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Something's Rotten with French Nuclear

Mark Nelson

Monday, June 27, 2022

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to Decouple, we have a very special guests and a very special topic today, a much awaited topic, one that we've let leak on several occasions. And I think there's a lot of appetite to understand this topic. But first, to reintroduce Mark Nelson, I think everybody who listens to this podcast regularly would know him unless it's been, you've joined in the last two months, because we haven't seen much of Mark recently. But we're gonna fix that all today with a very interesting discussion about what the hell is going on with French nuclear. You know, I'm thinking of like a hamlet kind of title here. There's something rotten in the kingdom of France here, but it's a republic. Anyway, Mark, welcome back. It's been far too long.

Mark Nelson  0:45  

Thanks, Chris. We're turning to a topic that is possibly the most important in the world of nuclear, in my opinion. And that's France, and its nuclear fleet. Specifically, France, its nuclear fleet and its failures. Yeah.

Chris Keefer  1:01  

And I mean, all the more disappointing because I think a lot of us point to France as a real model for a buildup, right 54 reactors, built in 20 years, it's the Promised Land decarbonize not only the electricity, but a lot of their heating. I think 55% of their rail network is electric. You know, so they did the hard energy path, and they overbuilt some great clean energy sources. And that seemed to be going well for some time. But right now, particularly with the geopolitical implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this was France moment to shine. And it should have been unfortunately, this is Frances shame. So yeah. I'm editorializing too much jump in Mark, jump in.

Mark Nelson  1:45  

Sure. Well, you you say the hard energy path. One of our previous episodes talked about Amory Levin's and his famous essay for Foreign Affairs on the soft energy path, which is, say, the environmental vision where you get a can of oil and pour it into a nice oil burner right there at your stove in order to cook a little meal. And then the heart energy path where you have these massive, aesthetically uninteresting if you don't know about energy, aesthetically uninteresting nuclear plants that just crank out huge amounts of electricity that people just use all the time. And see, that was the that was the heart energy path, because it's big, scary technologies and the soft energy like pouring oil into your own houses burner out in a cozy cabin in the woods. That's the soft energy path. And then as different technologies came on, like maybe slightly better solar panels or slightly taller wind turbines, it try, they tried to get that included in like sort of soft energy, even though as they now say, we need a big electricity grid to carry the energy, right. So a lot of confusion. But France did everything pretty much that Amory Levin's said should not be the basis of energy. And they built out. Well, they ended up with 62 reactors, that they built in a relatively short period of time, the majority of those built in a frantic 1015 year period in the late 70s to early 90s. And so like you said, this is this was a goal for many nuclear people. Because we saw a real world example no one can ever say it didn't happen, that an entire society built around expanded beyond its previous size and wealth on a base of nuclear energy. So they did something that's actually somewhat rare. They appeared to permanently expand their their per capita wealth and their economy, while their population was slight, not growing much was slightly growing. And they did it with their carbon emissions decreasing not just absolutely in energy, not just absolutely in the entire economy, but by a large amount both absolutely and per unit of energy used and per unit of wealth produced all any metric you could possibly use, except for one we'll talk about later that was used to denigrate the success by almost any possible metric it was a success.

Chris Keefer  4:13  

Yeah, I mean, this this podcast is called Decouple and that that is, I think, kind of Premier example of of decoupling, so one, that one that we like to talk about, and indeed just again to give we have quite the quite the backlog of episodes. To learn more about this we have a great episode with Myrto Tripathi talking about France. I'm going to forget the one word but new Neverland pod the real or we don't have like oil means everyone Dizzy day. You know this, this big build out in the urgency you talked about?

Mark Nelson  4:42  

We don't have oil. We don't have gas. We don't have coal. But we have ideas.

Chris Keefer  4:46  

Yeah, yeah. And so in response to the skyrocketing price of oil and fossil fuels. You know, that's why it happened. We have another great episode with Francois Bakshi, who was a nuclear engineer around in that heyday in the 70s and 80s. So 90s Working at EDF building nuclear reactors called the preconditions of the Mesmer plan. So that's another great one. If you want to learn more and get inspired about how it all began, but we have some sadder tales to tell, and Mark, you have a great way of telling stories, and you'd like to work in some pop culture references. So I believe there's a fairy tale that is going to help ground people on this discussion, and maybe, you know, a movie or pop culture reference, let's lay the scene for us, Mark.

Mark Nelson  5:34  

I think that people, your listeners of a certain generation, especially those from the United States will know the author Shel Silverstein, who specialized in very funny, but quite dark and often very serious, fantasy and nonsense, and I guess, humorous poems for kids. So one of his most famous books is named after the title poem, which is The Giving Tree. And in The Giving Tree, there is a big tree, and a boy that loves the tree. And the boy goes and visits the tree sits under the trees, shade gets apples from the tree, it's a wonderful relationship, and the tree is so happy to provide whatever she can. For the boy, she loves the boy, the boy loves the tree. As the boy grows, the tree starts giving more and more more apples more branches, more, even its tree trunk, even the trunk of the tree gets used to carve the the stages of the boy's life in the tree starting with boy plus tree, you know at the heart, and then boy plus his young love when he brings a girl and he visits the tree less and less frequently as he gets older, and starts eventually coming only when he needed large material sacrifices from the tree, eventually ending with cutting the entire tree down to a stump to use its wood. And at every stage, the tree wanted to give more and more and effectively was rationalizing how much of herself she was given giving by saying how great a gift it was that she was giving all the way up until the destruction of her entire body. And of course, that means nobody else could get the gifts. And then finally, as an old man, the boy walks on over to the tree. And there's almost nothing left the tree can provide. She says I don't have apples, I don't have branches, I don't even have a trunk. And the old man says it's okay, I don't have teeth anymore. So I can't even eat branches. And I have no no need for almost anything else except for a place to sit. So he sits his ass right down on the tree trunk and the trees happy to be able to provide it again, a super awful and depressing tale. And I don't think it was written to show the theme of that it's good to be separate, selfless and give yourself but I think it's a perfect metaphor for the French nuclear fleet. And to try to get the stages of the story matched up to where we are with the French nuclear fleet. We're somewhere in the cutting of almost all the main branches. And we're sizing up the trunk to see how much firewood or maybe even house construction material we could get get out of it now that commodities are pretty expensive. That's where France is in its relationship with its own nuclear fleet.

