Ep 411: Mike Rencheck - President and CEO, Bruce Power
Adam Smith [00:00:59] This is the Titans of Nuclear Podcast. Today, we have a very special episode with Mike Rencheck, the President and CEO of Bruce Power. Mike, how are you doing today?
Mike Rencheck [00:01:08] Oh, great, Adam. It's good to be here and thanks for having me on the show today.
Adam Smith [00:01:12] Welcome to the show. We're glad to have you. I guess just to get started off, can you give our listeners some background about yourself and how you came to the nuclear industry?
Mike Rencheck [00:01:23] Yeah, through a summer job in 1982. It seems like a long time ago now. It sounds like a long time ago, but it seems like yesterday, I should say.
Adam Smith [00:01:33] Time flies.
Mike Rencheck [00:01:34] Yeah, it really does. You know, I started off as a summer intern at Beaver Valley Power Station when it was still under construction. So, Shippingport was in its last year of operation. Beaver Valley Unit 1 was operating and Beaver Valley Unit 2 was under construction. And through that summer job, I had the opportunity to really get a view on what nuclear power looked like. And some family events. And really, in Pittsburgh in 1982, all the steel mills pretty much went out of business, so I ended up coming back home and going to work for Duquesne Light Company at the time at Beaver Valley.
Adam Smith [00:02:12] And what were you doing at Beaver Valley, specifically?
Mike Rencheck [00:02:16] So when I first joined, I was in the onsite construction group as a summer student, then I went into the design engineering organization. I did a lot of different jobs there over the years. One of my most interesting was the startup of Beaver Valley Unit 2, and I played a key role in that early, really young in my career. It was a lot of fun doing that, and I really caught the bug after that on starting up plants, building plants, and fixing plants. So it was quite the learning experience, and I really used that throughout my career.
Adam Smith [00:02:51] Yeah. Sounds like you have quite a depth of experience within the energy, and more specifically, the nuclear industry at this point. Have there been any, I guess, outstanding projects for you that you really are proud of?
Mike Rencheck [00:03:06] Yeah, I would go back to 1987 when we put Beaver Valley Unit 2 online, which was really exciting. At that point, Duquesne Light was a small company, and Beaver Valley 2 had to get online really by January of 1988 or the company would have gone into bankruptcy just due to the construction program. But we did it, and we got online by the November timeframe and everything worked out well. You learn so much when you go out and do things like that. But I tell you, it's one of those things that I've carried forward.
Mike Rencheck [00:03:41] I've done a lot of great things with a lot of great people in the industry, restarting plants. And then here at Bruce Power, we're renewing the life of the plants all the way up to 2064. It's quite the endeavor we're undertaking. We've got six plants in refurbishment as well as we're putting new innovations into the facility like isotope production systems, and we're operating the plants at the same time, so it really is quite a lot of fun. And really, I'll tell you, it's moving us forward. It's moving the industry forward.
Adam Smith [00:04:18] Yeah. It sounds like you've been able to take that original experience that you had at Beaver Valley and really apply some of those lessons and that knowledge to the operations of Bruce Power. Can you give us a little bit more insight around specifically how you've been able to translate that into Bruce Power's phenomenal track record?
Mike Rencheck [00:04:39] Yeah, it comes around blending both the knowledge of operations and the knowledge of doing large projects and construction. And those two skillsets are distinct. Being a pure operator, sometimes you really don't know what to expect in construction, and likewise, being in construction all time, how do you operate a plant? I think bringing that perspective into a facility that's been running like Bruce Power has been and now through the renewal process of the assets, it really helps to be able to balance those things.
Adam Smith [00:05:12] So you really have, I guess, both sides of the spectrum of being able to not only build it, but operate it. You get to see both sides of that.
Mike Rencheck [00:05:21] Yeah. Throughout my career I've done a number of different things, both in the operations side as well as the construction side. When I was at American Electric Power, as an example, we did the refurbishment of the Cook Plant and then I went off into the corporate headquarters where I led their projects engineering division, which is basically construction. And we were building environmental controls on their fleet. We were building new gas plants, upgrading different plants, building wind plants and the like.
