Ep 385: Craig Stover - Senior Program Manager, Advanced Nuclear, Electric Power Research Institute
Josh Mesner [00:00:59] Welcome to Titans of Nuclear. As you can immediately notice, I am not Bret Kugelmass. My name is Josh Mesner. Today, actually, we'll be hearing from Craig Stover, who is the Senior Program Manager of the Advanced Nuclear Technology Program at the Electric Power Research Institute, better known as EPRI. Craig, welcome. It's so great to have you on.
Craig Stover [00:01:23] Yeah, happy to be here.
Josh Mesner [00:01:24] Awesome. So, before we jump into the exciting things that you're working on and your team is working on over at EPRI, let's start with your background. Tell me about Craig as a young kid. Where'd you grow up?
Craig Stover [00:01:37] I'm from South Carolina. I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. I went to the University of South Carolina. I'm proud to be from the South.
Josh Mesner [00:01:50] Yeah. Siblings, or were you an only child?
Craig Stover [00:01:54] I have one older brother.
Josh Mesner [00:01:55] One older brother, awesome. And what was it like growing up with him in South Carolina? You guys got along pretty well, or no?
Craig Stover [00:02:01] Yeah, well, actually, he's 10 years older.
Josh Mesner [00:02:02] Oh, he's 10 years, okay.
Craig Stover [00:02:04] Yeah, so he moved out when I was in the third grade. So I have an older brother, but it was almost like being an only child.
Josh Mesner [00:02:09] Very cool. So you grew up in South Carolina. Was nuclear always on the mind? Tell me about the path as you entered school. What was kind of your focus?
Craig Stover [00:02:20] You know, what's interesting is we ask 17 year olds to decide their future. Luckily for me, I really liked cars, and so based on that, I picked mechanical engineering. I just kind of fell into it, which ended up being, obviously, a good discipline to fall into. So that's how I ended up doing engineering.
Josh Mesner [00:02:41] Building cars? Driving cars? All of the above?
Craig Stover [00:02:43] Yeah, all of the above in high school. And then that's why I went into engineering. And I can say a lot of the people I went to engineering school with got there a similar way, though very few of us, I think, ended up actually doing anything in our careers with cars.
Josh Mesner [00:02:58] Okay, so you enter university and you're focused on mechanical engineering. Were you immediately taking nuclear-related courses? At what point throughout your undergrad did you start to focus in on the nuclear aspect?
Craig Stover [00:03:11] Yeah, that's a great question. So actually, it wasn't until I was a senior. Our senior design projects was actually for Plant Vogtle in Georgia. So I spent a year supporting a project at that plant. And that's really when I learned about nuclear and liked it so much I decided I wanted to get into it.
Josh Mesner [00:03:34] Very cool. And how did you find that project? Was it just because you had heard of Plant Vogtle in your own personal life and you decided to do your senior project? Was it a professor?
Craig Stover [00:03:44] I don't remember actually even picking it. I think it was given to us. So just one of those... Sometimes there's just these things that happen by luck.
Josh Mesner [00:03:53] Yeah, very cool. Okay, so you graduate and you're really interested in nuclear. Do you immediately go on for your MBA or do you go and get some work experience first?
Craig Stover [00:04:03] The MBA was probably 10 years later. I actually went to BC Summer first. So it just so happened that I went to the University of South Carolina. I was interested in nuclear and got particularly interested in new nuclear, actually, in building plants. And then just again, just by some coincidence of fate, SCANA, the utility in South Carolina, announced they were going to build two AP1000s at almost the exact same time I graduated from college. So it just... I went there.
Josh Mesner [00:04:39] Serendipitous, there.
Craig Stover [00:04:41] Yeah.
Josh Mesner [00:04:41] Very cool. And the interest in new nuclear, did that come from your continuing understanding of the existing fleet and kind of the challenges that were within the industry? Why the immediate focus on new nuclear technology?
Craig Stover [00:05:00] Particularly being young, it's always fun to work on something new, I think. I liked the idea of working on a really big project. It's fun now, but particularly when you're 22 or 23, there is something really exciting about the idea that you're going to go build these giant power plants on such a big project. It was just really exciting, particularly compared to a lot of the alternatives I had as an undergrad getting out of school. I mean, there were some good jobs available, but nothing as exciting as building a nuclear power plant.
