The Power Hungry Podcast: Elizabeth Muller

Atomic Insights, August 9, 2022

The Power Hungry Podcast: Elizabeth Muller

Elizabeth Muller is the CEO of Deep Isolation, a Berkeley-based company that seeks to resolve America’s nuclear waste challenge by using technology borrowed from the oil and gas business. In this episode, she explains why the waste issue must be solved before the nuclear sector can have a full renaissance, why Deep Isolation must have success overseas before it succeeds here, the advantages of using boreholes instead of a mined repository (think Yucca Mountain), and why, when it comes to nuclear, “the world has shifted over the past six months.”

Partnership Formed to Capture Opportunities in $30 Billion Market

BERKELEY/GERMANTOWN – Deep Isolation Inc. and Amentum have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to work together to further the commercialization of Deep Isolation’s technology around the world. This agreement positions the companies as global leaders in a multi-billion-dollar nuclear waste disposal industry that promises to unlock the future of clean nuclear energy.

Initial targets for joint work include countries in Europe and the Pacific that represent a combined addressable market for geologic disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste worth more than $30 billion.

“Amentum has unparalleled engineering expertise and experience in the use of science and advanced technologies to successfully clean up highly complex nuclear sites,” said Jim Blankenhorn, Senior Vice President of Amentum. “This partnership strengthens our collective position in a growing market to provide innovative solutions for nuclear disposal around the world.”

There is a new sense of urgency to dispose of nuclear waste. Low-carbon nuclear energy is a powerful alternative to fossil fuels in the fight against climate change, but much of the world is requiring a waste solution to be in place before investments are made in new nuclear power installations. Deep Isolation’s advanced nuclear technology leverages directional drilling practices to safely and efficiently isolate waste deep underground in borehole repositories, providing many countries with an alternative to a traditional mined repository.

“The world is changing fast, and it’s imperative for the success of nuclear energy that we solve the nuclear waste challenge,” said Deep Isolation CEO Elizabeth Muller, an environmentalist and co-founder of the company. “Deploying the solution requires a large-scale team effort.”

Amentum, a premier global technical and engineering services provider, brings numerous proven strengths: maintaining complex and high hazard facilities and processes; delivering environmental solutions to customers worldwide; and capabilities in environmental management and waste management.

The agreement provides Amentum with access to more than 50 protected Deep Isolation inventions, as well as engineering specifications and know-how. This includes Deep Isolation’s detailed and compliant process based on IAEA guidance for tailoring a deep borehole repository to the specific regulatory requirements, waste inventory, stakeholder needs and local geology of each client.

Deep Isolation offers licenses that allow key industry players access to its protected intellectual property. The program features access to Deep Isolation’s patents and engineering work, as well as planning and operational processes that could be used independently of Deep Isolation technology.  “We are excited to work with Amentum to bring this solution to market,” Muller said. “We are pleased at the value they are placing in Deep Isolation’s solution by investing in this license.”

After just four years as a public-facing company, Deep Isolation’s milestones include: work with a dozen countries across three continents; a subsidiary in Europe; the acquisition of Freestone Environmental Services; and recently, two multi-million awards from the U.S. Government.

About Deep Isolation 

Deep Isolation is a leading global innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions. Driven by a passion for environmental stewardship and scientific ingenuity, the company’s patented solution of advanced nuclear technologies enables global delivery through its partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.

About Amentum

Amentum is a premier global technical and engineering services partner supporting critical programs of national significance across defense, security, intelligence, energy, and environment. The company has vast experience in the nuclear cleanup market with a successful track record in reducing risk and solving waste management challenges around the world. It draws from a century-old heritage of operational excellence, mission focus, and successful execution underpinned by a strong culture of safety and ethics. Visit us at amentum.com to explore how we deliver excellence for our customers’ most vital missions.

Press Contacts

Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com

Keith Wood — Amentum
keith.wood@amentum.com

(803) 502-5748

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SEOUL — As governments worldwide are prioritizing the development of nuclear energy, there is increasing interest in nuclear waste disposal.