Chris Keefer  8:28  

And before we get into your other knowledge, I mean, let's let's also just kind of set the scene. You know, they'll go into too much detail, but about, you know, what's what's happening to Europe in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and what France could have been if it had managed his nuclear fleet, as well as the Americans, I guess, or

Mark Nelson  8:46  

Sure, yeah, let's do that. So at its peak, the French nuclear fleet was producing 434 4450 terawatt hours per year to put terawatt hours per year in perspective for people. Single productive nuclear reactors should be depending on size, able to produce five to 10 terawatt hours of electricity per year. Entire small nations run off of a few dozen terawatt hours per year of electricity. Giant city is gonna need maybe, you know, giant first world city may use a couple of terawatt hours per year for it and surrounding industries. The United States runs through about 4000 terawatt hours per year of which about 20% or 800 terawatt hours is coming from its world leading nuclear fleet in terms of size and output. So the French nuclear fleet just to size it up for you was making over half of the amount that the US nuclear fleet was making but in a country with much, much smaller energy needs. It might be better even for our purposes to look at it in terms of, instead of France being what 65 million In person country, that Europe is a billion people and needs energy for a billion people has a grid that spans almost every country, and the French nuclear fleet would have been something like a quarter of that electricity. So almost the same percentage as that was of US electricity consumption.

Chris Keefer  10:21  

You know, I tend to be, and I think you've been able to balance this nicely for me, but you know, I have biases towards I guess, statism and, you know, public ownership. And it's very interesting. And we'll probably make some French American comparisons in terms of, you know, the US sucks at building and licensing new reactors, but they're operating them exceptionally well. And as you pointed out, to me in a number of occasions, you know, great state run builds, like France or South Korea, have utterly flopped if the state loses interest, or if the state becomes actively anti nuclear. That's such a vulnerability. And I mean, certainly the regulatory body in terms of approving new reactions in the States is utterly dysfunctional, and frankly, hostile, but you guys are running them well. So maybe we'll bookmark that for later. But again, just you know, this is, I guess, kind of obvious, but in the context of what's going on, in European energy, right now, if if France was running at its peak, and able to deliver in the ways it has in the past, How would things look different for Europe right now?

Mark Nelson  11:21  

Well, if the French nuclear fleet were increased in size per reactor, that is each reactor refurbished with larger steam generators, upgraded, controls, upgraded generators, perhaps, then each French reactor could have gained that 10 to 25% extra power that most reactors of the exact same type around the entire planet have gotten. So you have most directors around the world getting 10 20% up, operates up rates is the word and not in France. So let's say they've done that. And let's say that instead of the catastrophically low production, they're currently saying I said for 3444 50 was the was the peak we've seen in the last decade, well, they've fallen so low, that this year, we've heard claims that France will only make 300 terawatt hours out of a fleet that is two thirds the size of the American they're going to make three eighths of the electricity on a fleet two thirds the size that gives an approximate capacity factor of just below 60%. Most nuclear fleets composed of the exact same reactors, the reactor types are very closely related designs are above 90%. In the rest of the world.

Chris Keefer  12:47  

This is brought up frequently amongst Anti-nuclear Folks, even before the current fiasco, but the French, the French capacity factors are quite low. And my understanding is part of that is due to the French using a nuclear fleet to heat with and so they run all out in the winter, at least they used to. And they will, you know, they'll have layups for weekends and things like that when demand is low. And they have a little more ability to, you know, do some response and things like that. I mean, they're also huge electricity exporters, you know, is it just not feasible to run such a large fleet at high capacity factories, because there's not a market for that electricity during periods when French demand is low in the summer? Say,

Mark Nelson  13:22  

Chris, we've heard those for years for people, both pro nuclear and anti French nuclear, pro, nuclear, pro, French, nuclear, anti nuclear, anti French nuclear, yeah, we've heard all those same things. At the moment, a lot of those things are starting to look like excuses. Bad excuses, especially from the pronuclear. Folks Oh, well, especially from French folks that I've talked to, they're saying things like, Oh, don't worry, this was last fall, don't worry about our low capacity factor. Now we're optimizing to be there for the winter. As if you can just be bad at operations during this period. And you're going to magically be good at operations another period or that the reasons the the changes to your staffing the changes to your work ethic, the changes to your approach, that can allow you to just have an immense number of your reactors offline to a lot of the year can just be turned around during peak times. You know what, it was true for a bit. It was true for a while and then you had you had this sort of seasonal dipping and peeking dipping and peaking where in the summertime, you had very long slow stately reactor outages and refueling and re re you know, they call it grind Karen aaj the the operations to retrofit the fleet to be ready for the next few decades of operation. Those things used to take place very steadily in the summer and in the winter, you would see The reactors at full capacity. And then the difference between American reactors being on essentially the whole year and French fleet kind of slackening off in the summer. That was the difference between the capacity factors, right, it wasn't the availab Instant availability in winter, when electricity was most needed. It was just the the low production in the summer. But during the time, when you saw that high winter, low summer laws were being passed, that we're going to require much less nuclear electricity production. So there's this critical period, about seven or eight years ago, that set the stage for the crippling devastating changes we're seeing now in the French nuclear operational record, which is during the time period, where intense changes would have needed to be made to maintain high productivity in a future where there wasn't enough energy. Instead, the number one problem with the French nuclear fleet was seen that there was too much of it. So long term investments weren't made, changes in staffing culture weren't made up, there's blame to go around. But in general, France, the elites in France, were sharpening their axes, and licking their lips, looking at the amount of wood that they could get out of the trunk of The Giving Tree.

