Mar 5, 2020

Ep 251: Julian Gadano - Deputy Secretary of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Energy for Argentina

Deputy Secretary of Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Energy for Argentina
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Show notes

Julian’s journey (1:46)
1:46-7:10 (Julian explains how he became involved in the nuclear sector via sociology.)

Q. What brought you into the field of sociology?
A. Julian Gadano was first attracted to public policy because he wanted to work on things that mattered. He became involved with the nuclear sector when studying the social side of the industry ten years ago. Julian is fascinated by the difference between perception of nuclear risk and actual risk. He then focused his research on political science, turning to nuclear security and international perspectives of the nuclear sector. After working at the regulator for seven years, Julian was appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary of Nuclear Energy for the Argentine Republic by Mauricio Macri in 2015. He is currently responsible for the execution of nuclear policy in Argentina, however, this position is politically appointed and will end when the next administration takes office. Julian is sure he will stay in the nuclear sector after leaving this job.

The Argentinian nuclear industry (7:11)
7:11-10:19 (Julian discusses the Argentinian nuclear industry and how he manages being both President of the Board of Directors and Deputy Secretary.)

Q. What is the structure of the Argentinian nuclear industry?
A. The public sector is very important in Argentina, so the utility is public owned. Argentina’s three nuclear power plants are all owned and operated publically. Julian is the President of the Board of Directors for the utility in addition to being the Deputy Secretary. While these roles are quite different, Julian says his strong teams make it work. Argentina has a strong group of nuclear professionals, particularly those nearing retirement age and the younger generation. Due to a lull in nuclear development in the 1990s, Argentina’s middle aged nuclear workers are lacking. In addition to the publicly owned utility and strong workforce, Argentina’s private companies are also strong. These are well balanced with the NGOs that ensure balanced discussions take place within the sector.

Leaving his mark on the nuclear sector (10:20)
10:20-18:49 (Julian discusses how he found the mark he can leave on the world and how he wants to restart the Argentinian nuclear industry.)

Q. What did you think your current role would be like and how does it differ from what you actually do?
A. Julian wants to leave his mark on the world. He does this by finding a way to bring the different entities within the nuclear industry together by facilitating conversations and ensuring information flows. He also hopes to restart the nuclear industry. Between the 1950s and 1980s, the nuclear industry worked well with the Argentinian Navy. But after the 1980s, the navy took a step back from nuclear, and the Atomic Energy Commission lost some political support. Julian is trying to reinvigorate the nuclear sector, but with a different agenda than the militaristic one of the Cold War Era. Julian wants to see more transparency and efficiency along with economically viable projects.

The CAREM project (18:50)
18:50-27:58 (Julian explains the CAREM reactor and how it represents the nuclear industry moving forwards.)

Q. What is the CAREM reactor?
A. Julian sees Argentina’s industry becoming a CAREM factory. While he acknowledges the importance of innovation and fusion, Julian sees financing CAREM as more important. The CAREM reactor is the third power reactor design in Argentina. Argentina already has a well developed research reactor sector. However, a power reactor has different objects and conditions than a research reactor. The CAREM project is the first Small Modular Reactor to be designed in Argentina. SMRs may not be perfect, but they represent the new thinking that is pushing the nuclear sector forwards. SMRs are smaller, meaning crisis are better dealt with. They are modular, meaning 12 reactors can be placed in one unit and managed from a single control room. Additionally, all parts of the reactors are integrated into the vessel. This means they can be manufactured in one factory, decreasing production costs.

Commercializing the CAREM (27:59)
27:59-35:24 (Julian explains the future commercialization of the CAREM reactors. He also discusses that while much safer than other reactors, safety should not be the focus of public discussion.)

Q. Will Argentina build a factory and export CAREMs?
A. Exporting CAREMs is currently in Argentina’s future, but the new Deputy Secretary may have alternate priorities. The CAREM project is currently in the second stage, meaning the prototype is beginning to transform into a commercially viable model. This will require a different group of people to take on the project to move it from the R&D approach and into the commercial space. Julian envisions a new organization with strong engineering abilities and international ties to be part of this transformation. Successfully selling reactors requires an organization to first have strong financial backing and Julian explains that international ties helps secure this. While not particularly set on if the organization will be public or private, Julian notes that the organization must be well organized, have a strong framework and have intelligent people involved.

Julian also states the advantages of the smaller CAREM reactor. It has a passive safety system, meaning the reactor can be cooled without external assistant for 26 to 36 hours. The decay heat can dissipated naturally without harming structural materials. An external pump is not needed and any potential crisis can be isolated. While the CAREM introduces a new level of safety to the industry, Julian emphasizes the need for the sector to work on public communication to move away from the idea of nuclear power being dangerous.

Creating a need for nuclear (35:25)
35:35-45:09 (Julian explains how learning from the aerospace industry can help the nuclear sector show people that they need nuclear energy.)

Q. Is it possible that behaving calmly and rationally is the answer to public communication?
A. Julian points out that humanity is living in the post-industrial period and many people are against big industry. The nuclear industry must look to aerospace to understand how to change public perceptions. In general, people like airplanes and easily move on from newsworthy airplane disasters. This is because people like to travel and know that planes are a necessity. The nuclear industry must work towards influencing a change of mind about the necessity of nuclear power. Increasing the desire for nuclear power, however, is difficult. It can be achieved by creating pride in a country’s nuclear industry. Young influences could help create this change. While the industry has traditionally been old fashioned, Julian is optimistic in the sector’s ability to improve public perception.

Supporting younger nuclear leaders (45:10)
45:10-53:27 (Julian discusses how younger minds are being supported to take on higher positions in nuclear and how this strategy will bring about a nuclear renaissance.)

Q. Why don’t young people take over the industry?
A. Julian tells the story of looking within a company to replace a retiring reactor manager with a younger worker rather than an older professional. This allows for sharp, younger minds to rise to the top to move the industry forward. Julian sees the need for more conversations to take place to convince people that nuclear power is a great industry. Nuclear needs to move past the desire of acceptance and, in the words of Suzanne Jaworowski, “make nuclear cool again.” In 15 years, Julian sees a nuclear renaissance bringing about a cleaner world. Julian is optimistic, predicting a world with more technology and a different mindset.

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