So far, the U.S.-Korean partnership on nuclear has focused largely on power production (such as the collaboration between NuScale and Doosan). And now that Europe has determined that nuclear must have a waste solution to be “green,” there is increasing interest in innovative solutions for waste disposal.

Today, at the 2022 Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, leaders will participate in a panel on Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Wastes. The panel is moderated by Hwang Il Soon, Chair Professor at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST). Hwang has been leading a Korea national R&D program on oil-free microreactors for zero-emission vessels in support of global climate protection.

Panel participants include Seong Ik Oh, Director for overseas construction at Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Development, as well as Elizabeth Muller and Richard Muller, co-founders and CEO and CSO of Deep Isolation, a private waste disposal company.

The International Energy Agency says that reaching net-zero will require nuclear capacity to double by 2050. At least 30 countries are considering, planning, or starting nuclear power programs, according to the World Nuclear Association, and developers of advanced nuclear are attracting significant investment dollars.

The world has not yet disposed of any of the quarter-million metric tons of spent fuel accumulated over the last 70 years, and building mined geologic repositories is not affordable or scalable for many countries.

This presents a significant barrier to nuclear energy. A poll by Reuters/Ipsos found that of those opposed to nuclear energy in America, 64 percent are concerned about the waste. The European Union’s recently approved taxonomy amendment says nuclear power plants will only qualify as green investments if developers have a spent fuel disposal plan in place.

“Innovation in borehole waste disposal allows for greater flexibility of location, as well as improved safety and lower implementation cost,” said Deep Isolation CEO and co-founder Liz Muller. Chief Science Officer Richard Muller added, “We are trying to help enable the future of nuclear power and believe that this is achievable in years – not the decades that were previously required.”

Deep Isolation’s business model offers commercial and government partners a range of flexible IP licensing options, including training, support, and supply chain services for its planning and operational processes and solution technology.

About Deep Isolation 
Deep Isolation is a leading global innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions. Driven by a passion for environmental stewardship and scientific ingenuity, the company’s patented solution of advanced nuclear technologies enables global delivery through its partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.

Press Contacts

Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com

Press Contacts

Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com

101 Asset

Nuclear Waste 101

Understand more about nuclear waste and its implications for you and your community.

About Nuclear Waste

asset FAQ

FAQS

Deep Isolation answers frequently asked questions about our technology, our process, and safety.

Deep Isolation Answers

Golden Gate Asset

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* indicates required

“Hysteria never helps anyone, and we believe in taking a measured approach to the science,” said Elizabeth. “I think there is as much exaggeration taking place as there is denial of the problem. Science isn’t perfect, and I’m sure there are many things at play we can never be 100 percent sure about. But regardless, we need to be reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, given the impact on both climate and global health.”

Deep Isolation CEO Elizabeth Muller
Elizabeth Muller, CEO of Deep Isolation

BERKELEYErnst & Young LLP (EY US) has announced that Deep Isolation CEO Liz Muller is a finalist for Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2022 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Widely considered one of the most prestigious business awards programs in the United States, the program recognizes entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities, while also transforming our world.

Deep Isolation is enabling the future of nuclear power by solving the global nuclear waste disposal challenge. Their advanced nuclear technology leverages directional drilling practices to safely and affordably isolate waste deep underground in a horizontal, vertical, or slanted borehole repository. By combining scientific and nuclear expertise with high aptitude engagement skills, Deep Isolation works with stakeholders and communities to design and deliver an equitable and environmentally protective disposal solution. 

EY says this accolade celebrates “The audacious entrepreneurs building a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous world for all.” They describe awardees as “Unstoppables who imagine what’s possible and then pursue it.”

Muller is among 27 finalists from 24 Bay Area companies.

“I appreciate the recognition for Deep Isolation’s progress solving one of the world’s most intractable problems,” Muller said. “I am grateful that EY is recognizing the spirit of innovation and the work being done to tackle really hard problems.”

