can I get one? I want power. That’s, carbon free and clean. That wasn’t happening five years ago. And so five years from now, we’re gonna have, Okla will have a reactor up and running. Couple other companies will too. By the end of the decade we’ll have larger machines up and running. And then from there it’s just gonna take off.
And I should say, we’ve got Vogel three and four coming online this year, which are new AP one thousands from Southern Company from Westinghouse Design. So we’ve got some new nuclear coming on, but the next five to 10 years is gonna be, Really interesting. Absolutely. Redmond,
[00:44:05] Mark Hinaman: thanks so much.
Appreciate talking to you.
[00:44:08] Everett Redmond: Thank you, mark. Thank you.