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

    • Science
    • 4.2 • 25 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 #307 – Mark Nelson, Managing Director Radiant Energy Group

    Atomic Show #307 – Mark Nelson, Managing Director Radiant Energy Group

    Mark Nelson has been traveling the world in an effort to help create a sustainable pronuclear movement. His focus includes both saving existing plants and encouraging the construction of new reactor in areas that have operating reactors, those that have shut down their nuclear plants and in countries that have never operated nuclear plants.

    We spoke in depth about the German nuclear exit, the French turn away from nuclear with a subsequent return, the potential for Belgium to keep at least some of its reactors, and the exciting possibility that Italy might decide to build new nuclear power systems more than 30 years after it closed its nuclear power plants.

    We discussed the UAE’s impressive success as a nuclear newcomer, South Korea’s return to nuclear construction, Japan’s growing interest in recovering its domestic nuclear industry while improving on its potential to export nuclear products, and efforts in the Philippines to begin operating the Bataan nuclear reactor while also building the foundation for a new nuclear industry.

    We spoke about the growing fragility of the electric grid, the effects of the differently regulated grids on nuclear power plants, and the disconnect between hourly electricity pricing and decadal decisions to build and operate resilient, reliable power plants along with a robust transmission system.

    We talked about the growing acceptance of the importance of nuclear and the belief among many energy system experts that it is an absolute necessity if the world is going to meet its CO2 reduction goals and commitments.

    I’m sure you will enjoy this episode. Mark is a passionate speaker with a gift for providing vivid descriptions.

    The comment section on this site is at least as valuable as the originally posted content. Please share your thoughts and engage in the discussion.

    • 52 min
    Atomic Show #306 – Dr. Rita Baranwal, Westinghouse AP300

    Atomic Show #306 – Dr. Rita Baranwal, Westinghouse AP300

    Westinghouse, one of the world’s first nuclear power plant vendors, recently announced a new small modular reactor (SMR) design called the AP300. It is described as a simplified version of the AP1000, four of which are currently operating in China and two of which are in the final stages of operational testing in Georgia, United States. Six additional AP1000s are under construction.

    In a May 4, 2023 press release, Westinghouse summarized the AP300 as follows:

    Westinghouse Electric Company today launched its newest nuclear technology, the AP300™ small modular reactor (SMR), a 300-MWe single-loop pressurized water reactor. The AP300 SMR design is scaled from the advanced, proven AP1000® reactor and is the only SMR truly based on an Nth-of-a-kind operating plant.  

    The AP300 SMR is an ultra-compact, modular-constructed unit that leverages the innovation and operational knowledge of the global AP1000 fleet. It will utilize identical AP1000 technology, to include major equipment, structural components, passive safety, proven fuel, and I&C systems. The AP300 will bring to bear a mature supply chain, constructability lessons learned, fast load-follow capabilities and proven O&M procedures and best practices from 18 reactor years of safe AP1000 operations. 

    Westinghouse Unveils Game-Changing AP300™ Small Modular Reactor for Mid-Sized Nuclear Technology

    In a Nuclear Engineering International article Westinghouse President & CEO Patrick Fragman expanded on the press release statement.

    It is using the DNA of the AP1000 in terms of technology.” It “has unique advantages in terms of robustness of the safety case, simplicity of the design, with huge implications in terms of costs and time to construct and obviously an ease of deployment because, with the AP1000 being already deployed, the AP300 SMR will leverage the existing supply chain, the existing design, the existing licensing pedigree”. Fragman described it as “no more and no less than an AP1000 with one loop instead of two loops”. This means it is reusing a majority of components, systems, equipment. “The fuel is identical, the constructability lessons are identical,” he said.

    Westinghouse launches AP300 small modular reactor

    That description sounded exciting and intriguing. Though the advertised power capacity would be approximately one quarter of the power output of the AP1000, it seemed that the plant would be an easier-to-construct version that could sail through licensing and require a modest detailed engineering effort. It would be a design that was familiar to those who had already completed one or more AP1000 units.

    There was a fair amount of discussion among engineers and other nuclear advocates on Twitter about the plant’s equipment choices, its status as an SMR and the announced timeline for design certification and operational deployment.

    The Westinghouse press release also informed the world that Dr. Rita Baranwal, a former Assistant Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Energy, would lead the development of the AP300 as the Senior Vice President of Westinghouse’s Energy Systems business unit.

    Rita and I have known each other for a long time,

    • 35 min
    Atomic Show #305 – Oliver Stone and Joshua Goldstein Co-Writers Nuclear Now

    Atomic Show #305 – Oliver Stone and Joshua Goldstein Co-Writers Nuclear Now

    On Apr 28, the much anticipated film, Nuclear Now, will premier in selected theaters in New York, Sedona and Los Angeles. It will remain available in those venues for a week. On May 1, 2023, the film will be shown at 350 theaters across the US and Canada.