The rigorous vetting process to be named a finalist included a six-part essay application, in-person interviews and a panel of independent judges evaluating criteria including: Entrepreneurial spirit, purpose, company growth metrics and community impact.

Muller wrote in her essay that starting the world’s first spent nuclear fuel disposal company has been difficult, “But my passion for making the world a better place drives me to innovate in unexpected and necessary ways.”

Muller co-founded Deep Isolation in 2016 with her father Richard Muller, a University of California, Berkeley, physics professor. They are also co-founders of the internationally respected climate science nonprofit Berkeley Earth.

Deep Isolation has been mainly focused on opportunities in Europe, but it recently received its first federal funding (two projects worth $7.6M) from the U.S. Department of Energy: One is to design a universal disposal canister for advanced reactor spent nuclear fuel in partnership with U.C. Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and NAC International; and one to partner with San Francisco Bay Area-based Oklo and two national labs to design a deep borehole repository for an advanced reactor spent fuel recycling facility.

“The 2022 Entrepreneur of The Year finalists have shown us that ambition, courage, ingenuity and empathy are key to driving change,” said Entrepreneur Of The Year Bay Area Program Co-director, Chad Bowar in a press release. “They have a mindset that drives them to strive for more and an unwavering commitment to their companies, customers and communities.”

Regional award winners will be announced on June 14. The winners will then be considered by the National judges for the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards, which will be presented in November at the annual Strategic Growth Forum®, one of the nation’s most prestigious gatherings of high-growth, market-leading companies. The Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner will then move on to compete for the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Award in June 2023.

For more than 35 years, EY US has celebrated the unstoppable entrepreneurs who are building a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous world for all. The Entrepreneur Of The Year program has recognized more than 10,000 U.S. executives since its inception in 1986. 

About Deep Isolation 
Deep Isolation is a leading global innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions. Driven by a passion for environmental stewardship and scientific ingenuity, the company’s patented solution of advanced nuclear technologies enables global delivery through its partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.

Press Contacts

Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com

Press Contacts

Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com

101 Asset

Nuclear Waste 101

Understand more about nuclear waste and its implications for you and your community.

About Nuclear Waste

asset FAQ

FAQS

Deep Isolation answers frequently asked questions about our technology, our process, and safety.

Deep Isolation Answers

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* indicates required

Episode 19

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Suzie Jaworowski

Former Chief of Staff in US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy under the Trump Administration

Millennials Could Hold Key to Success of Nuclear

In this episode, Suzie Jaworowski reflects on her experiences as the Chief of Staff in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy under the Trump Administration and gives insight into her vision of the future of nuclear technologies.

Note: This transcript is the raw transcript of this podcast. Minimal edits have been made only for clarity purposes.

Suzie Jaworowski (00:10):

We’re at the stage where states are starting to say, Hey, we need this kind of technology. We can’t just retire fossil fuel plants and implement renewables. We need another base load source. 

Narrator (00:26):

Did you know that there are half a million metric tons of nuclear waste temporarily stored at hundreds of sites worldwide? In the U.S. alone, one in three people live within 50 miles of a storage site. No country has yet successfully disposed of commercial spent nuclear fuel, but it’s not for lack of a solution. So what’s the delay? The answers are complex and controversial. In this series, we explore the nuclear waste issue with people representing various pieces of this complicated puzzle. We hope this podcast will give you a clearer picture of Nuclear Waste: The Whole Story

We believe that listening is an important element of a successful nuclear waste disposal program. A core company value is to seek and listen to different perspectives. Opinions expressed by the interviewers and their subjects are not necessarily representative of the company. If there’s a topic discussed in the podcast that is unfamiliar to you, or you’d like to more closely review what was said, please see the show notes at deepisolation.com/podcasts.

