20 episodes

The Atomic Show Podcast includes interviews, roundtable discussions and atomic geeks all centered around the idea that nuclear energy is an amazing boon for human society.

The Atomic Show Rod Adams - Atomic Insights

    • Natural Sciences
    • 4.1, 22 Ratings

The Atomic Show Podcast includes interviews, roundtable discussions and atomic geeks all centered around the idea that nuclear energy is an amazing boon for human society.

    Atomic Show #280 – Zion Lights – Director, Environmental Progress UK

    Atomic Show #280 – Zion Lights – Director, Environmental Progress UK

    Zion Lights

    Zion Lights is a formally trained science communicator, author of a carefully researched book titled The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting, and an experienced environmental activist who worked for a year as a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion.

    About a month ago, she began openly advocating for an expansion of nuclear energy as a major tool in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Her conversion wasn't sudden, she spent about a decade independently learning about the value of nuclear energy.

    Even after she had decided that nuclear was far safer and more important than she had been taught to believe, she was careful about openly advocating for the technology. That was something that just wasn't done by her peers and close associates.

    While still a member of the Green Party, she realized that curiosity about nuclear energy was almost taboo. That realization led her to almost immediately leave the party because she did not understand why such an important topic could not even be discussed.

    With a growing sense of unease about the directions taken by some of her fellow members of Extinction Rebellion, Zion decided to leave the organization. Coincident with her separation from XR, she and Michael Shellenberger had several widely separated conversations. Eventually she accepted Shellenberger's offer to become director of a newly-formed UK branch of Environmental Progress.

    Zion and Michael have determined that the UK is an important center of nuclear energy industrial development. She is bringing her experience, education and passion to the task of spreading good news about nuclear power.

    We had a wide ranging discussion about her journey from a firmly entrenched member of the Green Party, activist environmental organizations and even an environmental alarmist to become a vocal proponent of using nuclear fission to enable clean prosperity.

    Please join in the discussion and welcome Zion Lights to the community of pro-nuclear advocates and technological optimists.

    • 1 hr 10 min
    Atomic Show #279 – Michael Shellenberger talks about Apocalypse Never

    Atomic Show #279 – Michael Shellenberger talks about Apocalypse Never

    Michael Shellenberger's new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All has provoked numerous reactions and conversations. It is a carefully researched, 400 page work where 25% of the book is endnotes that document sources for the statements in the book.

    Michael is a stranger to the "go along to get along" mode of thinking, writing and speaking. By clearly stating his positions, he generates strong reactions among those who either agree or disagree.

    His book documents extensive travels and deep conversations that have led him draw challenging conclusions about many current issues.

    He asserts that nuclear weapons are not going to be abandoned. He believes that those who focus their concerns on those horrific devices should be doing everything they can to prevent their use instead of expending effort in a fruitless pursuit of a nuclear weapons-free world.

    An important part of reducing risk for nuclear weapons use is to continue to promote development and eliminate scarcity wherever possible.

    He notes that cities, factories and increasingly productive agriculture are a proven part of lightening human impacts on the natural environment. They concentrate people and allow more space for nature to flourish. They are also the means by which currently wealthy nations have become wealthy; denying those useful development paths to poor nations solidifies poverty.

    He asserts that vegetarianism is an ideology or religion that is strongly influenced by a disgust reaction and that its importance for stabilizing climate has been exaggerated.

    He acknowledges that competitors have played a role in the war against the atom, but he believes most campaigners are sincere even if they have been misinformed or misled by their peer groups to fear nuclear energy and radiation. (I maintain that money is far more important than ideology, but there is always room for different opinions.)

    Michael is a thinker, a researcher and a writer who makes a strong case for environmental humanism.

    He acknowledges that human society has many issues that need to be forthrightly addresses by the best available means, but he is firm in his conclusion that it is counter productive to attempt to stimulate action by frightening people with exaggerated scenarios not backed by solid science.

    Please join in the discussion. As always, your comments are welcome.

    • 50 min
    Atomic Show #278 – Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) project partners USNC, GFP and OPG

    Atomic Show #278 – Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) project partners USNC, GFP and OPG

    Global First Power (GFP), Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) recently announced that they had formed a joint venture called Global First Power Limited Partnership. That venture will build, own and operate an installation called the Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) at the Chalk River Laboratories site.