Chris Keefer  16:28  

And just remind me, again, the decision and rationale. So there was a decision, I think, to go from 75%, nuclear to 50%. And my understanding of the rationale was that all eventually all this shit is going to shut down. We built it in a very short period of time, so it's all gonna have to retire at the same time, we better sort of ramp some of it down prematurely and start building other sources like wind and solar. So that we have a smoother transition, presumably entirely away from nuclear one day was that was that the thought? Like, I think it was whole long, who was in power at that time? Am I Am I recollecting that well, or is there more to that you've

Mark Nelson  17:03  

been very generous in describing it? I think that's an example of steel manning the argument, again, the claim is, well, we built these reactors, suddenly, we want to turn them off, we are sorry, want to turn them off and need to turn them off? We're combined as one argument. And whenever I was in France, and I poked people, what do you mean, you need to turn them off? And they're like, well, they're aging. And I say why they're not aging in the rest of the world? Why are they aging in France? And they're saying, well, since they need to shut off so quickly, we need to start shutting them down. And I would have to explain. You keep dancing around claiming that you have to shut them down. And by the way, Chris, this isn't just in the anti nuclear ideologues, you can hear this from almost every French nuclear engineer, almost every young French nuclear engineer, I've talked to parroted the exact same line that they of course, everyone knows, except for everyone else in the world, everyone knows that the French fleet has to shut down, right? Somehow, they're not shutting down in other countries. But in France, they're just special, the reactors are very special and have to shut down. So it's important to shut them down in an orderly fashion, then the question is, why did they start with one of the only reactors that was confirmed to be ready to keep operating that specified time? Back in 2016 2017? In Yeah, 16 and 17. And the claim that I've heard from French nuclear engineers was, well, of course, it's good to shut down our fleet, because everyone knows, you just have to shut down nuclear reactors. But why did they start with fascinating, we're so confused. And of course, the answer is the entire the entire nuclear shutdown is actually ideological, the whole thing through and through French engineers, bless their hearts are ideological to and they're, they're just as vulnerable to ideology as all of us. For some time, this was a great thing. The ideology was make France great again, after the embarrassment of World War Two. And the ideology was, I will go serve France, get a very competitive salary, get glory, get, you know, cheaper, free electricity. And in return, I will have this life mission that feels good, and France will be strong. And that was the that was the way it worked. Now, French nuclear engineers see the only chance of regaining leadership as making new reactors. And it leads them to be extremely vulnerable, naive even about their existing reactors. We have no evidence, Chris, that France is going to be good at all or should ever be involved with making new nuclear plants, right. Like we don't have

Chris Keefer  19:48  

we have some some evidence. It's not flattering.

Mark Nelson  19:51  

Yeah. And maybe they can solve those issues. But things have gotten worse since then. In French nuclear, not better, worse, Chris. Well, Less talent, lower performance, better political rhetoric at the top, but nothing that reveals that there's an understanding of what's gone wrong with the French nuclear fleet. And

Chris Keefer  20:11  

I think just in terms of the Human Factors element of this, you know, we did do an episode on Russia quite a while ago, and you were mentioning, you know, that Rosa, Tom gets the absolute cream of the crop out of their engineering schools, etc. It's prestigious, I guess it's well paying. It's broadly looked up to within society to work at rosov time. And I guess if you have an industry where the government is saying, you know, you're on your way out, it doesn't look as attractive and people take for granted, I guess what they have? And I guess, for young people, talented young people, it's just doesn't have the luster. Is that Is that accurate?

Mark Nelson  20:44  

why don't why don't I just tell a story in Glasgow and for cop 26, I go over and mingle with some, some young Russians, and I was talking to a lad and he was, he was very bright, very smart. He loves nuclear energy. In fact, he said that he had gone to a famous math and physics High School, set up by as a almost as a beneficial Foundation, if you will, in the Soviet sense by one of the great early leaders of the Soviet nuclear program. And he went to this math, and physics High School did very well and then went to the top universities in Moscow. And I asked him, Well, if you like, nuclear so much, are you are you working in nuclear? And he said, No, that was for the smartest kids in my class. I always felt that my scores and test results, they were good, but they weren't. They weren't high enough to justify me getting a job at Rose Adam. So I said, Well, then, where are you? And he said, Gazprom? No. And I thought that was really interesting. So, yeah, Gazprom gets the gets the second best, and then rose, Adam gets the first best. And then rose, Adam gets to go around the world trying to clean up the energy mess left by the other policies of Russia to cripple countries by getting them on cheap gas, like, that's what happened in Germany. That's what happened to Europe in general. So that's my little story. That was an interesting, interesting thing I heard directly from a talented young Russian with great English skills, clearly a very strong technical education, but not quite good enough for nuclear in Russia, more for more for natural gas. So yeah, they get the best. And in France, let me be clear, I asked a number of people who are either working in France now in the nuclear sector, or know a bunch of people in the nuclear sector in France, or are working outside of France on similar things, they all confirmed to me that the prestige and the honor remains for going to work for the state and for EDF. What does not remain is the financial edge, the competitive salaries. That's what I heard that many of the perks and privileges of being an ADF employee have eroded. And that's, that's especially shocking to me. Because you would think that in modern times where energy, even energy security add that to the list of things people now care about, are so important. There should be nothing but all the best resources for the nuclear fleet, if nothing else, because what it's bringing in, and I think that may bring us to our second recent pop culture metaphor here. So in the movie, Mad Max Fury Road, there's not enough resources to go around. So whichever brutal men have been able to corral the little remaining resources that have been able to become warlords or kings or local potentates, so there's a there's a leader who's strong based on his control of water, there's very little water, the big bad in the movie has controlled the best supply of water around. And he uses that to have a a large army of ideologically motivated young men in various stages of failing health due to cancer sit various sicknesses, right? So one of the ways that the soldiers with failing health are able to support their beloved leader is by capturing outsiders and draining their healthy blood into themselves. So they get a blood type match, and then they literally rig up some kind of way to drain out the blood of the healthy person to have one last go on maybe a suicide mission. So our hero in Mad Max Max himself is rigged up as a quote unquote blood bag, a healthy donor drained for the dying gasps of a sick recipient. And that is basically the situation we have today with the French nuclear fleet, where the French nuclear fleet is not just needing to hold up the sky, not just in France, but in the European energy system. but it's being bled repeatedly multiple nozzles jam straight into the veins to make sure that that money continues to support all sorts of parasitic programs. Some are particularly ironic. I want to talk about a few of these programs. One and this is where I pointed you can you can you pronounce our n Shah for

Chris Keefer  25:24  

Aqua? Okay. I mean, we do have some French listeners here, but I'll do my best accent ever do Li Li Li TCT nuclear historic.