Kari Hulac (01:48):

Hello, I’m Kari Hulac, Deep Isolation Communications Manager. My guest today is Suzie Jaworowski, Former Chief of Staff in the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy under the Trump Administration. Suzie was the first woman to serve as chair of the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation, an organization dedicated to nuclear energy issues. Among her many accomplishments, she has served as Advisor to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and is an Advisor to NuScale Energy. Welcome, Suzie. Thank you so much for joining us.

Suzie Jaworowski (02:23):

Thanks Kari. It’s a pleasure.

Kari Hulac (02:26):

All right. We always like to start by asking, how did your career path lead you to work on nuclear energy issues?

Suzie Jaworowski (02:34):

Well, it certainly wasn’t something that I had planned. I am not a nuclear engineer or a scientist but I have always, throughout my career, ended up working with clients that were energy related. And it really taught me to have such a deep appreciation for what energy does in our life and culture. And we take it for granted all the time and it’s just, I always felt really privileged to work in advocacy and communications and in government affairs on energy issues, because it is so important and if our energy policy isn’t right, it can really affect so many things in our lives. It can affect the reliability of course, it can affect electricity. It can also affect the cost of the goods we buy. If the price of electricity goes up, the price of bread goes up. And so I was very fascinated by that.

Suzie Jaworowski (03:29):

And I had worked in all different kinds. I did some work for utilities and in my clients, I had some fossil fuel clients in the past. And when I got to the US Department of Energy, I asked to work in the Office of Nuclear Energy because I really admired the large scale power, zero carbon emissions and it seemed like such a mystery of how it really worked. And it was a chance for me to come in from an administrative point of view, but quickly became an advocate because it’s such amazing power that I felt is really underutilized. So that’s how I got to be working in the Office of Nuclear Energy.

Kari Hulac (04:10):

So as Chief of Staff in the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy work to help the US become energy independent. So this term describes a country’s dependence on foreign oil. So maybe share what you learned while navigating such a complex responsibility and share why it’s so important.

Suzie Jaworowski (04:30):

Oh, that’s a really good question. And I was so honored to be a part of that team that helped us to be energy independent. And one of the things that I learned was how strategically critical energy is for national security. You know, that, and again, is something that cannot be overstated. I was fortunate to go to Poland and work with the Poles on their plans for developing nuclear energy and it was all about getting out from under Russian gas. And, you know, we don’t think about that here. We have such… we’re blessed in the United States to have a very diverse generation depending on where you live. It may be all different kinds of things, but it gives us a lot of security and it gives us a lot of independence. And so to work with, you know, Romania, Poland, and other European countries that want to get away from relying on one source for their gas really taught me how crucial this energy source is. People’s lives depend on it, and it’s something really for countries to think about and work together to deploy. Not only is it the clean energy benefits that we’re all big fans of and so appreciative, it also gives independence to countries and then they can pursue their own freedom, which really I think is pretty awesome.

Kari Hulac (06:01):

And what role do you feel nuclear can play in that right now? And I mean, I’d imagine that would be a key part of moving forward in our energy future.

Suzie Jaworowski (06:11):

Yes. I mean, nuclear is so crucial for many reasons. Primary, I think most people think about the carbon emissions reduction goals today, but you know, you look at the taxonomy and the European Union right now, and they are including nuclear as a green energy source. That is fantastic. I think that’s a no-brainer quite honestly. I feel that, you know, we have to have realism in our energy policy and realistically Fukushima was among the largest disasters that anybody could have ever imagined. No one ended up dying as a direct result from the radiation there. We know that there were two people who drowned onsite at the plant. But the response to it was big and was, you know, you do what you do at the time with the best intentions and security in mind.

Suzie Jaworowski (07:12):

But I think some countries overcorrected by immediately shutting down all of their net nuclear assets. Japan, I have to commend them, I was at Fukushima myself. They did a very good job of taking what was, as I said, a huge disaster, brought the world in to help not only mitigate the problem, but also to learn from it. And so they have opened a museum that talks about how the accident happened, what they learned from it and how to never do it again. And so I think that that was a terrible situation. We learned a lot from it and some countries did overreact on that. Moving forward, I think we take the lessons learned. We, you know, it really is such a safe energy source compared to other energy sources. It is so much safer. You know, the mortality rate for nuclear is almost next to nothing compared with other sources and yet people are still so frightened and have a perception of being scared of nuclear. And that’s something that I think we in the industry have to do a better job of telling our story.

