Ep 200: Naomi Senehi - Media Operations Manager , Energy Impact Center
The Titans of Nuclear podcast (0:48)
0:48-10:15 (Naomi discusses the Energy Impact Center and the Titans of Nuclear podcast. She explains her role and the listener base.)
Q. What is the Energy Impact Center and the relationship to Titans of Nuclear?
A. The Energy Impact Center is a Washington DC based think tank with the primary goal of addressing climate change through deep decarbonization. More specifically, the Energy Impact Center is focused on reducing carbon emissions by 2030 and having 10 gigawatts of nuclear energy produced by 2040. Titans of Nuclear arose from the idea that gaining insights into the field can best be done through interviewing experts. With more than 170 episodes, the podcast attracts a broad audience with varying knowledge and interest in both nuclear energy and climate change. Titans of Nuclear is just one branch of the Energy Impact Center. This think tank hosts the Nuclear X Prize to motivate the discovery of new nuclear solutions and also conducts research, such as climate change impacts on drought.
As the Media Operations Manager of the Energy Impact Center and co-host of Titans of Nuclear, Naomi hopes to interview as many experts as she can. Because she does not come from a nuclear background, she was unsure of the types of questions to ask, what things had been challenged and what still needed to be explored. She therefore took on the approach of asking anything and challenging everything. While Naomi has learned a lot about the nuclear industry, she acknowledges that she has only skimmed the surface. This is because there are many perspectives within the nuclear industry as well as a wide range of uses for nuclear power. This greatly benefits the podcast, enabling Naomi to challenge experts to think about nuclear from a different angle, ultimately sparking new excitement and pushing the industry forward.
Titans of Nuclear attracts 125,000 unique listeners from 108 different countries. Nuclear is a global issue and it is important to reflect on the different changes that are occurring around the world. Naomi has been surprised by the listeners in very small countries as well as the growing listener base in the Middle East.
How Naomi joined Titans of Nuclear (10:16)
10:16-15:48 (Naomi explains her background and how she became the co-host of Titans of Nuclear.)
Q. How did you end up here?
A. Naomi is from Maryland and went to the University of Florida to study environmental engineering and fisheries. Her research focused on saltwater intrusion, which is an important issue in Florida where water quality and scarcity are of concern. Naomi worked on understanding how to make desalination feasible. This brought climate change to Naomi’s attention and introduced her to the idea of using nuclear energy to power desalination plants.
These interests align with the Energy Impact Center but Naomi had no experience in nuclear or media. However, this was a great benefit because it presented the opportunity to introduce new thinking to the nuclear industry.
What’s next for Naomi (15:49)
15:49-19:37 (Naomi explains that she will be pursuing a PhD to study the spread of antibiotic resistance through drinking water.)
Q. What are you going to do in graduate school?
A. Naomi will pursue a PhD in Rice University’s Environmental Engineering department. She will research the potential threat of spreading antibiotic resistance through drinking water. There are not many universities that study antibiotic resistance in an environmental context because this is an emerging issue. It is not yet known if antibiotic resistance is a fleeting issue, but Naomi will discover the degree of urgency that this issue presents.
Antibiotics exit the body in urine which is then treated at waste treatment plants. Treated water then enters a water body that will be used to supply drinking water, however antibiotics are not removed during the treatment process. A constant supply of antibiotics in drinking water causes the bacteria in your body to consistently be fighting antibiotics, meaning bacteria is becoming resistant. While scientists are studying how to remove antibiotics during the water treatment process, the wide variety of antibiotics creates a high cost for implementation.
Three common interview themes (19:38)
19:38-26:37 (Naomi explains the three common themes that have emerged during her time as a co-host.)
Q. What has surprised you during these interviews?
A. Naomi has noted three common themes that have arisen during her time as a co-host. The first is the limited window of time to address climate change and the need to build the support for nuclear now to ensure this window is not missed. The second involves the need to focus on the economics of nuclear. Plant development is often over budget and schedule, diminishing the ability for the nuclear industry to emerge. The third is nuclear as a national security issue. The US is falling behind in the nuclear sector and needs to catch up to China and Russia to ensure the US does not need to rely on another country for energy in the future.
Nuclear X Prize and future Titans (26:38)
26:38-32:28 (Naomi explains the Nuclear X Prize and her views on who else should be interviewed.)
Q. What is the goal of the Nuclear X Prize and in which areas do we need to interview more Titans?
A. The goal is to reach 10 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2040. The only way to achieve this goal is to attract investment and excite people who have new and different ideas about how to efficiently construct nuclear plants. The X Prize provides an innovation and financing hub to support and bring together interdisciplinary teams. These minds can reimagine construction together, which is needed to deploy great reactor ideas.
Naomi sees a need for regulators to be more excited about the industry. Naomi believes more regulators need to be interviewed to share how regulations are being pushed forward. She also sees a need to speak with more people from Congress who can speak on nuclear as a national issue. Seth Moultan, a democratic presidential candidate, has been interviewed on Titans of Nuclear. His staff has become excited and kept in touch with Naomi and the team. She sees Titans as a great opportunity to create a platform for politicians to share their views on nuclear with a broad audience.
The Fastest Path to Zero workshop (32:29)
32:29-36:19 (Naomi explains the Fastest Path to Zero workshop and her experience there.)
Q. What did you think about the Fastest Path to Zero workshop?
A. The two day event had panels and speakers as well as break out groups to discuss how nuclear can play a role in addressing climate change. This was the first time Naomi represented Titans of Nuclear and her first time attending a climate change conference. She notes the high level of excitement and strong community that had been built between people of different industries. The conference forced Naomi to think outside of the nuclear space and explore how nuclear can be integrated with other solutions, such as electric vehicles and city planning, to reach zero carbon emissions. The point of the conference was to share how the technological advancements of nuclear must be looked at from an interdisciplinary perspective. This is critical in understanding how to make nuclear economically viable and in understanding how nuclear can be applied in other contexts, such as in public policy. The conference enabled many professions to question each other in the same room, turning conversations into plans and pushing attendees to think about new topics and merge ideas.
The future of Titans of Nuclear (36:20)
36:20-44:40 (Naomi discusses what she sees for the future of Titans of Nuclear.)
Q. What is the long term plan for Titans of Nuclear?
A. Naomi is unsure of the exact direction in which Titans of Nuclear will evolve. Many interviewees feel strongly that nuclear is a climate change and national defense issue but there are many other applications for nuclear which are just as important. Naomi sees the podcast moving more towards becoming either a climate change discussion podcast or becoming focused on how nuclear is used in different fields. In the past, Titans of Nuclear evolved to regain a broader perspective on the importance of nuclear when Naomi joined as co-host.
Naomi hopes the Energy Impact Center grows. She hopes to see the X Prize create new nuclear by 2040. Naomi is unsure if Titans of Nuclear will scale because issues can change in the future. However, she hopes that it does scale so that more people can explore the role of nuclear in climate change and how it can add richness to a lifestyle dependent on energy.