Mark Nelson  25:31  

Right. So this is the equity mechanism, the fairness mechanism, where since the vast majority of of electricity in France is coming from one company's nuclear fleet. The idea was, you could have a competitive electricity market by inducing a bunch of traders and energy companies to buy up nuclear electricity and to sell it on to their customers. What possible advantage this could have for the public is completely obscure to me. I guess the argument was that if there wasn't any competition, and you raise electricity prices by including a bunch of middlemen, then that would somehow make there be more. This is bizarre, I mean, shins for concern, like, the logic is inscrutable. It makes no sense. Even now, electricity markets are failing all over the world. But even by that standard, this never made sense. As far as I can determine. There were a few French ministers who worked from inside the, the palace to get Brussels to work with the French on tearing apart their own electricity economy.

Chris Keefer  26:46  

It's almost like an EU wide mandate that, you know, electricity has to be deregulated.

Mark Nelson  26:51  

Look, here's a lot of electricity wide mandates, countries that care about an issue can get anything blocked, or carve out like all over the EU little countries that that are a tiny bit of the wealth and power and influence of France are able to block EU wide issues until they get their way on on issues that they see as nationally important for either private or economic reasons. If France had wanted to have a different setup they could have, the truth is they thought that there was unlimited amounts of cheap nuclear electricity, that it would always be there until they didn't need it. And that all you had to do is figure out ways to take the wealth from the electricity, like cut down the production and take the wealth that was considered the hardest problem in French electricity,

Chris Keefer  27:40  

like a, you know, not a method I would support but you can imagine another way of saying okay, we're going to split the reactor fleet into and we're going to create a competition, you know, between those fleets of reactors and you know, that's how we're going to generate competition within the marketplace like that. That's that would that would make sense perhaps, but that what you're describing just seems completely insane like there's no mechanism for the electricity traders to out compete or drive down prices. No, it's

Mark Nelson  28:04  

like having Goldman Sachs brand electricity or having having total household power even though they barely have any power plants because they aren't needed in France because they have a giant nuclear fleet. It was a way of let's say consumers wanted to buy 100% renewable electricity but only from wind and solar. So since that's physically impossible, what they might do is buy a retailer power that promises 100% wind and solar then the retailer would go out buy a giant block of of underpriced set contract price are in Shaw electricity from EDF. Okay. Okay. Yeah, yeah. And aren is what it looks like. Yes. And in English, a r e n, h, this is the adjustment mechanism for historical state investments in, in nuclear. So they these middlemen, these traders, these other energy companies in order to sell power at any kind of rates that are even close to what EDF is able to do, since they have a giant cheap already decarbonized nuclear fleet, right, like they already have what France needed, that competitors could take some nuclear power, flip it for a big profit and then buy some renewables contracts and say to their customers. Oh, yeah, totally. We got you. So here's some aspects of that, that make this blood bag program so bad. Here's one. These competitors are not required to buy the nuclear electricity. But EDF is required to offer it at a fixed rate. That means that if this is a year, where prices are so low, that the nuclear fleet is just going to bleed out it's just going to suffer from low prices. Then other retailers don't have to take that risk don't have to take any losses from having that nuclear power. On the other hand, if it's a year that because of high fossil prices or electricity crisis or anything, it's a You're a bad renewables and electricity prices are high. And they think that that's what's happening the year before that they're looking ahead, their competitors are looking ahead, they can buy low and sell high without having to take in the downside risk of buying every year. Now, here's another part. Let's say these electricity traders buy the electricity. And then there's an act of God, there's a force majeure event like COVID. Now, you would think maybe if the French were trying to keep their national electricity system up and running and help wean Europe off of Russian gas, maybe the idea should be private traders should suffer big losses to support the public entity, right? In other words, maybe those traders should be required to buy that electricity, even if it isn't, you know, profitable in order to keep their license to sell electricity in France or something like that. That would be a way of making sure that the French nuclear fleet still, you know, maintained its revenue through thick and thin. Instead, not only was it the opposite system, they don't have to buy they don't have to partake in that downside. If they accidentally get hit by downside like buying a full amount of this electricity. So in the case of France, remember, we said at least 400 terawatt hours, that's what France should be producing every year, about 300 is what it seems that is going to be producing this year. The orange shop mechanism is not a percentage of that it's a flat 100 terawatt hours, nation scale energy, what is required to be offered at a rate too low to renovate the fleet, much less build new reactors. Yeah, it's too low to renovate the fleet. And that price, that price. That's what electricity traders bought at the end of 2019. Looking ahead to 2020 Right. When COVID Hit electricity demand tanked. I was a little bit gleeful. I was like, Ha, That'll teach him now the French nuclear fleet has 100 terawatt hours that it for sure has sold at amounts that will at least may hopefully make it breakeven for that power this year. That's good. That's really good. Because a lot of energy companies are suffering losses No, of these fossil fuel companies like totaal went to court in France and they said well, we didn't know that there just wouldn't be a need for this electricity. So we need out of our contracts and EDF lost. And they had to take on all that electricity that they'd been forced to offer and forced to sell at prices too low to renovate the fleet. And they were forced to take the electricity back and sell it at a loss.

Chris Keefer  32:35  

Jesus Christ. It just to be clear EDF I mean, and to get a little bit of historical context here, it's the National Electricity Generator made after the war. And it's exclusively nuclear or almost entirely nuclear. Just give us a bit more like and we've talked about this a bit with Myrto Tripathi, but just EDF as as a construct, if you can just clarify for our listeners, you know, some of whom might be from the states and be more familiar with, you know, regulated utility monopolies like just what is EDF? Just just we have a clear understanding?