    The film is co-written by Oliver Stone and Joshua Goldstein. Here is a blurb about the film.

    Nuclear Now takes viewers on an educational and thought-provoking journey with legendary director Oliver Stone, as he explores the powerful impact of nuclear energy. The looming climate crisis remains unresolved, and the volume of carbon-free electricity needed over the next 30 years is almost unimaginable. This insightful documentary aims to remove the fears associated with nuclear energy and highlight the sustainability and affordability it can bring in the pursuit of restoring the world’s ecosystems and economies.

    I spoke with Oliver and Joshua to delve more deeply into the reasons why they are so passionate about their self-assigned task to correct long held beliefs about nuclear energy. We talk about their personal journeys from being reflexively opposed to nuclear energy to become committed proponents that see nuclear as an important tool for mankind.

    Paraphrasing one of Oliver’s observations from our discussion, nuclear energy is a gift, perhaps the greatest gift ever given to man. It is currently one of our greatest missed opportunities. Paraphrasing Joshua, nuclear has proven that it can scale, and scale quickly to make a major contribution towards reducing man-made CO2 while producing high quality, abundant energy.

    You can find a list of theaters that will be showing the film here. Almost all of the showings will be on Nuclear Now Day (May 1, 2023), but there are exceptions to this general rule in San Luis Obispo, Breckenridge, Fairfield, Idaho Falls, Martha’s Vineyard, Minneapolis, Columbus, and Dallas.

    There is a pretty good chance of finding a venue in most metropolitan areas. Digital versions will be widely available sometime during the summer of 2023.

    Here is the Nuclear Now trailer. At the 0:46 mark, you will see and hear me saying one of my favorite words.

    Disclosure: I play a modest role in Nuclear Now as one of the interviewed experts.

    • 30 min
    Atomic Show #304 - Len Rodberg, Nuclear NY

    Atomic Show #304 - Len Rodberg, Nuclear NY

    Dr. Leonard Rodberg spent most of his adult life being opposed to nuclear energy. A half a dozen years ago, he abruptly changed his mind. Ever since, he has been a strong and vocal advocate for the increased use of nuclear energy. On Atomic Show #304 Len and I discuss his education, career, his changing attitudes towards nuclear energy and the important role that nuclear will play in enabling a transition away from carbon dioxide-emitting power sources.

    Len is one of the founding members of a small, loud and proud pronuclear group named Nuclear New York. The group came together at the time that Governor Cuomo was approaching the fulfillment of an old political promise to close the Indian Point nuclear plant. Immediately before the two-unit facility started shutting down, it supplied more than 25% of all electricity to the downstate region of New York, home to 8-10 million people. None of that electricity released CO2 as a byproduct of its creation.

    Though politicians had promised that the plant’s output would be replaced by clean power sources, the reality that Len and his associates discovered and worked hard to expose was that the New York government understood that most of the replacement electricity would be produced by two newly constructed natural gas fired power stations located on the same side of a significant transmission bottleneck as Indian Point was.

    The experience gained in the belated effort to save Indian Point led Nuclear NY (@NuclearNY) to begin building larger alliances and to participate in additional efforts to support nuclear energy.

    I learned about Len’s efforts when exposed to his presentation about the unreal assumptions contained in New York’s current plan for a transition to a clean energy system. His talk, given to to a group of fellow Queens College/CUNY retirees, provides a concise, well-illustrated case for the need to overtly include more nuclear energy to make the ambitious emissions reduction goals described in the plan closer to being achievable.

    NYISO’s plan currently places a substantial burden on an undefined power source with characteristics that match some of advanced nuclear fission’s unique attributes. The plan calls that power source Dispatchable Emission-Free Resources (DEFRs). Since the plan also expects offshore wind, a power source that is currently supplying exactly 0 kilowatt-hours to New York’s grid, to grow to a 20% share of the market by 2040, DEFRs might need to play an even larger role than the NYISO acknowledges.

    Extracted from NYISO Power Trends 2022

    Along with Green Nuclear Deal and the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition of New York, Nuclear New York produced a report titled Bright Future: A more reliable and responsible climate plan for New York that blazes a different path than the one officially described by the state government.

    Did I mention that Len is 90 years old? He’s still learning new tricks and is contributing to the continuing education of his fellow citize...

    • 1 hr 17 min
    Atomic Show #303 – Bret Kugelmass, CEO Last Energy

    Atomic Show #303 – Bret Kugelmass, CEO Last Energy

    Rendering of Last Energy’s 20 MWe installations (Last Energy)

    Last Energy is an innovative new company governed by a philosophy of avoiding the invention of anything that has not been done before. They have created a business that is laser focused on building, owning and operating small (20 MWe), modular pressurized water reactors and selling the electricity they produce under long term power purchase agreements.

