Ep 363: Philip Johnson - Vice President, Fuel Cycle, UxC
Bret Kugelmass [00:00:59] Welcome to another episode of Titans of Nuclear. We're really excited to be joined today by Philip Johnson, VP of Fuel Supply at UxC. I think I got that right.
Philip Johnson [00:01:12] Fuel Cycle. Close enough
Bret Kugelmass [00:01:15] Fuel Cycle, Fuel Supply and Fuel Cycle. Well, welcome.
Philip Johnson [00:01:15] Thank you very much for having me. It's an honor to be here. As I told you before we started recording, I am a fan of the podcast, so this is super cool.
Bret Kugelmass [00:01:24] Great. We're excited to have your expertise and sort of unique lens. Maybe before we get to what you're doing now, give us your background. Where are you from?
Philip Johnson [00:01:34] As we record this here at the SMR and Advanced Reactor Conference, I from here in Atlanta. Born and raised; one of the few. It's a big transplant town if you weren't aware. I grew up in East Atlanta. I'm guessing we're working our way into how I got into nuclear.
Bret Kugelmass [00:01:56] Yeah, we're going through it. You grew up, and as a four year old, you said, "I want to know everything about nuclear fuels," or what?
Philip Johnson [00:02:01] Not at all. But highly interested in all things science. But, yeah, it never really crossed my radar. I will say, now that I've been in the industry for going on 14 years, it's kind of a weird, synergy, full circle thing. My two grandfathers were both engineers for the Navy in coastal Virginia and one of which was building the first reactors that went on subs and then boats. So it's kind of weird. It's come really full circle for me.
Bret Kugelmass [00:02:38] And did you know that in like high school as you were getting into science? Was that something that was talked about or like you didn't find out until later?
Philip Johnson [00:02:45] Yeah, I knew about it. He passed away from cancer as many of the fellows did that worked on those boats. But, yeah, I knew about it at the time, but I did not know how great nuclear energy was at the time. And that is something that now that I am a dad of two little kids, they've always got a social science project waiting in dear old dad. You know, I can educate the youth through them. So that's great. I will right that wrong that I had of not knowing.
Philip Johnson [00:03:21] So in high school, I was a golfer. I ended up working at a golf course here, a country club east of Atlanta, and worked my way up. As I got into college, I became a head professional there and then eventually general manager. It took me a long time to get through my undergrad, right around the corner at Georgia State here in downtown Atlanta. But I got a degree in economics and a minor in English. I know that's a very right brain, left brain kind of thing.
Bret Kugelmass [00:03:54] That's got to be a big advantage to have that sort of context.
Philip Johnson [00:03:57] Once again, I didn't know it at the time. That also coming full circle. I had no clue that it would be as advantageous as it proved to be. But as I was working in the golf industry, I said like, "You know, this isn't what I want to do forever." And when I graduated in 2008, in the middle of the, you know, financial crisis, there were limited opportunities. And my thought at the time was, I want to get into finance of some sort, or at least analyzing financial markets, using both my econ and English backgrounds. And initially I was planning on working at the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, and then and our back-end director, Senior Vice President of Back-end Publications Carlyn Greene said, "Hey, there's this big nuclear renaissance going on." Bear in mind, it's 2008, so the uranium price is coming off its highest high point of $136 bucks a pound, which still has not even come close to being met. And I was like, "You're in a nuclear renaissance? What is that all about? Please inform me." And so luckily, UxC, my company, invited myself and two of my colleagues that I still work with every single day, Anna and Christian, to come out to our Nuclear Fuel Training Seminar, which we put on every year. So if anybody is interested in learning about the nuclear fuel and nuclear power markets, please come, we'd love to have you. It's a wonderful training seminar for everybody from the supply side to the utility side and all points in between. Yeah, so that's where I kind of like got steeped in it and instantly I was hooked and luckily I got the job after that. So that was also super cool.