Kari Hulac (08:34):

I think the next question will also get to that a little bit, kind of. Because I wanted to ask you about the Office of Nuclear Energy, you were the political liaison between the Office and the Secretary of Energy and the White House. And when we get into politics, we often hear solving nuclear waste is a political issue, not a technical one. So maybe you could talk some about what were the perception issues you dealt with? What were the challenges you faced in bridging that technical and political divide over nuclear energy and nuclear waste, which is, you know, the thing that’s so scary to people as you just touched on.

Suzie Jaworowski (09:10):

Exactly. And it, you know, that is such a complex landscape to navigate. But if you cut through all of the different divides, because there’s divide between the two parties, there’s divide within each party about how we deal with spent fuel. But again, I think that we have to just be very realistic about the situation and I think the best analogy to demonstrate our fuel scenario today is that imagery of saying that all the spent fuel that we’ve used in the United States can fit on a football field. And some people say it’s 10 feet deep. Some people say it’s 10 yards deep, but basically it gives you an idea of the mass is not as large as people might think. So that’s one point to make sure that people understand it is being safely stored all around the country, even as we speak. Yucca mountain was an ideal repository for the spent fuel.

Suzie Jaworowski (10:17):

And I think it’s important for us to think in terms of moving forward in the future that that spent fuel can be reused again. There are other countries that do that, you know, there’s 96% fuel left in the fuel rods that are used. And there’s no reason that we can’t reuse that when the time is right, when the budgeting is right. But it is, again, I think education is going to be key to bringing together some unified policy and how to deal with spent fuel. When I was at DOE, we used to every month, go up on the hill and we would have these atomic wing lunch and learns where we’d bring in hot wings and have staffers and lawmakers come. And we would talk about issues like spent fuel and it was not a political environment. It was a question and answer, talk to the experts and have a conversation about the reality of the situation, that was the environment. And I think we need to do more of that to be able to make really informed decisions,

Kari Hulac (11:24):

Right. Because what will it take for the US to see that progress forward when it comes to disposing of spent fuel and moving past Yucca Mountain, which seems to be at a stalemate.

Suzie Jaworowski (11:36):

Correct, I agree. Yep.

Kari Hulac (11:38):

Besides education, what else do you think it would take to see any progress on a repository?

Suzie Jaworowski (11:47):

Well I think that the more that we are dealing with such an educated population of young people, more informed than any other generation we’ve ever had, the technology that our digital natives have grown up with allow them to learn and be educated on a vast array of topics in record speed. And so utilizing those social media outreach channels, things that are informationally based like Reddit, I think that’s a place where people who really care about issues can go to and find in depth information in a quick, digestible, easy way to learn about it. So I’d say leveraging the channels where people are reading and learning can, you know, we can’t forget about the actual newspaper and the old fashioned kinds of channels as well, but education, engagement, not fear, we can’t use propaganda. We have to be realistic about the benefits and the drawbacks because people are smart and they understand, you know, that there’s no purely perfect source of electricity. And so when you know the benefits and the challenges of each type, nuclear comes out really well and finding ways to deal with our spent fuel is a national imperative. And so being realistic about ways that it can be stored, it can be accessed again, and being able to just, you know, be honest about what the situation is, and then try to educate people and have a respectful conversation.

Kari Hulac (13:32):

And you mentioned the kind of digital native generations, and I wanted to ask, I know you worked with the Millennial Nuclear Caucus. How critical is that movement to the success of nuclear energy and how do you think they’re paying enough attention to the issue of the spent fuel, the challenges that that presents?