    On Atomic Show #303, Bret Kugelmass, the founder, president and CEO of Last Energy describes the path he took from earning a masters degree in robotics at Stanford, through the founding and operation of a successful drone company, to a highly respected podcast, through a non profit think tank and into a utility company that has designed a nuclear power plant that can begin operating as early as 2025 with commercial scale repetition starting almost immediately.

    Where some believe that nuclear fission requires highly specialized equipment, Last Energy has found that pressure vessels, pumps, piping, heat exchangers and valves of similarly high quality standards are widely available from experienced, commercial suppliers. Their systems, structures and components (SSC) use well-accepted ASME codes and standards and are often identical to the SSC that have been used for decades in chemical processing, oil and gas, and other industrial applications.

    Last Energy has chosen a small number of initial deployment locations, specifically in the UK, Romania and Poland. They are aiming to supply power to major industrial consumers that need somewhere between 20 and 100 MWe. They will connect to their customers “behind the meter”. From the customer point of view, Last Energy power will look and act like the electricity they currently purchase from their local utility company.

    Last Energy systems will have approximately 2 m diameter pressure vessels that can accommodate full length fuel assemblies and standard control rods with proven drive mechanisms mounted on the reactor head. There will be fewer assemblies in the core, and they will be replaced as a whole unit every 6 years. Each plant will have a single steam generator and coolant pump.

    Kugelmass explains the reasons behind the company philosophy and design choices. He provides a good summary of their business model and their driving motivations.

    One aspect of Last Energy’s plans should motivate US politicians to modify our current export control regime. Even though their plants are designed to be well within the production capability of US manufacturers, the company is studiously avoiding the production of any nuclear component in the US. Export control processes are too burdensome to be economically justifiable.

    I hope you enjoy the show and participate in the conversation.

    • 53 min
    Atomic Show #302 – Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon, Director General, World Nuclear Association

    Atomic Show #302 – Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon, Director General, World Nuclear Association

    Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon, the Director General of the World Nuclear Association

    Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon, the Director General of the World Nuclear Association, visited the Atomic Show to provide an international perspective on the revival in interest in nuclear energy deployment.

    As the head of the organization that represents the global nuclear industry, provides education about all matters related to using nuclear technologies, and lobbies for recognition of the value that nuclear energy provides, she is uniquely able to describe what the world is thinking about building and operating a wide variety of nuclear energy generating systems.

    Dr. Bilbao y Leon shared valuable messages from her conversations with world leaders during the recent Conference of the Parties in Egypt (COP27) .

    “A very important dimension of decarbonization tends to be forgotten. When we are looking at the global north as in developed countries obviously we are focused on decarbonization, reducing emissions, energy efficiency, being more cost effective and more effective in how we use the energy that we do have.That is the transition that we are looking towards – cleaner energy. But when we are looking to the global south, their energy transition goes from no energy to energy.”

    “You have a lot of countries saying, ok people. Yes, we want to decarbonize, yes we want to use our resources as effectively as possible, but we also – and foremost – want to achieve the standard of living that you guys are already enjoying.”

    “More and more countries, particularly in the global south, are realizing that nuclear is truly – or could be potentially – a game changer when it comes to providing abundant, clean, affordable 24 x 7 energy – not electricity, energy – for everybody.” Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon, the Director General of the World Nuclear Association

    We talked about the utility of small modular reactors (SMR) in bringing nuclear energy benefits to a broader selection of energy consumers – a term that includes all of us.

    Aside: Our conversation took a personal side trip to a time when Sama Bilbao y Leon, then a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, was intrigued by a “crazy” talk describing the benefits of nuclear systems small enough to be called atomic engines. End Aside.

    We talked about the process that countries undertake when they choose to develop the capability to own and operate nuclear power plants. We speculated on nuclear energy’s potential to provide the kind of “leapfrog” advance demonstrated by mobile phone technology.

    We also talked about ways to respond to inaccurate arguments claiming that there are no small modular reactors operating or that they are untested and unproven technologies.

    Dr. Sama Bilbao y Leon brings a diverse resume to her job. She started her professional career as a nuclear safety engineer with Dominion, a major utility with a large nuclear plant operating arm, became an associate professor of nuclear engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University – where she played a leading role in establishing a new nuclear engineering degree program – and served in a variety of leadership positions at international organizations like the IAEA and the NEA.

    She holds a PhD and master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison,, a master’s (Energy Technologies) and bachelor’s (Mechanical Engineering) degrees from the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

    I hope you enjoyed the show. Please participate in a conversation about the topics discussed.

    • 39 min

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