Mark Nelson  33:05  

Yeah, it's the state. It's the state electricity, I can't really say monopoly now, because these stupid mechanisms for bleeding off the economic rents that these nuclear reactors should be making that that makes it to where there's competitors. So technically, it isn't a monopoly. But here's the thing. A lot of countries made these monopolies after World War Two, because it is a it is an institutional match to the physical reality of an electricity grid. You're not going to have competing wires to see who, you know, like two plugs in your house and plug into one based on which company is offering you better electricity grid service that day, and you're not. I mean, almost every attempt to make it not be a monopoly is essentially fraud. It's fraudulent academics. It's it's honest business according to fraudulent rules, sometimes fraudulent business according to fraudulent rules. And in the end it defraud the citizen of the cheapest possible electricity. The claim is that if you started to break up authority for this extremely unitary physical system, and when I say unitary, I mean real unitary, like it is. It's one frequency across the whole European continent, only a few countries aren't part of that, or the few only few tiny areas aren't part of the Pan European synchronized grid or the United States. Everything from where you're sitting right now, to me in Chicago to the tip of Florida, that's one frequency. Now, maybe it's sensible that it's broken up into various regions where there's a bunch of people and a bunch of generation here, and then a bunch of people and a bunch of generation here. And even though the grid ties together at a few points, as long as these two sides each take care of their own, they'll have a little to take care of each other. So that's, that's how it can maybe work but it makes almost no sense for a country the size of France to have competing electricity providers. And so the attempt to force EDF and I mean this, again, like I said, it happened in other countries. So UK had a nationalized electricity system coming out of the central electricity generation board cegb. And that is that that is just a group of dudes sitting around smoking their pipes deciding how to do electricity, right planning ahead, we we expect this much load. So let's make sure we have this amount of baseload power and a little bit of peaking, we expect this much load. So let's have this amount of baseload power that I'm in a bit of peaking. Hey, Bob, how's the coal fleet in that region doing? Is it going to be available? Yeah, we're, we're maintaining it. But you should go ahead and plan a little extra capacity, since some of this stuff is aging. And anyway, I'm making a sort of story. Just so story out of it. But really, you kind of planned out the power plants you needed, planned out the different types of power plants so that the total mix made the lowest total cost of national generation, and then you supplied it to everybody. And if you did what France did, which was overbuild too many nuclear plants based on needs, you do what France did and promote the use of electricity in homes and businesses, for

Chris Keefer  36:19  

rail for heating, etc. Now, quick question mark. Everything,

you know, big thing I'm struggling with these days is, you know, how on earth do we get nuclear built? And how do we finance it? And it would strike me that, you know, both the large regulated monopoly private monopoly model in the States and a large, unitary, national utility, offer the benefit of de risking capital, right, if you have big, big entities, it just makes sense. They they're more secure, they're gonna be able to get and guarantee private capital that comes in to fund their new projects. Is that is that part of it? And is that part of the struggle nowadays with with deregulated markets and breaking up of these traditional monopolies?

Mark Nelson  37:02  

So the deregulated markets as a first order statement, that's just always going to be true, do not work to incentivize generation investment over the long term. The markets were set up in specific like that, a lot of the first markets were set up in places that happen to have a lot of natural gas production at that moment. Maybe not in the future, maybe not forever, certainly not forever, but maybe not like even a few years after the start of these markets where there'll be so much natural gas. But the idea was this. If you make the market, then you could take nuclear plants and coal plants that had not nearly amortized yet that had were nowhere near the end of their lives. And therefore, were part of the lowest total cost investment plan to make electricity at the lowest rates. And you could jump in, make catastrophic losses for the owners of those plants just destroy mass quantities of capital, and then build new power plants that were marginally cheaper during the period that natural gas was cheap. There was no plan for what do you do after the natural gas isn't cheap anymore? What happens if you don't get the balance of like regulation and market right? There was no plan for what if you actually break the system so badly that no one can even content no one can even understand how they could get money back for any type of power plant, because the electricity prices going like this, like crazy. And because of the fact that electricity is political. It is political. It's the basis of modern life, that if you start messing with electricity, the politicians who obviously cannot understand it. I mean, the experts don't understand it. Almost all the smartest experts, I taught to talk to you about electricity, if they're being honest. They're struggling right now. They're like, I just not I'm not sure how this is going. I can't figure out x, y and z. I was in New York with a brilliant gentleman, fascinating, brilliant gentleman who's made his career understanding electricity and explaining it to people and making money off of it. And he's like, I can't tell what's happening or what's going I can't see where this is going or how it ends up. Well, Joe, the situation. And if you do want nuclear plants built, there's the stuff that nuclear people need to do, which is get our shit together. And then there's stuff that the state or the utility or the regulators or something has to do to in this absolute nonsense, that we are somehow from radically chaotic electricity prices, going to induce investment in ultra low, long lived electricity production. We're not going to do it. We're going to do short term band aids. We're going to break the system, we're going to have permanently higher costs. This is the way I'd put it. Both California and Texas are failing in very similar ways. Coming from radically different political standpoints radically different approaches the commonality is electricity markets that are now about 20 years old, each combined with a very large amount of investment in power plants that turn off whenever they want to whenever, whenever they don't, not even whenever they want to that are forced to turn off because of the weather. That's the big thing. And people can say, oh gas had to turn off because the weather fine. How are you going to get a gas plant to spend a huge amount of money weatherizing? When if they do that, it means it will be available during a Big Freeze, which means that there won't be a price spike, which means that they'll never recover their costs, like how do you How could you that if you fix that, it sounds like not a market, right?

Chris Keefer  40:38  

Yeah. And what just one more question for you one more question as we're moving back across the pond, because I'm just trying to sort of devil's advocate or steel man, a way in which France could deregulate that would improve performance of their fleet. And I think I was floating it before, which was, and again, this doesn't fit with my politics, per se. But like, if if generation were broken up and you had plants competing against each other, then perhaps their performances would would improve in that might replicate to some degree, the American model, which again, operationally has been excellent Is that does that make any sense?