Bret Kugelmass [00:05:46] Yeah. And so you knew there was an opportunity at UxC. They happened to be putting on this training, which we can talk more about later. And then you're like, "Oh, this is super cool." It was done. It was an instant like, "This is super cool. I want it."
Philip Johnson [00:05:59] Instantly. Instantly I said, "Oh, not only is this interesting, it's something you can believe in," which is something I keep coming back to. Any of these conferences you attend, you see that you might have people that are pessimistic about the future because of what's happened in the past, but generally, if you are in this industry, you are a believer and there is nothing changing that tilt, right? So when I saw that firsthand and I got bit by the bug, so to speak, I instantly was like, "Oh yeah, totally." Not just something that I could work to have a job, but something that I can work and believe in and know now as a father that I'm doing something, in a little tiny, teeny, tiny, infinitesimal way to make the future a little bit better.
Bret Kugelmass [00:06:47] Yeah. But you got there in a day. I mean, that's incredible.
Philip Johnson [00:06:51] Yeah, it was very interesting. I've always had a very science background growing up. I've always been interested in it and just never really like crossed the divide between everyday environmental science and power production science, especially nuclear science.
Bret Kugelmass [00:07:08] There's complexity upon complexity there.
Philip Johnson [00:07:10] Exactly. And so it was kind of like you were saying, it was peeling an onion of just like every time I was like, "Whoa, what is SWU? That is crazy. You can make more uranium out of one, you know, amount of uranium. Wild." And so especially for UxC's purposes, we're focused predominantly on nuclear power statistics and data and nuclear fuel cycle market data and analysis. So it is quite a broad spectrum that we all get to kind of work in every day and monitor all the time. It is never ending. But because of that, it's made us great experts in the room. I would like to think at least.
Bret Kugelmass [00:07:56] Yeah, really cool. I want to push on this because it took... You know, I feel like I'm of average intelligence and it's taken me some time to really wrap my head around the different misperceptions. So you went to this seminar, and was there like a moment where it all clicked? I What really was that? Take us to that day where a day before you knew nothing about this.
Philip Johnson [00:08:24] Well, I'll say this. In the leadup to the seminar, I was researching heavily.
Bret Kugelmass [00:08:29] Okay. Yeah, you were doing your homework. You're doing your homework, and you say... Okay, okay, okay.
Philip Johnson [00:08:33] I will say at the time, the uranium side of things was the most attractive, especially like the mining and the market.
Bret Kugelmass [00:08:42] And you were approaching that from sort of an economics lens. There's a big supply and demand, slightly illiquid market.
Philip Johnson [00:08:50] Bingo, you got it. Absolutely. So it was very interesting, but then as the seminar progressed and I got to see how conversion happens, how you convert uranium to a gas and what all that entails, and then enrichment happens, which is still to this day to me, the greatest conundrum on Earth that you can enrich an isotope of uranium to make it more fissile. It's wild. It is like the closest humans have gotten to magic, in my opinion.
Bret Kugelmass [00:09:21] And that's really the secret sauce in this whole process, right?
Philip Johnson [00:09:25] You got it. If they were all CANDUs it would be pretty simple.
Bret Kugelmass [00:09:27] Right, right.
Philip Johnson [00:09:28] You mine this much and you burn that much, right. So our company, just to talk a little bit about UxC, we're the full spectrum data analysis company. We have three main lines of business, starting with we are the nuclear fuel price reporter, the industry's leading nuclear fuel price reporter. We do reports and analysis on everything from reactors all the way down to uranium conversion, enrichment, fabrication, spent and stored fuel and all points in between. And then we have tailored client-focused services for everything across the fuel cycle and spectrum.
Bret Kugelmass [00:10:13] Crazy. Yeah, let's take each of those one at a time, if we can. There's a lot there.
Philip Johnson [00:10:18] There is a lot, yes.
Bret Kugelmass [00:10:19] So, yeah. So talk to us a little bit about the fuel pricing and there's some relationship with what's traded on NYMEX, right? I mean, give us some of that background.