    MMR nuclear plant

    Mark Mitchell and Eric MGoey joined as guests on Atomic Show #278 to provide depth and background information about the technology and the project that was not included in the press release.

    Mark is USNC's director for the MMR project. Eric wears two hats, one at GFP and one at OPG. For GFP, he is the director of outreach and communications. For OPG, he is the director of remote power generation.

    We talked about the project's genesis and the joint venture's mission of proving through doing that the system design can be licensed, manufactured, assembled and operated in a cost-competitive way.

    Eric provided a brief overview about OPG. He explained that it that it is committed to providing clean, reliable power both to grid-connected customers and to customers in areas that are not connected to the grid. He described how OPG has a current charter to serve markets throughout Canada and into the United States, and how it hopes that the MMR project will open new markets to the company.

    For this first of a kind project, the MMR is a 15 MWth, 5 MWe power system with essentially two main plants. The nuclear plant is a helium-cooled, fission reactor-heated system that circulates helium through a heat exchanger. The adjacent plant is a conventional steam plant that circulates water through a heat exchanger/boiler and a steam turbine/condenser.

    Between the two plants is a molten salt heat storage system that acts to buffer heat supply and steam demand. It gets heated by helium that has passed through the reactor. Hot molten salt transfers heat to boil water, creating high pressure steam to turn the turbine.

    This arrangement allows the supplied grid to rapidly respond to load changes while enabling operators and control systems to vary reactor power output in a more gradual and efficient manner.

    The reactor heat source differs from other high temperature gas reactors. It uses the same Triso coated particle fuel often chosen for gas cooled reactors and some molten salt cooled systems. Instead of using a random graphite matrix material to produce fuel elements from Triso particles the MMR uses USNC's patented Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel.

    That innovation replaces random graphite with densely packed silicon carbide (SiC) as the matrix used to produce fuel elements. According to corporate literature on this feature, FCM fuels can retain fission products without failures at temperatures approaching 2000 C.

    MMRs are designed to operate for 20 years between fuel system replacements.

    While we talked a bit about the technological specifics, most of my conversation with Mark and Eric revolved around business considerations, importance of developing manufacturing competence, the importance of effective cost controls and the importance of transparent engagement with regulators and potential customers.

    Your participation in the comment thread is always welcome. If questions arise that need more details, I will seek assistance from the show guests.

    I hope you enjoy listening.

    • 40 min
    Atomic Show #277 – Simon Wakter, pro-nuclear engineer in an ambivalent country

    Atomic Show #277 – Simon Wakter, pro-nuclear engineer in an ambivalent country

    Simon Wakter is a strongly pro-nuclear engineer in a country that passed a referendum officially phasing out nuclear energy since several years before he was born. He has to round up to be called a thirty-something.

    Simon works in the nuclear energy branch of AFRY, a well-established 17,000 employee, all-of-the-above. engineering company that recently adopted a new brand name.

    During this show we talked about his research and professional work investigating new markets for smaller nuclear power systems, his interest in risk management and analysis, his participation as an active member of the young generations group of the European Nuclear Society, and his work as the editor of a newsletter that covers nuclear energy from a Nordic perspective.

    We talked about the complicated political history of nuclear energy developments in Sweden, delved into the sources of antinuclear activities, and chatted about recent improvements in nuclear energy acceptability as a powerful tool to address climate change and energy poverty.

    Simon is young man who appreciates the importance of abundant clean energy in helping humans to develop their full potential. He is enthusiastic about technological advances that are revisiting some aging and possibly obsolete assumptions about the limitations of nuclear energy's contributions.

    I enjoyed this conversation and hope you do as well.

    Please provide your comments and suggestions.

    • 50 min
    Atomic Show #276 – HolosGen Claudio Filippone and Chip Martin

    Atomic Show #276 – HolosGen Claudio Filippone and Chip Martin

    HolosGen has attacked the nuclear power plant cost and schedule challenge from the opposite direction chosen by many nuclear reactor developers. Claiming to be agnostic about the reactor specifics – as long as it produces reliable heat in a small-enough configuration – HolosGen founder Claudio Filippone decided to focus on radical improvements to the "balance of plant."

    Filippone worked for a decade as a consultant specializing in power production systems. He is both a nuclear engineer and an electrical engineer with the skills required to address a wide variety of systems and challenges. His advice was valued and sought after, allowing him to accumulate both ideas and resources.