Mark Nelson  41:08  

I've heard very smart very well meaning French colleagues and advocates say that this is the way forward that you have to get out of this statist communist even thinking where big state will always take care of you but also must be served like they've you've got to break apart the fleet and actually have some competitive pressure. The way I have to warn them is that the second they do this, they break apart the nuclear industry. In the US, there's no nuclear industry, each nuclear power utility that competes against another utility wants to see that utilities nuclear plant die, I have seen reports from inside some of the biggest operators of nuclear plants, strategy guides for how to get their competitors, nuclear plants destroyed. I've seen it with my own eyes, Chris, they know that this is what you do to survive, for your brand to survive in a time when there's not enough electricity customers to go around. Okay, so I do I think the first thing that would happen if you split up the fleet is that you would lose an entire swath of nuclear plants down to about 30% 35% of French nuclear supply or French electricity supply. In other words, an absolutely permanent crisis that if the politicians respond to that crisis by cutting revenue at the nuclear plants, then you haven't actually achieved anything. And that's of course what they would do you would you would break apart a big week fleet into a much smaller week fleet. That's what two two smaller weak to medium strength fleets that so there's more to the blood back here you've talked about there is there's there's a very dangerous one Yeah,

Chris Keefer  42:50  

so let's let's continue there. And I think yeah, let's let's hear about CSPE contribution or service public delivery fees, the electricity. Frenchman speaking French, you really gotta your mouth moves a lot. It's crazy. Anyway, carry on might

Mark Nelson  43:05  

not mind because I can't speak it. So the CSPE is the contribution to the public provision of electricity is how I would translate it, even if it's not exactly literal. So what this is, is a 23 euro per megawatt hour tax about $23. If we convert from euro to dollar at current exchange rates, so 23 euros or $23 USD per megawatt hour tax on all electricity sold to pay for mainly replacing the cheap nuclear you already have with inconsistent renewables from private companies you don't have already right so right so the contribution to the public service of electricity is to break apart the public service of electricity, damage the system jack up prices, and then tax it all. To been send that back to fly by night foreign companies that build a wind or solar plant, and then the grid has to have to ask to raise its own charges to pay for the expanded grid and the difficult management grid management in order to get the renewables on the grid to do nothing for carbon nothing because they decarbonized already

Chris Keefer  44:23  

it's a true example of privatize the profits socialize the cost. It's it's deeper

Mark Nelson  44:28  

than any other vision I've ever heard where it's almost entirely parasitic. And here's the other funny thing, because the wind and solar is so expensive. EDF is not actually authorized to collect enough money from its customers to pay all the bills even with that giant tax. So EDF is required to keep up to this different times billions of euros of debt on its books, because it was required to pay out the wind and solar companies before enough money had been raised on attacks mainly on carbon free nuclear power in order to pay for these renewables that were not physically needed the vast majority of the hours, they're on the grid. Think about this, France is a winter peaking country, and it has very little sun in the winter. And yet the solar, the solar that, you know, it imports from Super tainted and sketchy solar supply chains in China, to set up to produce summertime electricity when it's least needed, least needed. And if they really needed solar in the summer, you can get it from Spain, because they're messing up their energy even worse, right? So then the solar goes into the grid at guaranteed extremely high rates, whether it's needed or not. And that money has to be collected out of taxing all the nuclear and then sent to the solar company at rates greater than the tax actually comes in leaving debt on ETFs books and leading competitors say, Man, that nuclear fleet is a real mess. You see how much debt EDF is in?

Chris Keefer  45:56  

So Mark, like what's what's explaining the culture behind this? I guess, I mean, this is regulatory culture. This is legal culture, in terms of what you're describing before with, you know what happened around COVID and EDF losing that legal battle to not have to, I guess, take back the electricity and solar in 2019. You know, what explains this, you know, going back from the radiance of France, there's kind of glory days in the 80s. Like, what the fuck happened? Well, how did France was had Friendster and so Anti-nuclear in the in its very establishment to generate these kinds of policies that are again, bleeding, bleeding out Mad Max or hero here.

Mark Nelson  46:32  

In short, big powerful state was used to build nuclear, that was at a time when the state wasn't that powerful compared to what it used to be in the world. So Germany invades conquers France, easily, France has to wait around for liberation, the the folks that did not wait around that risked their lives every day, either in the Free French forces or the or in the resistance, those people become the next leaders of France, right? Okay. They want to get rid of the shame and the embarrassment of defeat. One of the ways is to make France glorious again, at the same time, France is losing so many of its large land based overseas colonies. And the ones that it has remaining are recipients of money from France not exactly supplying money. So France is then out of almost all fossil fuels, and builds up a bunch of grant programs, Grant engineering programs and trains in in military technology in telecommunications, in electricity, the program and electricity was nuclear the tool was EDF and framatome. So right, that's a very quick story. Those hard men that were made hard by hard times, they have passed on, a few of them survive as living legends, most famously, Marcel Watu, who survived assassination attempts to build out the system that is now being destroyed by

Chris Keefer  47:55  

a green activist, right by I mean, I think it was me faction meats, you know, Greenpeace?

Mark Nelson  48:00  

No, they hated that he was just making a bunch of nuclear they hated more that it was associated with the state. And so here's the other thing, if you were super far left, and you're out of power, and you see your battle as environmentalism, or soft energy, or whatever, the big massive all sorts of competing vibes that all come into one big thing, which is state is bad, nuclear is bad military and is state militaries, nuclear, nuclear is all those if we get rid of all the nuclear, then we're headed towards a better future. This thinking was extremely weak in the state and in the elites. Instead, it grew in popular culture. Instead, it grew in media instead, it grew in schools. So the school teachers totally, totally conquered by this Anti-nuclear Degrowth ideology, right. So when that generation grew up, when France succeeded in making a giant nuclear fleet when they had the good life, then is when the rot really took hold, because it made decisions about who should be energy minister, almost arbitrary. What are you going to do? Just sit there and get a report that says, We made all this power this year, and it remains cheap. Okay, next year, we made all this power this year, and it's still cheap. What do you even do? You need something to do, Chris? So what you do is you start messing with the energy system, right? You start you start making it to where the people in charge of electricity have no comprehension at all what electricity is, what how you measure it, what costs mean, what's a wire what's a nuclear blast, allow us to too much. Instead, you've got you've got big administration abilities. You went to ena, the Ecole Nationale d'administration on you and all your buddies know that it's just spreadsheets and hiring people who know spreadsheets, and then that means that you kind of go on your intuition, but then you get a spreadsheet to show that your intuition was actually right. And anyway, all that's done. It's about state dinners. Going on TV and big vibes, right. So the energy system In many European countries, especially the most powerful ones, got put under ecology ministries, because there's, you know, because climate change means you have to do all these changes. Even if you already saw climate change mostly in your country, like France with its electricity system, and high degree of electrification, you got to make an ecological transition. What is that it means getting rid of nuclear. So those people were in charge for a really long time, the various market liberalizations? Well, it didn't make sense for France, but you did it anyway. Because it was another pathway to undercut the fleet. You can't restore your nuclear plants to operation if we take all your revenue, you can't build new ones, if we got you like a fish. Right? So that's