Josh Mesner [00:05:33] Very cool. So you were an associate engineer then, coming out of school, with SCANA Corporation?
Craig Stover [00:05:40] Yeah, we had several titles back then. But yeah, I started as an entry-level engineer. I actually started there about three months, I think, before we signed our contract and like six months before we submitted our license, so it was like a really exciting time to join the project. I was one of the first 10 people on the project that eventually had over 3,000. So it was exciting to be there at the beginning.
Josh Mesner [00:06:08] Yeah. So what sort of changes did you notice? I mean, that's an amazing accomplishment to come in so early at ground level. Like, what sorts of things were you working on that are maybe now departments today?
Craig Stover [00:06:21] Well, it's interesting. We used to always say that we got like six years of experience for every year we were there. Because when you're starting, at the time, what was like a $10 billion project, there's a lot going on, you know? I mean, I was there when we were signing contracts. I was there when we submitted our license. I was there responding to RAIs that were coming from the regulator. I was sitting in design reviews with our developer. I was going on vendor visits to see our components being made. I was on the construction site watching the holes being dug and watching equipment go in. And every day was something different, you know? So when you're there early, you get to see everything, and just the staffing increase that happens so fast. I mean, just overnight, as soon as you sign that contract, you go from 10 people and it feels like the next week there's 100. And then after a year you look back and you're like, "Wow, I can't believe how fast all this has happened."
Josh Mesner [00:07:22] That's wild. Yeah, it sounds like you were a real jack of all trades there for a long time.
Craig Stover [00:07:26] Yeah, it was a great experience.
Josh Mesner [00:07:27] So you were there, what, about six years, is that right?
Craig Stover [00:07:30] That's right, yeah. Six years.
Josh Mesner [00:07:32] And what led you to EPRI?
Craig Stover [00:07:35] I had participated in a lot of EPRI projects when I was at SCANA, at the utility. And so, when I decided I wanted to do something different, EPRI was just a great fit. I enjoyed working on the projects as a utility advisor, and so, there was a role that came open and I just applied for it and the rest is kind of history.
Josh Mesner [00:08:00] Very cool. Before we go into kind of your pathway through EPRI, can we just take a couple of minutes to talk about what EPRI does, who they are, how they got started? Just give our listeners a quick background on EPRI.
Craig Stover [00:08:12] Yeah, great question. So EPRI is a nonprofit research organization. The basic concept of EPRI is any one utility or organization, they could maybe do a little bit of research and they would get a little bit of results. The idea of EPRI is that really we all come together and we kind of compile all those funds and then we're able to do a lot more work and then share the results among all of our members. And so we're able to do a very extensive amount of work over a lot of different sectors. It's not just nuclear; we do nuclear, but we also do renewables and all forms of generation and power delivery. You might see reports if you Google about electric cars. So we do a lot of different work in a lot of areas.
Josh Mesner [00:09:02] Yeah, you guys are doing it like kind of from production, generation, delivery, how it's used. I was doing a little background research on EPRI. I had no idea the extent with which EPRI's kind of involved in thinking about electricity and how it's used around the globe. Just out of curiosity, I'm really interested to hear about some of the projects that you're working on, just briefly on research around how electricity is used. I know so much of our world is focused on generation and delivery. What is EPRI's involvement in the use of electricity?
Craig Stover [00:09:40] I mean, we do a lot of work in that area. Now full disclosure, I'm on the nuclear side. I'm probably not the right person to answer some of those questions. I focus specifically just on nuclear. On the nuclear side, though, and this is something we'll probably get into when we start talking about new reactors, but on the nuclear side, one of the things that's so interesting now is that there are so many new markets that need to decarbonize. Certainly, we talk a lot about electric power and there's certainly a need to decarbonize there. But there's also industrial heat markets, there's district energy markets, there's data centers. You know, we're hosting a workshop soon on pulp and paper about maybe one day using a nuclear plant to provide heat to pulp and paper. So it's really interesting, I guess I would say, to see how many new markets actually need to decarbonize and exploring all the options that we can use to do that.
Josh Mesner [00:10:37] Absolutely. Awesome. Okay, so let's get back on track a little bit here. I appreciate the background. Okay, so you move over to EPRI. Give us an idea, what's kind of the first role that you are taking on as you make the jump?