Mike Rencheck [00:05:52] And then, with my experience at Areva... So, Areva Group out of Paris. We had new plants under construction. We had offshore wind plants under construction and different types of project activity. So, using that background and my operations training over the years... I was the Chief Nuclear Officer at American Electric Power for a while. And being able to blend those things here at Bruce Power really has made a difference in terms of understanding and improving on our operations, but also the construction program.
Adam Smith [00:06:26] Wow. So you've seen not just construction, but operations of plants all over the world, even outside of Canada. I'm sure all of those Areva plants, or most of them were in Europe, right?
Mike Rencheck [00:06:40] Yeah, in Europe and in South America, China around the world. Areva, at the time, was a global nuclear powerhouse. We were building plants and servicing plants just about on every continent.
Adam Smith [00:06:55] Wow. So you have quite the breadth and depth of experience here then. Can you give me and the listeners a little bit more background on Bruce A and B and go into some more of the recent news around the refurbishments that you've gone through in getting Bruce A back up to power?
Mike Rencheck [00:07:16] Yeah, sure. This is a really good story here at Bruce Power. The Bruce A units were shut down in the 1990s as they were approaching their end of life. So, Bruce B remained in operation. Bruce B was scheduled to shut down at 2018. So along the way, Bruce Power was formed and through that, the units 3 and 4 at Bruce A were restarted. That was in 2003 and 2004. And then around 2012, 2013, the Bruce A units 1 and 2 were refurbished and brought back into service.
Mike Rencheck [00:07:55] That's quite unique because when the Bruce A units were fully returned to service, it enabled the phase out of coal here in Ontario. And you might ask, "Well, what does that mean?" That means if you were suffering from asthma and living in the city of Toronto, in 2005 you would have had a peak of about 53 smog days. So when Bruce Power brought its units back into service in 2013 and coal was phased out, today, we have zero smog days.
Adam Smith [00:08:29] That's amazing.
Mike Rencheck [00:08:30] It cleared the air, as they say, about nuclear energy and what it can do here in Ontario. And since that time in 2016, now we have what we call our Life Extension Program agreed to by the province that will allow us to refurbish then units 3 through 8 so they can operate all the way out to 2064 and beyond, and with that, secure clean energy long-term here in Ontario.
Adam Smith [00:09:02] Absolutely. You love to see those long-term operational permits. If you don't mind me asking, what specifically determines the life of a nuclear power plant. Like, what exactly is it that needs refurbished after 40 years or 30 years for that operational life permit?
Mike Rencheck [00:09:22] There are different technologies available. So in Canada, we operate the CANDU technology, which is a heavy-water reactor. So in our reactors we have 480 fuel channels. And that fuel channel aging, it really gets around materials and material embrittlement due to irradiation over the years. So in our design, we're able to replace those fuel channels and effectively renew the reactor. And that's what we're in process of doing right now. And in fact, we are just finishing Unit 6. We finished changing out all the fuel channels, loaded fuel into the units, and now we're in the process of refilling, effectively, the primary heat transport system to get ready to bring it back into service by October of this year. We'll have the first one done and it is on time and on budget, and also dispels the myth that nuclear can't be done on time and on budget.
Mike Rencheck [00:10:20] Now, our partners and our friends at Ontario Power Generation have done two of their refurbishments at their Darlington unit. They've also done it on time and on budget. So nuclear can be done, it can be done well, it can be done effectively, but it takes pre-planning, preparation, and a strong strategy for execution, and really, collaboration among the supplier community, the utilities, and the labor unions that are involved. And with that partnership and with that collaboration, we can continue working.
Mike Rencheck [00:10:52] We did all this through the pandemic as well. At any point during the pandemic, we had upwards of 10,000 to 12,000 unique people coming in and out of site each week. We didn't have a single outbreak on site of COVID, and we were able to keep working the entire time. So, it's that collaboration and partnership and really a strong attention to detail and execution, and you can get it done.
Adam Smith [00:11:17] That's an amazing accomplishment all around. From not having any COVID breakouts with thousands of employees to coming online, being on track, on budget, and on schedule, that's just a very rare occurrence in the nuclear industry. So, congratulations to not only you and your team, but to the Canadian nuclear industry, because it sounds like you guys have established processes across your nuclear plants that allow these quick and on budget deployments. It's very impressive. I'm jealous as an American.