Chris Keefer  50:40  

so bad. Yeah. In Belgium, there's a green Minister of Energy. Maybe her her portfolio is also, you know, Minister of the ecological transition, I'm not sure. But she's obviously actively anti nuclear and actively invested in replacing the Belgian fleet with gas. I mean, are there characters like that within the French system who are actively ideologically anti nuclear? Or are they just doing this through a mix of incompetence,

Mark Nelson  51:01  

and they get appointed ecological transition minister, that's the way it works. Oh, this person is kind of ecological, like, so we're gonna put them in charge of energy. Okay. That's the way it works. Oh, here's the TV presenter, he goes on the news and talks about nature, let's put him in charge of electricity. At the same time that we pass a law that says we have to get rid of about a third of our nuclear fleet. That's the energy transition law of 2015 ecological transition law that was put into place in order to cripple the French nuclear fleet. It has succeeded Chris, even though McCrone came in, it's like, oh, maybe I don't want this anymore. Well, they didn't change anything. They didn't repair the damage. They didn't cancel Aaron Shah, they didn't, they didn't undo the CSPE they didn't start blocking these parasitic firms and technologies from messing up the some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity that's ever existed. They didn't do any of that. They just announced that oh, we're pronuclear now, that's what

Chris Keefer  51:57  

happened. I think it's it's easy, you know, as those wasn't the chronograph movement, cast your eyes around longingly for the occasional good news, and we get some, you know, Byron and Dresden, we save some nuclear plants here and there. But you know, we heard, you know, Macron make, you know, a bit of an a boat face, I think he'd originally supported the the partial phase out, and then came out saying, you know, we're gonna build, you know, maybe 14, new EPRs, you know, embracing nuclear again, releasing a really sexy Ecomodernist video, let heavy perceiving you no one felt that there was a bit of a changing A changing wind in France. But we're seeing that the fleet is going to have one of his worst years ever forecasted for such a critical time in European energy when EU is trying to get off Russian fossil fuels within five years. And a replacement is desperately needed. So you know, are things changing? Is that your sense at all? Or is this going to take a long time?

Mark Nelson  52:54  

It's not clear there's any understanding of the institutional changes necessary at EDF. And it's not, you know, even though it's clear now that electricity markets are essentially bullshit, there's not, it's not clear that it's gonna change thinking at the EU level, other than countries quietly subverting the market in their own ways. So for example, folks, I talked to know the German system say that, yeah, Germany has been subverting Germany has been doing everything it could to pretend to be part of the market, but it's actually been keeping its thumbs on the scales in order to keep their coal fleet alive. So that's something I've suspected for a long time. I'm like, how can the German coal fleet keep operating with such a big carbon tax and such bad economics blah, blah, blah? Well, it's because the Germans have been cheating, basically. So they've been cheating. And that's the thing that really gets me. The Germans are cheating to keep their coal plants and the French refuses to do it to keep up their nuclear plants. That's the difference. The Germans are hyper competent at whatever goal evil or benign they choose, and the French are a mess, even when they're on technically the right side. So I don't know, look, here's what it let me give you an example. The unions, I had only the most wonderful experience talking with the unions in France, I met with some of them in person, when we were traveling there to try to save fastener time. And, of course, they were deeply worried and very angry about fastened time being shut down for no particular reason at all. But like, if you wanted the outages to be a lot shorter, you would need a lot of concessions from the unions. And it's not clear whether they're ready for that or would be willing, how much you would have to spend to buy off the unions to have longer hours, a much more intense and rigorous work schedule, to both maintain that plan so that outages could be shorter maintenance before between outages but also, you know, in the US outages are 24 hours a day, every second there's a swarm of people on huge staffing on the job, both employees and contractors until the job is done. And then it goes back online. It's Like the it's an f1 pitstop versus somebody tinkering with a car for a year in their garage. That's maybe a little mean and I hope I don't get too much hate from my, from my beloved French colleagues and friends. But that's that's the way I illustrate it to your listeners where we need this f1 pitstop. Okay, we don't need tinkering in the garage. But that's where we have French regulator, the French regulator has a single minded purpose. And by God, they do it any little problem leads to France shutting down its reactors as quickly as possible. Now I can see both sides of this issue, if very serious maintenance problems were not seen and then are suddenly uncovered. That is a bad sign. It may it indicates there might be other things wrong, I have a lot of sympathy for this latest wave of problems where a backup safety system is being found to be in a state where you cannot. I've asked people this, I've said, Can you guarantee that if that system were called into function, it would respond as designed. And there's been a little bit of hedging, it probably would. But I see that as a problem along the orders of not getting the seawall at Fukushima Daiichi pushed up high enough, it needs to be done. At the same time, the cure should not be worse than the than the problem. And if there are extremely severe shortages of electricity that lead to that's then that has to be weighed to. I mean, it's interesting that the oldest nuclear plants that is the type that best and home was, did not have the problems that are facing the newer ones. And yet, those were the ones that everyone said had to shut down. Because if you're going to shut them down anyway, you start with the oldest. There's an irony for you, Chris, that specifically the ones that were claimed to be weakest, just because they were old. Those are the ones that are now strongest, because they're old, and they didn't have the design change made by the French to the Westinghouse reactors that led to the current crop of of cracking the current crop of crack cracks that is shutting down these plants. Yeah, it's

Chris Keefer  57:05  

it's fascinating. You know, we have an episode on titled our nuclear plants and mortal which people should definitely check out. But, you know,

Mark Nelson  57:12  

there's a lot more detail in it there. Oh, and sorry. EDF leadership.