Craig Stover [00:10:50] My first role at EPRI actually was in what we call our Plant Engineering Group. I was managing all of our heat exchanger and thermal performance research for the existing fleet, which was a great experience. So I did that for a couple of years. It was a great experience. So if a plant has an issue with a heat exchanger... And you've got to remember, we have almost 400 reactors around the world that are members, so there are a lot of heat exchangers when you think about it that way. So it's almost... I'll say the majority, over 90% of the world's existing commercial fleet of nuclear reactors members are members of EPRI, so it's a lot of folks.
Craig Stover [00:11:26] But it was a really exciting role because if a plant has an issue with a heat exchanger, they call EPRI. And ultimately, I got to respond to a lot of those kinds of things. And then, as you're responding to those kinds of issues and seeing trends, then you get to actually kick off research projects to try to solve those problems and get ahead of them and those kinds of things. So it was a good role and great exposure to the existing fleet.
Josh Mesner [00:11:55] Absolutely. So I know throughout your career at EPRI, you've moved from kind of engineer, boots on the ground, a lot of research development, to managing a lot of the programs. So, talk to me about how you started to get a hold of managing the transformative nuclear technologies area at EPRI. That is a really exciting opportunity.
Craig Stover [00:12:21] So, I first moved into management at EPRI in Balance of Plant NDE, again on the existing fleet side, which was great. But really, I have a new plant background and I certainly have always kind of had a bias towards building new plants because that's how I got into nuclear. And really when you saw the... We try not to say renaissance, but renaissance of sorts that was kind of emerging, it was an exciting opportunity to get to kind of move back over into new plants and take over this group. I think I've been in this role for three years now, and the interest in new plants has grown a lot.
Josh Mesner [00:13:09] And how have you felt moving from being kind of an engineer to more of a manager, or do you still get to do a lot of the engineering aspects that you had done previously?
Craig Stover [00:13:18] You know it's a different role, but I love it because to me what's really motivating is getting to kind of have more of an impact on the strategy. As somebody that kind of worked in the first renaissance building new plants, it's really exciting to be a part of this next wave of new plants and being in a role where I can help my team have an impact on that trajectory is really fun. So I certainly enjoyed my time in kind of an individual contributor role, but now my team has 45 projects on advanced reactors and we get to really have an impact on where things are going.
Josh Mesner [00:13:56] And I'm just curious, how do those projects come down the pipeline for EPRI? Is it kind of outside market factors or is it internal decisions that then lead to more publicly focused information or research projects? The 45 projects that you're working on, where are those originating?
Craig Stover [00:14:19] Yeah, it's a great idea. And actually, this is good timing because this week we're actually in Nashville right now at our annual Nuclear Power Council, which is our advisory meeting. So actually, this week there's 550 people here from around the industry who are giving us input on where they need help and we're telling them what we're working on. But that's really how it works. So yesterday, I led the advisory meeting for the Advanced Nuclear Technology Program. We had over 100 guests in the room. Almost all of the advanced reactor developers, almost all of the utilities that are building plants or thinking about building plants. A lot of, I'll just say, interested stakeholders. And we spent a lot of time actually getting input from them. What are their plans for building new plants? Where do they want EPRI's help? And so that's really where those ideas come from. We do a lot of our own thought leadership, obviously. We have a group of talented folks and we see a lot of the needs before they arise. But weeks like this, when we're meeting with our members is where we get most of the input.
Josh Mesner [00:15:26] And I'm curious, is there debate happening in these meetings? Is there, "We should focus here?" "No, let's focus here." Or is it sort of an altogether, "Yeah, we think we're moving in the right direction. This sounds like a great research project."
Craig Stover [00:15:40] Every now and then there's a little healthy debate about priority, which is all very positive. But no, for the most part it's very collaborative. Particularly if, in new nuclear space where we are, we're very mission driven right now. I'll say as an industry, not just what we're doing here, but we're very mission driven. We're on this mission to build an unprecedented number of plants in an unprecedented time scale. So I think everybody's very much focused on the goal.
Josh Mesner [00:16:10] Very cool, very cool. So yeah, let's dive in. Let's go into some of the research projects that you and your team are currently working on. I know one that comes to mind for me is your research on uranium recovery options. First off, let's talk about what that is and then we'll talk about kind of what that research means for these next gen reactors.