Mike Rencheck [00:11:55] It's a great collaboration when you have those partnerships and you work well with each other. And that's the nice thing about the nuclear industry. We share things. We share construction techniques, we share how we go about buying things, the engineering. If OPG has an issue, we help out. If we have an issue, OPG helps out. It's been quite the synergistic support. And we built on the work that was previously done by New Brunswick Power, by Argentina, by the Koreans in terms of what they looked at with their reactor designs, and the Romanians. And it's those lessons learned that we used to put into our construction programs that really helped us excel at this.
Adam Smith [00:12:37] Isn't there a CANDU owners group? It's specifically all of the countries and all of the owners of CANDU reactors across the world. That's the formal organization that shares this information, correct?
Mike Rencheck [00:12:53] Yes, we have a CANDU owners group with participation from around the world. And it should also be known that Canada is able to make all of the parts ourselves here. We have a supply chain that can build the CANDU reactors from the ground up. And with that, we've been able to work through all the supply chain difficulties that others have had and seen. We haven't had that. So, our parts have kept coming and coming on time to help us with our refurbishment. It's really been an outstanding effort by the industry as a whole.
Adam Smith [00:13:28] Did you have to set up any special partnerships for that supply chain or was that just existing, just given Canada's existing legacy in nuclear industry?
Mike Rencheck [00:13:41] At the time when we were starting, we put a lot of thinking into how to help the supply chain get ready for our refurbishments here. So we're refurbishing six reactors and Ontario Power Generation is refurbishing four reactors, and we're both doing them in the same timeframe.
Mike Rencheck [00:13:57] So years ago, when Jeff Lyash was the CEO at Ontario Power Generation, Jeff and I put together a strategy of working with the suppliers and issuing long-term contracts for the parts. So for example, we gave BWXT a 10-year contract to build 32 steam generators, like 38 heat exchangers. And with that scale, BWXT was able to reinvest in their factory and modernize their factories for production. So as a consequence, we've been able to move forward and make parts through the pandemic, but in an orderly way and in a good way such that new people could be hired, trained, the factories could be modernized, and now we're set up for production over the next decade.
Mike Rencheck [00:14:48] But we did that throughout the supply chain for all those critical components needed to rebuild our CANDU reactors, and it's worked out quite well. And we still have a ways to go. We'll be finishing our first one with seven more to go, and OPG has two done with two more to go. So, so far, so good.
Adam Smith [00:15:10] It sounds like you have not only the construction and the operational knowledge to run all of these reactors, but you have the supply chain to make sure it gets built on time and on budget. Have you looked at expanding Bruce Power beyond the eight reactors that you currently have?
Mike Rencheck [00:15:26] Well, that's a great question. Here in Ontario, the Independent Electric System Operator has issued a document called The Pathways to Decarbonization. And in that, it says we will need something like 66,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2050 to decarbonize fully and also to be able to handle all the growth that will come from electric vehicles and in other industrial processes electrifying. In that document, it looks at different technologies. It looks at planning, roughly, around 18,000 megawatts of new nuclear capacity here in the province.
Mike Rencheck [00:16:10] So with that, one of the things that we look at Bruce Power is how do you get started with that? Really it starts around the permitting process, just being able to build the assets on land. So with that, we've looked earnestly over the last year of how we would approach permitting and what that would look like and who would need to participate. Would different groups like to participate?
Mike Rencheck [00:16:39] We've done some outreach with the local Saugeen Ojibway Nation here, one of our communities, as well as Métis of Ontario and Historic Saugeen Métis here locally. We've done some outreach with the province and also at the federal level with the CNSC in our Impact Assessment Group that will look at the environmental impact assessment to see what would be possible, what do timelines look like, especially for a facility like Bruce Power, where we've been operating the world's largest nuclear reactor here at site for the last 30, 40 years. Do you think there would be things that would really help shape that permitting process and shrink down the timeline?
Mike Rencheck [00:17:25] And since we're going through environmental assessments regularly... Here in Canada, we've relicensed every 5 to 10 years, so these are regular updates with regular reviews. But we think that permitting process really starts the ball rolling for new nuclear, and to be able to have a permit with the ability to build a new facility really opens the doors to examining technologies further.
Adam Smith [00:17:51] Have you looked at other technologies outside of the CANDU reactor?
