Ep 259: Leslie Compton Kass - Senior Vice President, Technical Center, TC Energy
0:15-7:20 (Leslie discusses her first introduction to nuclear energy and major projects in the industry)
Q: Can you please introduce yourself?
A: Leslie Kass is the Executive Vice President of the Technical center at TC Energy, working to make sure TC Energy is a learning organization. She also sits on the board of Bruce nuclear power plant, which TC energy is a joint investor.
Leslie’s first job role out of school was working with a company that did failure analysis and programmatic work for engineering projects related to nuclear power plants,in the early 90s, she became a project manager in the nuclear power division of the company and has spent several years of her career focused on nuclear since.
Leslie was at the Nuclear Energy Institute NEI) when the nuclear energy industry seemed to be at its busiest, dealing with over 30 applications for new nuclear plants and responding to the Fukushima accident where she says the entire nuclear industry had a responsibility to respond as a team.
About the Bruce power plant (4:10)
The Bruce power plant is the largest nuclear facility in the world, located in Ontario, Canada. It generates over 600 megawatts of electricity in a year, providing 30% of the power consumed in Ontario while being 30% cheaper than other options. Bruce power recently began a refurbishment program for the critical reactor components, which will see it remain operational till the 2064 timeframe.
Bruce power also creates jobs and opportunities, contributing over 4000 jobs to the local community and getting 90% of its required goods and services from the Ontario area, while also supporting initiatives like its medical isotopes program.
The role of communication and community engagement in the nuclear industry (7:45)
7:45-14:25 (Leslie shares what she has learnt about communication throughout her career).
Q: How important is communication to the work that TC Energy is doing in the nuclear industry?
A: Leslie believes now is the best time for energy companies to embrace effective communication strategies for the public and the local communities that they work in, taking an active role in telling the story of how they as the nuclear industry are adding value to the economy and providing clean-carbon free energy.
Leslie states that Bruce power is a good example of earned good will with the residents of Ontario through a lot of hard work in communication. Educating on other applications of nuclear technology also plays a large role in making the public accept nuclear power, not just as an energy source but as part of the community.
There is no substitute for base load power (14:50)
14:50-18:08 (Leslie discusses the important role of nuclear in the future of energy generation)
Q: What will be the importance of nuclear energy to future energy generation?
A: Leslie believes that nuclear energy will remain an important part of the energy mix for many years to come, as nuclear is one of the most viable options for baseload capacity while generating zero emissions.
Although economically other energy options have the edge, policy implementations like a possible carbon tax and advancement in technology could see the gap reduced drastically in the coming years.
As for the pace of change, Leslie believes that economics will be the primary driving factor to which technologies ultimately get implemented and how quickly money is put into research and development to accelerate the time to market of those new technologies.
Exciting developments in the nuclear industry (17:10)
The recent rise of startups and investments in the nuclear industry has given Leslie the most hope, despite more nuclear reactor closures and less construction of new projects.
The need and long history of collaboration in the nuclear industry (19:00)
19:00-29:01 (Strong need for collaboration in the nuclear industry and growth potential for new technologies in developing countries)
Q: How important has collaboration been for the nuclear industry?
A: Leslie recalls her time spent at NEI during the Fukushima accident and the crisis control she was part of managing, the responsibility of communicating and getting real facts out to a panicking public is particularly difficult but with strong collaboration between companies and individuals in the industry it was made possible.
Collaboration is still an essential factor that Leslie values about the industry, even though stopping false information from circulating is still something that is being dealt with today.
Leslie rounded off her point this way - ‘It’s everybody together or no one survives’.
Optimism for the nuclear industry growth in developing countries (26:33)
With the current developments in nuclear technology, Leslie is optimistic that the industry can expand into rapidly developing countries that are going to have much higher demand for energy in the coming years than already developed countries.