Craig Stover [00:16:33] Yeah. So when you say uranium recovery options, I guess you're talking about maybe disposition pathways for used fuel. One of the things that we're working on... When you look at these new reactor types, the landscape of new reactors has totally changed. If you wanted to build a new plant 10 years ago, there were a couple of options. You'd build a PWR or BWR. We've been building those for decades. We kind of understand what's going on there. But when we start looking at the future fleet, we're still going to build PWRs and BWRs and Light-water SMRs and molten salt reactors and high-temperature gas reactors and fast reactors and micro reactors. That introduces a lot of, I'll say, new variables, and one of those is new fuel forms. And what do we do with those fuel forms? And so one of the kind of exciting things we're looking at now is some of these reactors, like fast reactors, for example, can run off used fuel, so there are options to do reprocessing. So that obviously presents an exciting opportunity because you could take even the used fuel from the existing fleet and repurpose that to run these new reactors. So that's a great option. But we're looking at other disposition pathways as well when we think about these new fuel forms and what we're going to do with them.
Josh Mesner [00:17:57] What are some of those other options?
Craig Stover [00:18:01] So I think some of the questions, I'll say, are... If we look at what we do with used fuel today, which is a lot of, I'll say, like facilities where we're storing fuel in casks on sites, maybe we'll do some of that in the future, but with these new fuel forms, how does that change the design of those types of things? We're also looking at things like we actually issued a report a year or two ago on deep boreholes as an option for disposition. So it's an area where we're just kind of getting started. I'll say we spend more time talking about building the plants than how we're going to disposition the fuel, but it is an exciting area and there are a lot of exciting new opportunities with these new plants.
Josh Mesner [00:18:49] Absolutely. Awesome. I'm just going to kind of bounce around to some other topics that you guys are covering, in no particular order. I know there's so many. But if you want to move to some other stuff, you just let me know. I know one of the things that kind of caught my eye that I didn't really think about previously is I know you've done some recent research regarding diode laser cladding. This seems kind of like future technology. I always love lasers, right? So, yeah. Tell me a little bit about that research.
Craig Stover [00:19:21] Yeah, it's a great question. So that falls in our advanced manufacturing area. So the one thing I'll say about that before we talk about diode laser cladding is that when we think about the supply chain for the existing fleet and the future fleet, it's one of the biggest areas for development. And one of the things we're really trying to do on my team is reinvent the supply chain for the future fleet, and that's where this work on advanced manufacturing comes in. So one of our key projects there is we're actually building a SMR reactor vessel at a two-thirds scale. And the challenge there was... Historically, if you want to order a reactor vessel for a nuclear plant, when you factor in lead times and things, it could be a three or four year process to order just the vessel. This isn't the plant, right? It's just the vessel. And that creates bottlenecks; there's a limited number of suppliers. So how do we reinvent the supply chain for that?
Craig Stover [00:20:22] So we launched a project to try to demonstrate that you could build a reactor vessel in less than a year using advanced manufacturing techniques. A lot of focus on, actually, powder metallurgy which we call PM-HIP, which is an alternative to forgings. A lot of focus on electron beam welding as an alternative to traditional welding techniques. But then also diode laser cladding. So, some of these vessels are clad inside and out. Some people say there's an Olympic-sized swimming pool of cladding material that has to go on one of these vessels. So it's a lot. It's expensive, it's time consuming. And so we looked at deep diode laser cladding as an alternative because diode laser cladding is much faster and uses a lot less cladding material. So you're effectively spraying this material and sintering it with a laser on the surface of these vessels. And because of that, you go much faster, and like I said, with a lot less material.
Josh Mesner [00:21:20] And are you pulling that technology and those techniques from other industries, or is this something that you are pioneering or manufacturers are having to pioneer and test?
Craig Stover [00:21:28] That's a great question. One of the things we do a lot of EPRI is take technologies that already exist and qualify them for nuclear. And so all three of these technologies are technologies that already existed and are being used other places. As a matter of fact, if you have a car with a turbocharger in it, more than likely that turbocharger was welded with electronic beam welding. So these technologies exist, it's just qualifying it for a nuclear application is the challenge and the opportunity. And so that's really what we've done. We do a lot of scouting. A big part of our role is trying to find technologies that we think can have an impact on the trajectory of what we're trying to do and then bring those to nuclear. And that's exactly what we did with diode laser cladding.