Mike Rencheck [00:17:57] Bruce Power participates in a number of advisory committees. Obviously, we eight CANDU reactors; we're very familiar with the CANDU technology. We're participating in oversight groups and really staying plugged into a number of SMRs and even fusion technologies. But those are under development; they still have some work to be done. And as we're watching those and looking at those technologies, we keep assessments and keep current. That's why we think our best step forward here in the near term is to make sure that we can get a site permitted to be able to expand on. Whether we do it here at Bruce Power, elsewhere, or whether we choose not to do it, will remain to be seen as policy in Ontario gets shaped around that Pathways to Decarbonization document.
Adam Smith [00:18:47] Well I'm rooting for you. I'd love to see another 15 to 20 reactors up there at Bruce Power.
Mike Rencheck [00:18:52] Yeah. I don't think the site's big enough for that, but I will tell you when you look at that document that the Independent Electric System Operator put out, it certainly shows the need for baseload energy. And I think when you look around the world, especially now in the States, energy is really in short supply, not so much incremental capacity. And it's that baseload energy that really provides electric systems with their reliability and resiliency.
Mike Rencheck [00:19:22] And you look at some of the events that have happened recently, you look at Texas and ERCOT. The weather got cold, 180 people died from that. You see that in California when it gets warm. These are real concerns that are taking shape as the grids are applying more intermittent resources. So I think this notion of having baseload, reliable, 24/7, 365 power that people can count on really needs to be factored into how ISOs and RTOs are looking forward in resiliency and reliability.
Adam Smith [00:20:01] I completely agree. The term baseload is pretty much as the name suggests. It is the base of your grid and you cannot build it around an intermittent source or generation. Doesn't matter how much you put on it, you've just got to have 24/7 power to make up the bulk of it, and then you can build out from there.
Mike Rencheck [00:20:21] Yeah. And we need to be able to accommodate the intermittency. Like here at Bruce Power, we have a dynamic response. We can swing roughly 3,000 megawatts in five or ten minutes. So, we're very adaptable at helping manage the intermittent resources on the grid. And at the same time, when we need to we run baseload flat out. So, that enables the reliability and resiliency to be added to the grid. And I think when you talk about technology, it's a lot of these newer technologies that people are looking at now to be able to fit into the grid of the future.
Adam Smith [00:20:59] And not to distract from this topic, but I do want make sure we cover some of the other business lines for Bruce Power, and more specifically, around your medical isotope business, because I think that is absolutely fascinating. Can you talk about the isotope production systems that you have at Bruce Power?
Mike Rencheck [00:21:21] Yeah, sure. Let me tell you a little bit about Bruce Power as we get started in it. Bruce Power supplies 30% of the energy for Ontario at about 30% less than the average cost. So, we're a low-cost producer here in Ontario. We also make lifesaving medical isotopes. One of the isotopes we make is cobalt-60. We make enough cobalt-60 to sterilize about 40% of the once-used medical devices around the world. So what does that mean? That means if you go to the doctor's or the dentist's office anywhere in the world and they take something out of a plastic bag that says "sterile," there's a 40% chance it was sterilized by an isotope that we make here at Bruce Power.
Mike Rencheck [00:22:05] We also make a high specific activity cobalt-60 which is used to treat brain tumors and breast cancers. And then last year, we installed a very innovative system. It's called an isotope production system. Big fancy name, right? But what it is... We can make isotopes now in the power reactor running online, on time, all the time. And what I mean by that is the first isotope we chose to make is lutetium-177, which is a prostate cancer treatment. And it's also being used for advanced cancer research in a therapeutic procedure called theranostics, where Dr. Rebecca Wong is advancing a cancer treatment where she can do diagnosis and treatment at the same time using lutetium-177, and the results are really phenomenal. When she shows you pictures of a body full of cancer and then she shows you pictures with the cancer pretty much being remediated, it just sends chills up your spine.
Mike Rencheck [00:23:18] What this system does is it makes isotopes all the time so we can put targets in and then every week or so, produce a batch of isotopes that can be turned into medicine. So, it's at a whole other scale now. And that's the vision of making medical isotopes with power reactors. If we can make it in our reactor, we can make it at a scale now which makes it available for many. And the bottleneck now no longer becomes the production of the isotope where it has historically been with cancer treatments, it's really on the next stage now, how can you make the medicines faster? So we have been able to change that perspective for cancer treatments.