Philip Johnson [00:10:30] We'll start with the NYMEX part first. In 2007, right before I came on, we helped NYMEX, now CME Group, launch the UX Uranium Futures Contract.
Bret Kugelmass [00:10:43] That's a SWU contract?
Philip Johnson [00:10:44] No, that's a uranium financially settled contract. And so each contract is a 250 pound lot. So it is traded on the futures market. There's nobody in a pit yelling at anybody. I don't even think they really do that anymore for corn and cotton, all the other things.
Bret Kugelmass [00:11:03] They're all lined up, you know, the exact same meters away from the...
Philip Johnson [00:11:08] Exactly. So that was kind of UxC's foray into our prices becoming regulated because the CFTC kind of has like an audit capacity over anyone who is helping launch a futures initiative.
Bret Kugelmass [00:11:25] Were you there for this process?
Philip Johnson [00:11:27] No, I was still in college.
Bret Kugelmass [00:11:29] It would have been fascinating to see how that... Like who says, "Hey, I want to go create a financial derivative around uranium," that's crazy.
Philip Johnson [00:11:35] Right, right. You got it. You got it. And there has been a lot of push over the years to make it physically settled, but uranium storage constraints make it such that it's just, it's never gotten there. It doesn't mean it won't. I'm not endorsing, I'm just saying that has been kind of a thing.
Bret Kugelmass [00:11:53] So that's interesting, because there are challenges in storing other commodities that are traded and settled physically, right?
Philip Johnson [00:12:00] Of course, of course.
Bret Kugelmass [00:12:01] Is it just like the liquidity in the market, like the physic of that?
Philip Johnson [00:12:05] I would say that would be an overriding factor. But people have tried. This is not... It just, it's never materialized. And, you know, just like anything in this industry, you can point to big points in time where things had a crescendo of progress and then something happened and then for some reason it stopped, right?
Bret Kugelmass [00:12:28] Sure.
Philip Johnson [00:12:28] 2011. How about that? Why did it all stop right there? So, yeah, you asked about pricing. So UxC publishes prices every Monday. So last night we published our spot UX U3O8 price. And so that's basically, call it a 100,000 pound lot of uranium that is for what we call prompt delivery, but that's anywhere greater than or equal to three months. And then once a month, for us it's the last Monday of every month... I know this is a testament...
Bret Kugelmass [00:13:09] No, no, that's good. I'm just trying to keep it all straight in my mind. I'm used to like hourly trading of commodities.
Philip Johnson [00:13:13] Sure. I was going to say this is a testament to how illiquid the uranium market is at hand. It's just how it goes. But on the last Monday of every month, we publish all our other fuel pricing indicators for conversion enrichment.
Bret Kugelmass [00:13:32] Got it. So that's across the enrichment and fabrications spectra.
Philip Johnson [00:13:36] Right. Plus we publish, on the last Monday of every month, our long term UX U3O8 price.
Bret Kugelmass [00:13:42] Got it. And how close are these financial products priced to the actual underlying commodity? Does it get pretty disconnected just because of the long-term contract nature?
Philip Johnson [00:13:55] Our price is the most referenced indicator in contracts.
Bret Kugelmass [00:14:00] So you create the benchmark.
Philip Johnson [00:14:01] Right. This is delinked from the CME Group, the futures market, right? They settle on our price. But because that's just a financial, our price is actually used for physical trade as well, more than... There was an independent analysis done a few years back and most of the time it's referencing UxC's prices, so. So spot gets priced out every week, we're in the mid-40's now, we're coming off of the highest high point in since pre-Fukushima, $63.75 I think, just a few weeks ago. If you'd like to talk about what's happened in the market lately...
Bret Kugelmass [00:14:50] Yeah give us kind of a six month window because I mean there's really been a couple of macro events on that course. Give us your view of that.