Josh Mesner [00:22:11] And so, what about the individuals and the firms that are actually utilizing this technique? Is it something where a current... Let's say, Sheffield Forgemasters, who are actually able to complete some of these reactor pressure vessels today. Would they be able to use this technology in their manufacturing workshops or are you going to other pressure vessel manufacturers that already have this equipment and therefore opening up the market, having more firms involved and increasing speed?
Craig Stover [00:22:46] Yeah, that's a great question. The short answer is both. What's interesting is that it does open up the market because some of these technologies do bring, I'll say, new entrants into the supply chain. And so it does help strengthen and broaden the supply chain. But the other thing that's happening is these existing forging companies, for example, are beginning to adopt some of this technology. Electron beam welding, in particular, is one that has really caught on. And so, just like every industry, these folks are modernizing the tools they use. So yeah, so it's really both.
Josh Mesner [00:23:23] And I know there are a number of kind of checkboxes that reactor vessels have to go through. What are some of the additional checks that these cladded vessels have to go through that regular cold rolled, forged vessels don't have to go through for testing purposes?
Craig Stover [00:23:49] Once they're actually qualified, the hope is that there's actually less... You know, less burdensome is the goal. But the work we're doing is kind of clearing some of those hurdles. And so, what we're doing... If you manufacture a reactor vessel, ultimately, you're going to be looking at material properties. This gets really into the engineering, but I mean, down to fracture mechanics of the materials of the vessel. And so, what we're doing when we look at these new technologies like powder metallurgy, PM-HIP, is actually doing that work to qualify the process, to understand the right metallurgy that needs to be done so that you get the material properties that you can use for reactor vessels that kind of like meet codes. And then we actually work to develop some of the code cases that ultimately go in to justify that. The other ones are with all these technologies, we have to be able to inspect everything. With some of these new materials and the new application methods, there's additional work that has to be done to develop inspection techniques. And so we're doing that as well.
Craig Stover [00:24:58] Ultimately, the goal is that once those are on the street, and some of these are very close to being commercially available now, they're actually easier to use, is the hope. Like, PM-HIP, powder metallurgy, is actually a very inspectable material. It's a homogeneous material, so it'll actually aid inspection when it's commercial. But that's kind of where EPRI comes in. We do all the work to get it to the point where somebody can use it.
Josh Mesner [00:25:27] And how are you balancing the work of new reactor technology with existing fleet? Like, maintaining the existing fleet is important. I was going to say is as important, but is important as looking at what new technology brings. How do you guys balance your approach to existing versus future technologies or infrastructure?
Craig Stover [00:25:51] Yeah, it's a great question. Number one, we always say there is no future fleet without the existing fleet. So that is our foundation. We need the existing fleet to be very efficient and effective. And we don't want any issues there, right? So we certainly have a huge priority on supporting the existing fleet. And if you look at what we're doing in the nuclear sector at EPRI, a huge portion of what we do is obviously supporting the existing fleet. But it's also really important that we think about the future. And that's actually why we like to use the term future fleet, because we're not talking about building another plant. When we talk to our members, maybe one of our utilities, the reason why they should be interested in it is one day they're going to have a future fleet of new plants, and so this work is so very important for them and for everyone else.
Craig Stover [00:26:46] So a huge focus on the existing fleet, but we are kind of, I'll say, transitioning into more and more work on the future fleet, because it's here. Every day we hear about a new company that has made an announcement that they need to build new plants, for whatever reason. So we are transitioning into that. And we've been... If you look at my team, for example, we had about five folks a year ago that were working on new plants. Today, we have a dozen. And like I said, we have these 45 projects on advanced reactors. So we are transitioning very quickly to do more and more work in this area. And I'll say the other thing we're doing around the sector, even in the parts of the sector that aren't working on the future fleet, they're now starting to gear up for that and they're starting to prepare for the future, because they have to be ready to support these new plants when they go online before they go online.
Josh Mesner [00:27:45] Yeah. And what are some of the pillars, maybe, that your team follows or maybe EPRI follows as it relates to the new nuclear fleet? Like higher efficiencies, less complexities, safety margins, what are some of the focal points that you navigate your research around?