Suzie Jaworowski (13:54):

Yeah, I love first of all, working with the Millennial Nuclear Caucus. It was just amazing, such smart, engaged young people who really care about our country and the future of our world. It was just a great opportunity. And we went, we were invited to so many wonderful places. You know, General Atomics had us near San Diego, their headquarters out there. It’s an amazing spot, they have a Tokamak. We got to go see that. We had a NASA, former NASA astronaut come and speak to the crowd. And we were in Japan at the Japanese Institute of Technology and at the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, and so many great universities and science labs across the country. So that was just an amazing experience to engage with young people in those environments. And I think that that kind of movement is crucial.

Suzie Jaworowski (14:51):

That’s what creates the groundswell that can make a change in a real tipping point because young people educate themselves that other generations have not done as I talked about. And they’re ready to advocate, and they do not have the legacy fear of nuclear from days where people weren’t very well informed about the technology and the reality of the technology. So you know, I think today, when things, first of all, we have a totally different fleet of nuclear reactors that are ready to go. So young people do educate themselves on a lot of that technology. The advanced reactors will be a game changer and being able to support those is something that the young generation I’m finding, they are really ready to do. When I talk about SMRs, generally people are, they realize, they talk, oh, that’s that modular nuclear, right? You know, and they have some for familiarity and a much more positive impression because people have been educated on it.

Kari Hulac (16:07):

You already mentioned some of your exciting kind of international travel experiences. Tell us a little bit more about that, what you did with the International Atomic Energy Agency and as chair of the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation. What lessons did you learn about advancing nuclear around the world? You also touched on the taxonomy, I’d love to hear more about that. It’s become a little bit contentious lately. And for example, you know getting at the regulation changes, mandating a nuclear waste solution. So kinda talk about your experiences there and what you see in terms of what they’re doing today.

Suzie Jaworowski (16:47):

Yes, well I spent some time working in Vienna at the International Atomic Energy Agency. My scope of work there was more in partnering and developing partnerships on behalf of the agency. But I have to say it was a great experience because the people that are there from all over the world, they are there to make a difference and it shows. And so that was a great experience. But it was really where the outreach in IFNEC, the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation, came together and showed that, one thing I have to say and I hope that my international colleagues will take this in the spirit that it’s intended, they were all looking to the United States to lead and the United States had not been leading. This is not a party commentary, one side or the other. For about 40 years, the United States had not been leading.

Suzie Jaworowski (17:45):

And so it was a breath of fresh air when we stood up and said yes, we want to host the IFNEC Conference in 2019 in Washington, DC. It will be partially hosted at the White House and the Secretary of Energy will be there. And showing that signal to the rest of the world, I think gave a lot of enthusiasm and hope to other countries that okay, we’re getting serious, the United States is back in the nuclear energy game globally. And that was great to see that. And so we had some wonderful opportunities. We were down in Argentina in a place called Bariloche that’s in the Patagonia region. They are deploying some SMRs. They have plans to do that now. We were there with the Women in Nuclear global conference, spent several times over at the OECD in Paris and all the countries coming together and talking about the benefits of nuclear and all of those conversations and trips, and the opportunity to meet with people and get to know  them as individuals, even though there are representatives of all these different countries, you know, our executive committee had people from Kenya and Argentina and Poland and Romania and China.

Suzie Jaworowski (19:11):

And so they’re all just people and it was a fabulous opportunity to learn from them. But what I’m finding really exciting is now looking at what’s happening in the country, in our country in terms of deploying SMRs because the reality is that we’re at the stage where states are starting to say, Hey, we need this kind of technology. We can’t just retire fossil fuel plants and implement renewables. We need another base load source. And they’re really starting to see that, I know, West Virginia, Indiana, Wyoming, several states are changing their existing legislation to incorporate SMRs specifically, if not just advanced nuclear. And we’re starting to see that tipping point. So it’s gone from conversation to deployment and it’s really happening. And so it’s an exciting time to be involved in nuclear. Industries like electric vehicles, like high speed computing, like digital currency development, require more energy than our current system can provide. If the United States wants to house these advanced future industries, we need to deploy nuclear to make sure we have a clean source to do that.