Philip Johnson [00:14:59] Right. So my colleague, Anya, whom I spoke of earlier, who got hired when I did, she gave a presentation recently and dubbed 2022 "The Year of Policy." Now to back up before that for the uranium market side of things, it was the year of the financial funds who have gotten into the market and started buying up spot uranium and in doing so have tremendously improved the price in quite short order. So right now there's a handful of funds. The leading is called Sput, it's the Sprott Uranium Trust. And so basically when their stock price is trading at a premium to their NAV, they can raise money by issuing new units, selling them on the market and then buying more uranium.
Bret Kugelmass [00:15:57] Good business model, little built-in gain.
Philip Johnson [00:16:01] It is a great business model and they've been really great at it. They came in after transitioning, taking over a company called UPC that was a similar vehicle but did not have the liquidity prowess, the ability to generate capital so quickly and buy so quickly.
Bret Kugelmass [00:16:21] And that's done in the public market. Public equities, now public markets?
Philip Johnson [00:16:24] That's correct. And they're not the only ones; there's other ones. Yellow Cake plc just recently; Kazatomprom, the Kazakh uranium mining giant, they are helping to back another one called ANU Energy. There's URC. So we have a bunch. What really kicked this off was in 2021, we had a slew of junior uranium producers. So like near term producers, guys that either had production and had to shut it down because prices were too low or are getting close to producing from a mine. They saw, "Okay, this is a good time to raise some money, buy our own pieces of supply that we can use to backstop contracts." And so they did in early 2021, while Sprott was working on transitioning the UPC Fund to now the Sprott Fund. And in that time, I checked it this morning, I think they're over 55 million pounds. So that's a tremendous amount considering that, you know, global annual production last year was like 123 million pounds. So their ability to absorb inventory has been huge for this market. It has been incredibly price supportive and really sustained prices where after Fukushima we were coming off just a continualy down...
Bret Kugelmass [00:18:05] It was a supply glut, right? Turned off demand, instantaneously.
Philip Johnson [00:18:08] That's right. And even the biggest uranium miners in the space will say that they were overproducing, well beyond when they should have. And hindsight's 20/20; that's how it goes. But now there's kind of like new life breathed into the industry. I'm sorry, I started in '22, went back to '21, back to '11. Now let's go back to 2022. So at the outset of the year, I mean, as everyone knows, everything is pandemic related, supply chain issue for everything. And that also affects uranium production because now while you have these health and safety procedures loosening up, you also have supply chain issues that are causing disruptions for, let's say, lixiviants and mining solutions, getting to in-situ recovery sites. So, "Oh, we don't have enough to feed our well fields right now, or it's, "We have a problem getting tubing from China for new drills." There are a lot of little disruptors, and then as 2022 started, Kazakhstan, the largest uranium producer in the world, they had some civil unrest. It kicked off in mid-January, and that kind of started propelling prices, getting them up a little bit. And kind of when we all thought we were out of the woods, then the Russia-Ukraine situation kicked off. And that has truly put a point on Anna's contention that this is the year of geopolitics because it has left so many folks and our industry, and that's not just limited to fuel buyers, that is the finance side, that is the government side, kind of wondering like, "What do we do now?" Russia is such a huge player...
Bret Kugelmass [00:20:15] Yeah, how big are they? Give us a sense here of the percentages.
Philip Johnson [00:20:19] I don't have anything specific off the top of my head as far as like... So Russia is not a huge uranium producer. They are a huge supplier of SWU. So they're a huge supplier of enrichment services. Now, something that I feel the casual, just nuclear fan, can appreciate is, back to hindsight is always 20/20, we've heard a lot and seen on Twitter a lot that people are like, "Well, how could U.S. utilities sign contracts with Russia?" And they say it like, "Oh, you should have seen this all along." But the point is, it started with there was a megatons to megawatts agreement where our government, the United States government and the Russian government brokered a deal to take warheads, dismantle them down, blend them into commercial reactor fuel and put them into nuclear power plants. Well, that was kind of the first major step of good faith. And from that time, the folks that work in Russia in the Russian enrichment industry have gotten to be so that they are just a part of the market unlike anyone else. I feel like the outsider looking in is... I feel like their head's going to spin, but it's like this is just how it is. And not only that, shortly before everything went crazy, there was a new deal brokered by the United States government that set limits for what could be imported from Russia under the RSA, the Russian Suspension Agreement. So the point of it is, is that while the casual viewer might be like, "How could they hitch their wagon," so to speak. It's like, it's baked in the cake at this point.