Mike Rencheck [00:24:29] I was talking to one doctor recently. He goes, "What do you mean by that?" And what I told him, I said, "Well, it's kind of like comparing a bucket of water to Lake Huron. And he goes, "Oh, I get what you mean now; there's no more waiting." I said, "Yeah, there's no more waiting. If we can make it, now cancer patients can get the medicines. As long as the medicine production facilities are there, they don't have to wait for their treatments anymore."
Adam Smith [00:24:55] That's amazing. So, here we have a power supply that is completely carbon-free and quite literally cures cancer. It's just amazing that this is not more widespread as of right now.
Mike Rencheck [00:25:09] Our next isotope will be a liver cancer treatment, and then we're looking for the next six to nine isotopes to make after that. We're beginning the expansion on our plants so we have one isotope system on one reactor. We can put an isotope reduction system on all eight reactors, and then we can also put multiple systems on a reactor. So, the scalability is there. The reliability and redundancy is there because you can put it on multiple reactors that are always running, and then you get the volume out of it. So it really solves a lot of the issues that have been involved with isotope production historically as they were coming from research reactors that run intermittently or cyclotrons that also would be running intermittently in much smaller batches.
Adam Smith [00:26:03] Do you have to change how you run the reactors to produce these isotopes, or is it like a completely plug-and-play type of solution where you don't have to change your business and this is just a completely new business line for you guys?
Mike Rencheck [00:26:18] No, you don't have to change at all how you're running the reactor. That's what we look at when we look at the isotopes, the cross-section to look at neutron absorption. Yeah, no issues on the reactor front; it runs as normal. It really doesn't even know that the isotope is inside being made, and then we bring it out while we're online. So, really no operational changes whatsoever to the operation of the reactor for power.
Adam Smith [00:26:47] That's so cool. You mentioned that you have... I believe that you said six to nine other isotopes that you're looking at making. Can you give us a hint as to what those might be, or is that a "to be determined?"
Mike Rencheck [00:27:03] Our partner in this is a group called Isogen, which is basically Framatome and Kinectrics. I don't think they would like me sharing that information on a podcast.
Adam Smith [00:27:13] That's fair.
Mike Rencheck [00:27:15] But it's exciting times for us. We're working on the expansion and we're working on the next treatment. We do have the liver cancer treatment announced and we'll be working on others here shortly.
Adam Smith [00:27:28] Can you go a little bit more into the liver cancer treatment? I think I read something where it was like microscopic glass balls that are irradiated. Can you talk about that a little bit more?
Mike Rencheck [00:27:39] It's yttrium-90. It's just another material we put in and add neutrons into it. We make the isotope and then Boston Scientific, the company we have a memorandum of understanding with, they take that isotope and then they turn it into a liver cancer treatment after that. So for us, it's just making the isotope.
Adam Smith [00:28:04] Got it. This might be a better question for the medical researcher side, but I figure you might know something about it. Are there treatments other than specific cancer treatments that these isotopes can be used for? I mean, sterilization, obviously.
Mike Rencheck [00:28:24] Yeah, sterilization. You can also look at how to eliminate viruses through mosquitoes by neutering the mosquitoes with radiation. You can use it for treatment for crops. Again, for killing microbes and things like that. Really functional items that we need in society to make sure we are all healthy and we have fresh food to eat and are free of disease. So, there are a lot of applications along those lines with isotopes.
Mike Rencheck [00:28:57] And in fact, here in Canada, we've formed something called the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council that now has its own wings and well over 80 members. It really includes all of the medical community, the isotope production community, researchers. It's led by one of the folks who works here at Bruce Power. His name is James Scongack; he's the chair right now. But this organization really is broadening how isotopes are looked at for different types of treatments.
Mike Rencheck [00:29:29] You know, one of the limitations for cancer treatments over the years was where they might have seen an isotope that was promising, but you couldn't find a place that could make it. And if they found a place that could make it, they might not be able to make it in large enough quantities to warrant the amount of research costs that would be put into the treatment, so they simply didn't do it. Well, when you look at what we're able to do now... If we can make it, we can make it at scale. Suddenly, these things become possible now. So in that sense, it's really unlocking the medical community to follow their best practices and really take a look at treatments more broadly now.