Craig Stover [00:28:03] That's a great question. Purely from a future fleet perspective, number one, we want to able to build these plants. And if you look at what my team does, we like to say we're reducing the risk and uncertainty of building new plants. Fundamentally what that means is we're doing everything we can to make it faster and cheaper to build new plants. And so, we do a lot of work, actually, on the construction side. Ultimately, cost matters a lot when it comes to building a new plant. We talk mostly about the nuclear part of nuclear plants for obvious reasons, but that is not what drives the cost. What drives the cost is all the civil construction, concrete and rebar and people standing on site. And so, we have a huge focus on that piece, actually, on what can we do to drive these construction schedules down to give folks tools to be more effective there. But we work on all parts of the new plant lifecycle.
Josh Mesner [00:29:04] Very cool. I know that you, kind of at beginning of discussing EPRI, talked about how you go to the event that you're at now, you have internal discussions. Who are some of the partners that you're working with that are giving you inputs as you navigate the space? I know national labs, private entities, researchers and universities overseas. Is it kind of like a world involvement? And are there any sectors that you are hoping to get into to explore to allow their perspective on some of your research?
Craig Stover [00:29:38] That's a great question, actually, and it'll let me talk about our Advanced Reactor Roadmap, too, which is a really important thing. So number one, if you look at the members in our Advanced Nuclear Programs, so the folks who have joined who want to build new plants or talk about new plants... We have 84 companies, today, at the table talking about new plants. And those represent, like I said, all the existing operators, almost all of the advanced reactor developers, people in the supply chain, I'll say, even small utilities that are traditionally non-nuclear that have done an integrated resource plan and realize they need to build a new plant. So there are a lot of different folks. We do work with a lot of universities. We do work with the national labs and other industry organizations. We have a lot of partners. But one of the interesting things that actually came out of that is, again, going back to this mission that we want to build plants maybe in the 2030s at this unprecedented scale. We realized about a year and a half ago that with so many partners and with so many industry organizations that have a similar goal, it was really important that we all get on the same page, that we have a clear, agreed upon industry vision, that we all know kind of like who's doing what so that we can have a coordinated conversation across all of industry to accomplish this goal. And so EPRI actually partnered with NEI to roll out what we call the Advanced Reactor Roadmap.
Craig Stover [00:31:10] So we spent the last, about, year and a half doing a lot of deep dives looking at what are the opportunities and enablers for new nuclear, what needs to be done, what are maybe some technical gaps that we could address. And we rolled all that out into a document. The draft was actually issued this past Friday. By April, the formal document will be issued. But it's really a tool. So when it comes out... You know, as of right now, we have 44 key actions that the industry needs to take. And that's really what we wanted to do was kind of create this action plan so that we can get all those stakeholders like you talked about... So we want to have EPRI and the developers and the national labs and the universities, we want us all looking at the same sheet of opportunities and saying, "If you're going to go do this piece of research, then we'll do this one. And then maybe NEI's going to do something in policy space." But that means we're coordinated. That means we're all working together towards this common goal.
Josh Mesner [00:32:13] And sometimes that can be pretty difficult, especially with so many folks, so many cooks in the kitchen, I'm sure.
Craig Stover [00:32:19] Yeah, exactly. It can be. But again, I think the whole industry realizes that... There's a term that's used a little bit right now which I kind of like which is "co-opetition." It's one of my favorite terms. And the reason is because ultimately there'll be a lot of competition in nuclear just like any other industry. But right now, we're very mission focused. We want to get to the point where we have the option to build all these plants. And so I think everybody sees the reason to work together.
Josh Mesner [00:32:49] Absolutely. I know EPRI's had some other recent accomplishments in 2022 and early 2023, kind of the Owner-Operator Guide, some siting guides as well. Those are really exciting. My question is, how often do you update those things? Is it something where you deliver to the public and kind of put your stamp on it and say, "This is what we think," and forget about it? Or do you come back to it often and try to make sure that it fits with today's learnings and kind of the evidence that you now have available to you?
Craig Stover [00:33:23] It's a great question. So we did recently... We have our Owner-Operator Requirements Guide, we have the Siting Guide, as you said, for siting new plants. We also have a Technology Assessment Guide that was just published in December. Those three documents are really important for... Those are basically the three documents you would use to start a new plant project. And we wanted to make those resources available because there are so many people considering building new plants. But if you look at like the Siting Guide, for example, we just updated that. So it's been six or seven years, probably, since the last update. But not a lot had happened in terms of siting until recently. And so we just updated that because we needed to add advanced reactors to the Siting Guide. We needed to add things like cold in nuclear and bringing nuclear to brownfield sites to the Siting Guide. So we updated it based on that. So you know, some documents can be updated every two years, some every ten years. It just totally depends on the need.