Kari Hulac (20:32):

How important is it and what conversations have you heard in the SMR community about having solutions for the waste in place? Is that a conversation that’s happening yet? What, you know, how important is that do you think to the public, to feeling more comfortable with this with the reactors being deployed?

Suzie Jaworowski (20:53):

That always comes up, you know, that’s one of the obstacles that always comes up and we have to address it face on. We just had a hearing here in Indiana. The Indiana Senate Utility Committee put forth a bill, Senate bill 271, it’s called the SMR bill. I’m glad they named it so straight forward and appropriately. And that was one of the big questions that came up was what about the spent fuel? And when there were several people here from the Nuclear Energy Institute, the US DOE, the NCSL was here. And when they told the actual story about what the reality is with spent fuel, that it’s currently being safely stored, it can be safely stored, it can be transported safely, it is not a nuclear waste dumping ground that’s gonna happen, but there are several ways that it can be stored until we need it again. And when we got finished with all these presenters testifying at the hearing, there were some changed hearts and minds in the room and people that came in initially negative on the thought of nuclear, went out and said, I don’t see why we can’t, why we wouldn’t at least give this an opportunity.

Kari Hulac (22:16):

Well, you’ve kind of hit on how challenging the communication around it can be. And if you educate, you can maybe, like you said, change some hearts and minds. Any other ways that you build the trust needed to keep the conversation advancing? 

Suzie Jaworowski (22:33):

Well I think keeping it at the forefront like we do in social media. The challenges, I think that as a community, we talk to ourselves a lot and it’s okay. At least we’re promoting ourselves. But try to get outside of our own realm of conversations. So it’s not so much an echo chamber, but more dialogue. I think that’s one thing. I think inviting young people, especially to places like the National Science Labs and hosting open houses at, you know, Deep Isolation, hosting open houses, putting their technology as simply as possible. I know at DOE we had a really brilliant young person who was responsible for all our digital communications and he had a great way of just taking these complex thoughts and putting it into very easy videos or infographics and using all those communications tools that we have at our fingers. Smart communication goes a long way. So I’d say continue having conversations. Don’t be afraid to tell our story and be open and honest about the benefits and drawbacks. And I think we’ll win more hearts and minds that way.

Kari Hulac (23:48):

What exactly is exciting you about this next generation of reactors? I know you’ve done some work with NuScale. What do you know, so what excites you about them? And then is there anything that should be done differently to ensure that they don’t face the same challenges as some legacy reactors are facing in certain parts of the world getting shut down? So you have these, you know, reactors getting shut down and then you have some hope with the next generation coming online.

Suzie Jaworowski (24:16):

Well, that’s a really good question, Kari. And I’d say there’s two things. One is the technology itself. I mean, I know that this term is not technically accurate, but I like to call them meltdown proof because they do cool in and on them themselves, they cool for an indefinite amount of time, they do not need any kind of electrical backup system, no AC or DC power, and they don’t need any human interaction. So to me, even though it may overheat, it doesn’t have a meltdown explosion kind of situation. And so I like to call it meltdown proof because in everyday vernacular, I think that that paints an accurate picture of what happens. I also think it’s really super cool that these small modular reactors can do desalination. So for island nations, that’s such a great, great opportunity that it can be paired with a microgrid and get the electric system right back up again, and running in a Puerto Rico or hurricane kind of environment.

Suzie Jaworowski (25:18):

And then perhaps one of the most interesting things is the hydrogen production that, you know, it’s a brand new product line if you will. To think about it, you can deploy electricity and also have a channel for developing another cost center, another income center rather, through the hydrogen production. So that technology I think is really, really exciting and then I have to say back on the industrial pairing, the concept of deploying SMRs, it’s expensive and it takes a long time. It might take about seven years to, from the time you say, okay, I’m ready to do it to the time that you deploy. So I think being creative about partnering existing utilities, pairing with an industry, let’s say pairing with data centers. If you have data centers that are gonna make money, they pair with existing energy sources, but have in the long term, a plan to do a cost share with deploying SMRs. That I find really interesting. And I think that ESG investors are also finding that kind of scenario very interesting. So to me, it’s just exciting that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel to deployment. This is actually coming to fruition, and we’ll do so in our lifetime.