Adam Smith [00:30:13] Don't a lot of the isotopes have quite a short half lives so it makes transport of those isotopes, at least in quantity, pretty challenging?
Mike Rencheck [00:30:26] Yeah, it comes down to logistics. For lutetium-177, we take it from here, we ship it to Germany, they turn it around and put it into a medicine and into a patient within seven days. So yes, the logistics are very important. Clearly, some isotopes are shorter-lived, and that's what you have to look at when you're considering if you can make it. And if you can make it, how close does it have to be to the medicine production and then to the patient? So, these all factor into selection of the isotopes and how we view making them here at Bruce Power.
Adam Smith [00:31:05] Wow. It really sounds like you guys are pioneering the future of medicine up there. Do you have any visions or any sorts of forecasts on the future of nuclear energy, not just within Canada, but within the world?
Mike Rencheck [00:31:23] That's a great question again. I think if you go back over the past few years, you see an awakening of clean energy needs. And I think really, when the Russians invaded Ukraine and suddenly Europeans got cut off from natural gas, I think you've seen energy security move much higher than it has been previously. And when you say energy security, you're really talking about baseload nuclear power combined with intermittent renewable resources and battery storage to really help shape the energy industrial complex for society. It's really an energy source that can be counted on 24/7, 365. And I think that perspective really has changed the view on nuclear energy more broadly across the world, really within the last year.
Mike Rencheck [00:32:23] You can go back to 2016 when we started our Life Extension Program. It was here in Ontario, it was a view towards clean energy. Many people don't know this, but Ontario has a deeply decarbonized electric grid. We do it with 60% nuclear, about 25% hydro, about 8% wind, a fractional percentage of solar. That's all backed up by natural gas, and we have some biomass. So, we're about 93% emissions free. Most places around the world believe that deep decarbonization is below 50 grams equivalent of CO2 per kilowatt hour. Here in Ontario, we're at about 35 grams. When you think about that... I can compare it to some. Like, Germany's around 300 to 400 grams of CO2.
Adam Smith [00:33:21] Oh, wow.
Mike Rencheck [00:33:23] California's about 150 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour. They tend to want to be the groups or areas that are talked about for clean energy, but in reality it's the Nordic countries, Ontario, Quebec. We have among the cleanest grids in the world. And here in Ontario, we do it predominantly with nuclear. And you'll see a similar footprint in France and in Nordic countries when it comes to nuclear energy and clean energy.
Mike Rencheck [00:33:52] And here in Ontario, our average electric price for a deeply decarbonized electric grid is about $0.135 cents. And you look at California, it's about $0.30. Germany's $0.30 on any given day, maybe more. And they've got billions and billions and billions of dollars yet to invest to get to the point where Ontario is from a decarbonization perspective. So, doing it affordably. When you say the word affordably, you're going to put nuclear into that discussion and into that equation.
Adam Smith [00:34:29] Well, Germany is certainly not helping themselves on this front by shutting down three of their power plants. So even from a price perspective, they're just moving backwards at this point.
Mike Rencheck [00:34:39] Yeah, they put a new coal plant online in 2020 to help buffer their needs for electricity. So when you look at climate change, you've got to question the policy there. Is it heading in the right direction? Are they doing the right things? But every country will make their own decisions, and there may be a plan there for the long term that's just not obvious to folks. But in essence, every region of the world will likely have to approach it from their own way with their own resources. This is where carbon capture sequestration may come into play. You might see heavy renewables, lots of storage, hydro being accommodated, and nuclear. I think when you go around the world like that and you look at different regions, it's not a one size fits all solution. It's a very difficult and multifaceted issue.
Adam Smith [00:35:35] Are there any technologies out there or climate change focus... That could be clean energy, it could be carbon capture, anything along those lines that you're particularly interested in or fascinated by?
Mike Rencheck [00:35:48] Yeah, we're looking at nuclear. We're expanding our existing assets, clearly. We're taking our assets... We were a 6,300 megawatt plant in 2016. We're now at 6,550 megawatts. And then through our Project 2030, which aligns with our Life Extension Program... Our Life Extension Program finishes up around 2033. It's roughly a $15 billion investment over that timeframe. We'll be north of 7,000 megawatts. So effectively, we'll have added another reactor here at the site just through our Life Extension Program and our power upgrades. We think that's a very cost-effective solution.