Josh Mesner [00:34:19] Absolutely, absolutely. Fantastic. Yeah, I'd love to transition to kind of what does the future hold. Give us your vision of new nuclear in the United States and abroad. Where do you see a lot of opportunity?
Craig Stover [00:34:37] Yeah, I think the one thing that's clear is nuclear is just one of the options. I do think it's important to say that all technologies, renewables, energy storage, carbon capture, these are all important options to meet these carbon goals. But it's clear we have carbon goals. It's clear around the world that we're all looking for ways to decarbonize the energy sector. As we think about that, it's a very regional issue. Even in the United States, what we might do and what might make sense in the Southeast does not make sense in the Pacific Northwest. And in terms of the role that nuclear plays, that's why I actually see a lot of different options. I think there are parts of the U.S. and parts of the world that are going to continue to build large nuclear plants like what we've historically had. But there are also regions, there are grids that are only a couple gigawatts for a whole grid and you're not going to put two gigawatt scale plants in on that grid because it doesn't make sense. So now you start looking at small modular reactors or smaller non light-water reactors and micro reactors.
Craig Stover [00:35:50] And so what's really interesting is, fundamentally what we have today that we didn't have in the past is a lot of options. And in terms of nuclear, there are options at all these different scales, for all these different folks... Not just for electricity, but a lot of industrial customers as well in things like district energy. So what I see is, I do see us in the 2030s building this unprecedented number of plants at this crazy scale. And that's very exciting. But it's not going to just be one plant or two plants. It's going to be a lot of different kinds of plants in a lot of different kinds of applications. So the nuclear industry of the future is going to be radically different than the one we have today.
Josh Mesner [00:36:33] I always hate to bring up silver bullets, but in your perspective, what sort of areas of innovation do you find to be most intriguing to really help us unlock that 2030s goal?
Craig Stover [00:36:50] Well, I think ultimately, the risk we have in nuclear is we've got to be able to build these plants on time and on schedule. I mean, that's what we have to be able to do. We have to be able to deliver on our promises. And so, so much of the work we do is about making it easier to do that. And so I'll give you one example. We have a project right now that we used to call decoupling the nuclear island from the balanced plant. We now call it decoupling the nuclear facility. But ultimately, if you look at it, we're trying to say how do we make the nuclear part of the plant smaller? And what I mean by that, if you go look at combined cycle plants, you can build a combined cycle plant in three years. With a lot of these new reactor technologies, once you get outside of the nuclear island, you start getting into the balanced plant part, why can't you build it like a combined cycle plant? Why can't you just apply commercial standards instead of nuclear standards? If you do that, maybe you can radically reduce the cost and the time to construct those plants. And we're still doing research to see exactly how much that is, but certainly there's an impact, right?
Craig Stover [00:38:00] So that project that we're working on is actually developing that technical basis that says here's how you would actually go about doing this. And if successful, that's a radically different approach to building nuclear plants than we've done in the past. It kind of like fundamentally reinvents the approach. And so those kind of things are really exciting. And it's one of the things I always say, that we've got to reinvent nuclear. So we don't want to build plants like we used to. We don't want to operate them like we used to. You know, we did great, but the future is totally different. We've got to build them faster, we've got to build them cheaper, we've got to operate them leaner. And so, so much of the work we're doing is around making that possible.
Josh Mesner [00:38:40] Absolutely. Awesome. Is there any message that you'd love to share with our audience about your emotions towards the future and what nuclear holds for it?
Craig Stover [00:38:51] Yeah, that's a great question. I just think that we have this really great opportunity. I'll say it's like a once in a generation opportunity where we've had this realization that nuclear plays a really important role in our future and meeting these carbon goals. And we've got to capitalize on our opportunity. We've all got to come together, we've all got to work together. And I think if we do that, we can have a huge impact on meeting our energy goals for the future.
Josh Mesner [00:39:23] Wonderful. Thanks so much, Craig. I really appreciate your time and joining us on Titans of Nuclear.
Craig Stover [00:39:27] Absolutely. Great to be here.