Bret Kugelmass [00:22:26] Is that a pun, or?
Philip Johnson [00:22:30] Unintentional, but good call. But in the wake of it, we've seen a lot of utilities the world over trying to figure out what are our next moves. Where do we diversify? Where are we going to get enrichment? The ones that are feeling the pinch the most, I think it's fair to say, are those that operate VVER reactors that are, you know, their fabrication services are fully supplied by Russia. Now, Westinghouse has the capability and does supply several VVER-1000s, but there are a bunch of VVER-440s that the only supplier is Russia. It was a Russian-built reactor for places like Finland and former Eastern Bloc places. So right now, in the Year of Geopolitics, a lot of fuel buyers minds are keen to figure out how do I diversify? Where should my next pounds come from? That's not just enrichment that's worked its way back up the fuel cycle, or back down, whatever, all the way across.
Bret Kugelmass [00:23:46] Upstream, in oil and gas parlance.
Philip Johnson [00:23:49] Yes, exactly. So it's been a very interesting year. And then on top of that, adding to kind of the price supportive factors, you have Macron getting elected in France, coming in saying, "We're going to build new reactors." You have Boris Johnson and Kwasi Kwarteng, greatest name in government if you ask me, saying in the UK, "We're going to launch the great British nuclear vehicle and we are going to build reactors." And I think one that is getting highly overlooked right now, if I can talk about reactor side of things, is South Korea. South Korea recently elected... Moon Jae-in government came in in 2016, I believe, and he said, "No new nuclear, and we're going to cancel all the projects that we have underway." And then he put Shin Kori, I believe 1 and 2, up to a public vote to say, "Do you want this?" And the people voted for it. So that was great. Those units continued construction. But since the South Korean nuclear industry has experienced, you know, job degrowth and just deterioration of skills, there have been many in the government that have over the years clamored like, "Hey, this is a problem. This is a major export for our country." And so in the latest election, the opposition candidate Yoon won. And that is incredibly bullish for nuclear because he's already made it a priority to restart construction on two new units that were all the way at the shovel ready stage. And so those are supposed to be under full construction by 2024, 2025. License extensions for the oldest units. They're going to start with first Kori 2. And then what I think is really incredible is an internal edict to build ten export reactors.
Philip Johnson [00:26:10] Now, if you have been watching what's happened with the Barakah nuclear power plant in the UAE, it is one of the few nuclear projects that, despite whatever challenges that they have encountered, they put a new four unit nuclear power plant, I mean, now today only two are fully operational, but they've said we're going to build it; they built it. And that for nuclear should be like, "Hey. This is possible. This can be done." So that is incredibly important when you consider that KHNP, the state utility in Korea, went out to Poland and said, "Hey, you guys want reactors, right? Look at what we've been able to do in the UAE." Well, it's gone swimmingly for the most part. And then just yesterday, KHNP's CEO said that the company would be even willing to take a stake in the new units, which only further supports from a financial perspective. Because, you know, you see in the UK, the UK government carved China's CGN out of the Sizewell C project, and now they're out raising foreign capital or foreign investment and domestic investment to get that plant built as well. If you had an agency that said, "Not only can we build it, we have, and we will help you finance it," that's yet another tick on the box, I would say, for more nuclear supportive measures.