Mike Rencheck [00:36:32] Then as we look forward at creating clean energy credits here through the expansion of nuclear, we'll be able to help other industries to decarbonize. We've done some work with battery storage here at site. We have a 10 megawatt battery that we've installed and we're looking at how to control it and the reliability of it. And we'll further look at other clean energy technologies.
Mike Rencheck [00:36:59] We have an interest a lot in the agricultural community because we're in farm country here. So, we've done a lot of work with different organizations now to look at how we can use crops to sequester carbon and how the accounting for that would actually work and how that could be certified. As we work toward those ends, there are lots of properties that aren't suitable for growing food crops. But if we could use it for other things like CO2 capture, it might also open up a source of revenue for farmers and also help rural communities be able to engage in some of the economic prosperity that the cities now enjoy. So, we're working heavily on that and we see that having a good potential into the future.
Adam Smith [00:37:59] Sounds like you've got your hands full up there at Bruce Power. You guys are doing everything from carbon sequestration to isotope production to just general clean energy production. You must be a busy man.
Mike Rencheck [00:38:12] With lots of interesting things to do in the industry. Day to day we focus on operation to make sure we do it well to a standard of excellence, and we're obviously focused on our Life Extension Program to make sure we renew our assets. But these existing assets that are anchoring society's electric needs, they really are counted on, and we take that job very seriously.
Adam Smith [00:38:37] Do you have any messages that you would like to share with our listeners on nuclear energy?
Mike Rencheck [00:38:44] I think innovation and the future really are in your hands. There are lots of things we can do. We've been innovating through the last years. Bruce Power was the very first company to issue a green bond for nuclear energy. We started working on it in 2017 to get ready to do it. Everyone kept saying, "No, you can't do this; it's nuclear." But by innovating and really working with investors and rating agencies, we've been able to issue the first green bond. I think we did it in 2020, 2021 now. That was for $500 million. And then just this year, we issued a second green bond for $600 million which are funding our Life Extension Program. Others now have done it. OPG has done one. I think EDF has done one, and I know there are some companies in the US now looking at green bonding.
Mike Rencheck [00:39:39] We've been able to apply artificial intelligence in our plants. Roughly 30% of our work orders now are being pre-planned by artificial intelligence. We've put a containment filtered vending system on, which is way modern technology compared to the old filters. And it really reduces any potential emission during an event nearly to the site boundary. And we're working on another application to get the iodine. If we get that, it'll limit it to the site boundary. So there are really no more issues with offsite releases if you have a severe event. And this modern technology isn't like the old filter events. It's much different, much more compact and really advanced. It's also a Framatome technology.
Mike Rencheck [00:40:31] Really, when you look at the industry, with today's computing power and the engineering resources that we have available, the innovation that can go into these plans to automate, to use more technology, to overcome problems that were faced in the 1960s and 1970s when many of these plants were originally designed like adaptive manufacturing and on and on and on, it really paints a good future for nuclear energy in terms of being safer, more reliable, easier to manufacture, and easier to build. And I think that's the focus now. This next generation, we have to show that we can not just come up with the technology, but we can actually build it. And I think those who can build the newer technologies on time and on budget from day one, they're going to have an order book that's going to more than overwhelm their company. And I look forward to that day.
Adam Smith [00:41:31] You and me both. It sounds like you have some really cutting edge stuff going on up there at Bruce Power. Before we wrap up, is there anything that you want our listeners to know about Bruce Power or any upcoming announcements that we should keep an eye out for?
Mike Rencheck [00:41:45] We're continuing to work on our Life Extension Program and bringing those units back into service. We're looking, really, at an expansion of our isotope production systems. And we'll keep working with both provincial and federal regulators to look at how we might go about permitting the site with our partners through our communities, Saugeen Ojibway Nation. If that's determined to be something we want to do, then we'll proceed down that path. So maybe some point in the future, we'll be looking at how we can go to fully permit our site here for an expansion beyond the power upgrades. Beyond the power upgrades.
Adam Smith [00:42:29] I look forward to seeing that announcement. Mike, thank you for coming on the Titans of Nuclear Podcast. We appreciate it.
Mike Rencheck [00:42:36] Thanks, Adam. Great to be here and thanks for having me.