Kari Hulac (26:48):

Finally, is there anything we didn’t hit on that you’d like to leave our listeners thinking about today?

Suzie Jaworowski (26:55):

Wow. That’s a good question. I think you asked a lot of good questions. I think just, you know, kind of back to the education issue, we have a product, if you will, that has an image problem and has incited fear in people in the past. And I think just the more we can be very honest about what the situation is and educational, I think it’ll go a long way and I’m just really excited because, most people under or 40 that when I tell them I work in nuclear, they’re excited and they wanna know more about it. So I’m excited that the young generation is so well informed and so positive about nuclear energy and just can’t wait to see what happens in the next 10 years.

Kari Hulac (27:53):

Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. 

Suzie Jaworowski (27:56):

Thank you so much.

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By Kari Hulac

At Deep Isolation we are all here for one reason: To solve a decades-old environmental problem that most people never even think about.

Yes, that is as difficult as it sounds. It’s so difficult, in fact, that most governments around the world have yet to solve it while ratepayer dollars allotted for a permanent disposal solution collect dust in the coffers, and taxpayer dollars pay for interim storage.

Unless you personally live near one of the 93 commercial nuclear reactors operating in the United States at 55 locations in 28 states, you probably rarely think about nuclear energy or spent nuclear fuel, which is radioactive and requires specialized handling and containment for thousands of years.

Most of those who do live near a plant, where waste is temporarily stored in very large concrete casks, aren’t too worried because it is safe where it is.

While spent nuclear fuel is safe in these storage casks, this was never intended to be permanent. The international scientific consensus for decades has been that the BEST place for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste is in deep geologic disposal, where it’s protected from the elements and can’t be tampered with by humans. In the U.S. disposal in a mined repository is required by law.

We believe governments have a moral and legal obligation to move forward with permanent waste disposal. We think this is more important now than ever:

*To reduce opposition to clean nuclear power and fight climate change;

*And to increase energy independence as a national security priority.

As a company we’ve internally struggled with how to raise public awareness and gain public support for solving a problem that is (mostly) out of sight and thus, out of mind. How do we persuade the government that doing nothing is not a solution?

So, a small group of us got together and embarked on a mission to: Find out what people think about waste and nuclear energy; provide factual information in hopes of inspiring others to feel more inspired to solve this problem; and finally, give those newly inspired folks a way to make their voices heard by those with the power to make change.

Solve Nuclear Waste Project

First, we took the public’s temperature to make sure we were on the right track. We launched a nationally representative U.S. poll last summer and found that 70 percent of those surveyed agree that it’s the government’s job to solve this problem. We also found that people would be more likely to support nuclear energy if the waste was in safe disposal.

Once we gathered the poll data, we gut-checked our progress with a focus group of nearly 20 stakeholders and environmental community advocates. We took their suggestions to heart, and the Solve Nuclear Waste website was born.

The webpage features facts about nuclear waste in the U.S. and a pledge that concerned citizens can sign as a rallying cry to hold government accountable to solve this issue now. (If we’re successful, we certainly hope to expand our efforts worldwide.)

We see this pledge as an important initial step to talk more openly about nuclear waste and earn support for action needed by decision makers who can help drive progress on this long-standing environmental issue.

Once we collect a critical mass of signatures, we plan to share this information with decision makers to demonstrate that the public DOES care about nuclear waste disposal and wants this problem addressed now.

We hope you’ll visit the new webpage and consider signing our pledge today.

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For more information about our solution, please contact us.

info@deepisolation.com+1 415 915 6506

Deep Isolation, Inc.
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Berkeley, CA 94704