Philip Johnson [00:27:54] And then add on top of all of that the reason why we are in this room today, the SMRs and ARs of this industry. You can't say they're back because they were never really here, but I would say if there's a "who's back of the year," it's the SMRs and ARs for this industry, because just as evidenced by how many folks are here at this conference, the fervor around the future of nuclear is small nuclear that can be flexible, that can provide a bunch of ancillary services ranging from hydrogen production to heat, desalination, steam, all the things. And honestly, this industry, that's what the future is demanding. And we are cautiously optimistic on the future of SMRs. But, you know, we have to see them get built first. And right now, China is doing a great job of it. The Changjiang SMR Demonstration Program, that's in Hainan Province, and that's built alongside Changjiang 1 through 4, where units 3 and 4 are being built today. But that SMR is a 125 megawatt PWR SMR. It's just a scaled down version of China's domestic technology.
Philip Johnson [00:29:22] Also, can't talk about nuclear today without talking about how China has done a really remarkable job to take their Hualong One HPR 1000 large reactor design and make it a reality. They're saying in their environmental impact reports, "We're going to build it in 60 months," and they're building it in 60, 65 months. I mean, for this industry that is crucial. You have to expand capacity because we see just a lot of numbers. You can only operate a nuclear power plant for so long. Now we're finding that you can continue to extend and extend and extend and that's awesome. The longer we can keep the current fleet online, the better for everybody. But the ability to shorten construction schedules for the next wave of LWRs and SMRs and ARs is going to be key.
Bret Kugelmass [00:30:16] Yeah, I mean there's really a lot happening. And sometimes that's good and bad. I mean, think about the different levers you just talked about as far as customer sats, right, and business models and everything else. What are you most excited about and most nervous about as you think about all of those things, and you kind of see across the different geopolitics?
Philip Johnson [00:30:37] Whew. Let's start with nervous first. I would say personally, I'm not speaking on behalf of UxC when I say this, I am concerned about Russia because they are currently having to operate under constrained financial sanctions from every direction. Yet they are building four units in Turkey and about to pour concrete any day now in Egypt. There are reactors that are what the industry has been counting on for a while now as these are the next units coming online. And I'm not saying that they won't, at all. I'm not saying that. I believe they are able to conduct business. But if they can't, then we'll see what happens.
Bret Kugelmass [00:31:34] And you think that's just a messaging issue where there seems to be some macro discussion about nuclear? And then if the next couple of projects get pulled, people won't look behind the curtain as to why, they'll just say, "Hey, this is... Look, we can't..." There's been enough sort of black eyes, I would say, that it's just one more.
Philip Johnson [00:31:52] Tthere you go. I think that's key. And, you know, it would be one thing if it were such that midstream you could change vendors and say, "Oh, I want a different supplier now." You can't do that with a nuclear power plant. You know, the VVER-1200s that are under construction at so many sites are built and manufactured and delivered from Russia. So if anything should go wrong, if that is a concern point, to me that would be it.
Bret Kugelmass [00:32:28] I mean, it's really a lose-lose proposition, right? Because otherwise you have a global enemy building something or you have... you actually kind of paint a corner a little bit.
Philip Johnson [00:32:41] Yeah, sure. From our standpoint, since we're not just in reactor ops, we are fuel cycle consultants as well and fuel cycle data suppliers, we look at every new unit as new future demand and that demand lost, it reverberates down the supply chain for fuel. So that is a thing. Now to the positive, I'm happy that I started with negative and get to end on a positive, there are for the first time in such a long time so many bright spots in this industry ranging from... Look, Vogel has had its troubles getting to this point, but there are two reactors that are going to finally come online in Georgia here in the next year or so. That's incredible. It could have gone the way of V.C. Summer and been canceled altogether. So, wonderful. Two new units. On top of that, we have seen that here in the United States, several state programs, namely Zero Emissions Credit, ZECs, were adopted in several states like Illinois, New York, New Jersey. Pennsylvania got a carve out in their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. So we're seeing all these state factors, state supportive measures that are helping to support aging reactors. What's happening also that I think can't be overlooked is that's happening at a time when natural gas prices are creeping up. Because so much American supply is getting put on a boat and delivered elsewhere because they can get more money for it. Why wouldn't you? And natural gas has been, and to a lesser degree, subsidized renewables has been the the thorn in the craw of nuclear, especially in deregulated environments because when you're baseloading with gas and backfilling with renewables that basically get paid even if they don't work, then hey, we don't need a nuclear plant. From an energy perspective, what should be priced in is the clean energy component of that. And unfortunately that has failed until now that you have these supportive programs. But I think, to put a bow on it, you take it to the federal level and you see that now the United States government through the Department of Energy, is administering $6 billion dollars of potential funding for nuclear power plants to keep them on line.