    He began the groundwork for HolosGen in 2008 and incorporated the company in 2017.

    During his time as a consultant, he recognized that "the balance of plant" outside of the nuclear portions of a power plant represented 70-80% of the initial capital cost and a similar portion of the ongoing operations and maintenance costs. That was his inspiration for choosing to focus on radically improving that section of the system.

    As the submarine sound silencing saying goes, "attack the big noise first."

    The fundamental choice enabling dramatic improvement was to abandon the Rankine (steam) cycle and switch to the Brayton (gas turbine) cycle.

    He worked with visionaries inside the US Army's technical branches to gather requirements for mobile generators that could safely and reliably operate under extreme conditions. The challenging requirements included resistance to focused kinetic attacks.

    By choosing to meet performance requirements provided by one of the toughest customers available, Filippone and his HolosGen team have produced a design concept that can be manufactured and delivered to almost any customer in any location.

    HolosGen quad in a box. Copyright HolosGen. Used with permission

    The integrated power production system can fit inside of an ISO standard 40 foot long container. It will come in a number of different sizes depending on customer needs. One version will have a designed power capacity of 10 MWe.

    Filippone credits the ARPA-E Meinter program for helping HoloGen to achieve rapid progress in a radically new direction.

    He has hired a team of creative, aggressive, dedicated engineers, machinists and technicians – mostly fresh out of school or the military – and carefully trained them with a program that includes a healthy dose of hands-on work with functional components.

    He has inspired them with a vision and a mission to fundamentally change the way that nuclear energy can be put to useful work for society.

    The machines that he and his team have produced – and they have produced several functional prototypes – are modern, closed Brayton Cycle heat engines that use high-speed compressors and expanders that are coupled electrically, not mechanically.

    That configuration enables modern control systems to finely balance the compressor output with the turbine input, maximizing thermal efficiency over a wide range of power outputs.

    They will work with a variety of gases, including helium, nitrogen and supercritical CO2.

    Filippone has engaged the advisory services of Charles (Chip) Martin, a deeply experienced and well-connected nuclear professional. Immediately prior to joining HoloGen, Chip was the Glenn T. Seaborg Science and Engineering Policy Fellow for the...

    • 1 hr 27 min
    Atomic Show #275 – Managing advanced nuclear development during pandemic

    Atomic Show #275 – Managing advanced nuclear development during pandemic

    Managing any business is hard work, especially during a global pandemic with stay-at-home orders in place. It requires creativity and flexibility along with some amount of prior preparation.

    On May 11, 2020, I gathered a group of representatives from several start-up companies that are developing advanced nuclear technologies to talk about how they are making progress under challenging conditions.

    All of the companies that participated in the call are relatively new and have been founded with the idea of finding talented, excited employees in a variety of locations. As a result, they have infrastructure and procedures in place to handle a geographically distributed work force.

    Many of their employees have always worked from their home offices. Companies have discovered, however, that there are some advantages in holding video conferences where all participants are distributed instead of having a core group physically located in the same conference room.

    That arrangement seems to enable better collaboration and a more comprehensive ability to take advantage of contributions from people that are not located at the home office.

    Companies are gaining experience in pushing the boundaries of remote monitoring in some of their experimental facilities. They believe that some of the techniques that they are implementing will pay dividends as they develop and deploy their technology products.

    Government agencies and national laboratories have made substantial progress in their ability to work under conditions that restrict travel and in-person meetings. The infrastructure that enables this different approach was being developed and enhanced even before stay at home orders associated with the global pandemic took effect.

    Of course, not all of the challenges facing these start-up energy companies are as readily addressed as remote working. There is turmoil in the global energy markets and there are regulatory and supplier issues that need to be addressed.

    We had a wide ranging discussion that should make for interesting listening for anyone who wonders how the advanced nuclear industry is doing under difficult business conditions.

    Here is a list of the discussion participants and the companies they represent.

    Caroline Cochran, co-founder and COO of Oklo Inc.

    Per Peterson, co-founder and Chief Nuclear Officer at Kairos Power

    Carl Perez, CEO at Elysium Industries

    Canon Bryan, Chief Financial Officer, Terrestrial Energy

    Lars Jorgenson, CEO, ThorCon

    Mark Mitchell, President, USNC-Power

    Your feedback is important. Please participate in the discussion and make suggestions for future topics.

    • 1 hr 19 min

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