Philip Johnson [00:35:41] Unfortunately, we lost Palisades on May 20th, so too little, too late, but I guess better late than never. And that is the truth, because the most important reactor is the next one, right? Because you can't keep cutting and expect things to be cool. It just won't... It doesn't work. But then across presidential administrations, I think Caroline from Oklo said this today, that they've seen across now three different presidential administrations, there has been undeterred support from the federal level down for domestically built SMRs and ARs. And that is incredibly encouraging because you can see a future where you have SMRs and advanced reactors baseloading smaller grids and able to load follow renewables if necessary. As I said, I'm a huge fan of this podcast and I totally agree with a lot of the conjecture that I've heard over the years that it's like, "Renewables? Who needs them?" But I think they are a factor and we do need them. I think they're great. I just don't think that they should be considered baseload power. And I don't feel like that's a "I'm going out on a limb" type of statement.
Bret Kugelmass [00:37:06] I mean, it certainly, and I would nit at one word that you said in there about, you know, if you have gas backstopping renewables, you don't need nuclear. And that's not really true. A lot of these markets actually have relied on nuclear, it's just a question of, do you really want to create a demand incentive around energy based on the cheapest 30 minute deliverable? Would you pick the cheapest doctor available? There's some necessity around energy in our system today; it's a missing money conundrum, which is a term even back from my gas days. It's like, how do you value that reliability portion? And then on top of that now, how do you value the clean portion?
Philip Johnson [00:37:48] That's right. And so thus far, the best we've found is through Zero Emissions Credits. And in the case of Pennsylvania, it hasn't "happened" happened yet, but putting reactors under, actually it happened in Connecticut, putting reactors under a clean energy, higher priced environment so that nuclear operators can obtain just a few more dollars so that they can cover their capital costs because you've got to maintain plants to keep them going.
Bret Kugelmass [00:38:17] Truly technology agnostic market solutions.
Philip Johnson [00:38:20] Got it.
Bret Kugelmass [00:38:20] I mean, it seems straightforward.
Philip Johnson [00:38:21] Yeah, it seems straightforward. Unfortunately, it seems like we wasted too many good nuclear power plants to get to the point where people are like, "Maybe we should stop doing this."
Bret Kugelmass [00:38:30] Yeah, that's true. There's a lot of promising future though. Okay, I guess last question. What last thing do you want to leave our listeners with? We covered a lot of ground.
Philip Johnson [00:38:44] I hope the future is nuclear. I want it to be. I think everyone that is in this building right now that is here for this conference does. But I will say that getting hired in the nuclear renaissance and living through Fukushima and the downturn after has made me kind of appreciate the importance of this time for nuclear. Now it is nuclear's chance to show that it can be what we all want it to be, what everybody here wants it to be. It has to. It cannot miss this opportunity. So I think the next two years, three years are going to be critical for the future of this industry. I mean, no hyperbole, it is going to be make or break. It's weird that you have so many headwinds kind of pushing on each other right now, which is nothing new for the nuclear industry, that's the name of the game, but it feels like... I don't like saying this too loud, but it kind of feels like for once, the positive tailwind is pushing a little bit harder. And the longer we can sustain that, the better off it will be for everybody.
Bret Kugelmass [00:40:12] Couldn't agree more. Time to execute.
Philip Johnson [00:40:14] That's right.
Bret Kugelmass [00:40:14] Well, great. Well, thanks so much for coming on.
Philip Johnson [00:40:16] Thank you so much.