Chris Keefer  57:16  

Yeah. I mean, just just in terms of here in Canada, you know, we're fighting to save the Pickering nuclear station. And you know, it's pressure tubes are actually aging, the slowest of the entire fleet, you know, so it's one of the older reactors. And it's, it's performing very well, better than ever, basically. And yeah, if you actually objectively look at the components that you need to worry about, it's, it's performing the best, it's got the most longevity. And so I mean, this whole thing of, you know, okay, this is the oldest plan. So this is all I guess, based on, okay, these things have been designed arbitrarily by an engineer, an engineering firm, and they've said, Okay, we're gonna guess this is a plant that has a 40 year lifespan, but it sounds like amongst even the engineering class, but particularly amongst the public, there's not been an updated idea of like, that was a, you know, hypothetical design life. But we need to assess longevity and what we can fix and what we can extend based upon actual analysis and measurement.

Mark Nelson  58:11  

Yeah, so there's a lot of confusion when people try to use analogies as a nuclear reactor, like a space shuttle, is it like an aeroplane? Is it like a bridge? Is it like a dam, and the truth is different parts of the nuclear plant are like those various things. There are parts of a nuclear plant that are a little bit like the body of a jet airliner, and they, they need to be they need to be refurbished if you can, right, there are other parts of nuclear plants that are like the dome of you know, the Pantheon in Rome, which is now going on 2000 it so the different parts need to be seen as the components they are, and if the components can be replaced, or the components are fine, then the whole is going to be okay, because that's the thing that is being looked at every single day by a swarm of ultra motivated, ultra competent people in almost all cases,

Chris Keefer  59:01  

in terms of the French regulator. The other thing like in there, and I really shouldn't learn this word, the RET carnivores or whatever the refurbishments. They're, they're tasking those older reactors to meet the same kind of safety qualifications as the Gen three plus EPR. Is that correct? Like I mean not quite adding double containment but that's that's onerous. From what I understand. How necessary are is that

Mark Nelson  59:24  

let me let me be real blunt, PW Rs, if they have a strong shell to keep the shit and if you melt it, then what you do is to make sure you have all your staff really well trained with all the lessons from Fukushima Daiichi, and Three Mile Island and then you're good. That's That's what I'd say. You have emergency preparedness, defense in depth. A thick containment. You're okay. Every that's what it takes to make it to where no plausible accident leads to health damage from radiation. Everything else is public affairs. Everything else is public communication and honesty. aid and disaster preparedness. So making the claims that you have to upgrade these plants to some level of safety that is determined mathematically based on calculations done for a newer type of reactor, that is an ideological decision. And it's one that if enforced, as they're attempting to do in Belgium, will lead to devastating societal repercussions like what we're seeing now. So, now, I want to say that EDF management should not go unmentioned. So, when I met with managers of pheasant nuclear plant in 2017, one of them confided in me that the way to get promoted at EDF was to be involved with renewables, not nuclear, that almost everyone in upper management and on their way up in EDF was coming from the renewable side, that it was leading to a lot of opportunism of people jumping into EDF, not to serve the state or not to for all those other goals we we talked about, but because they saw renewables has been very high growth within EDF in the future. And the way he put it is that at the time, renewables were 10% of the revenue but less than 5% of the profits. But the vast majority of promotions and upper management, we're going to the renewables people. And what I've heard from multiple other sources is that if you're at EDF, and you bring up problems, even along with solutions, not even not as a whistleblower, but because you see good ways to do things to maximize operational efficiency and uptime at the plants, it's more likely that you will be fired and promoted and also not very likely that you'll be listened to. So good and I say fired. Okay. So it's a little bit hard to get fired from EDF, but you will, you will, your life will be made unpleasant that very talented leaders eventually have to rise up and out of EDF. And that starts at the top that is a failure of leadership from the very top. Look, there are disadvantages through a centralized system. The advantage is if you have really good leadership, you should be able to make a very large amount of change. And you can start you can start by ending the parasitic scams, that that end up dumping really high costs on a consumers for no gain at all, that tear out the economic rent of the nuclear fleet and subvert the entire idea of having a market in the first place. Chris, if the market price is really high for any nuclear plant that's on the national indicate that nuclear should be at maximum production, right, that if you are looking at the need for a baseload for the several 1000 terawatt hours that Europe uses need each year, and you need a base for that you need security of supply and it needs to come from Europe, then what you need is a French nuclear fleet at 600 terawatt hours per year, not at 300, which with us operational efficiency, and with up ratings and an India closures, you can get that. But there needs to be interconnections that are expanded, which gets us back to Brussels in the end, Brussels said we need a big, strong interconnected grid and market prices so that the best low carbon competitors can get to everywhere, but not you France because we hate nuclear. So they built an ideology where only nuclear can really do it and then said but not nuclear and then crippled it. That's at the just summarizing what I see in the breakdown of energy in Europe tonight. And

Chris Keefer  1:03:30  

by what means did Brussels to Brussels do that they didn't allow them to build the interconnectors or

Mark Nelson  1:03:36  

so, EDF has been told effectively for decades now not to prioritize output that output and and market share and, and profit all of these things are considered to be evil. Now, part of the logic on the inside of EDF is that if we reduce production will increase profits, but then the profits could take it on the outside it is let's get them to reduce production. So there's less nuclear if that causes the cost to go up, we'll take them. So there's a perfect, perfect goat rodeo going on. They're just complete absolute disaster compared to the stated goals for all parties. Here's another thing, if you're if you're trying to reduce production, and you don't want to turn off reactors, one of the ways to do it is to not have interconnections that could lead to more production demand during the summer months. Right. Because, of course, why is Why is Germany's coal supposed to be the baseload and not French nuclear? Why are we turning off the French nuclear plants before the friend of the German coal? Because they're all really strongly connected and can be even more connected? If the claim is no we don't want French nuclear to outcompete the coal of Germany didn't what was the carbon tax for what's energy security concerns for what air pollution regulations for what's any of this all for Chris? It's it's complete. nonsense to have a system set up to benefit exactly something like a French nuclear fleet in terms of all your goals, but then to cripple the French nuclear fleet because you don't like it and to not have anything that can fill the gap, except for Russian gas. That's what

Chris Keefer  1:05:14  

they it is extraordinary that the German coal fleet is running very well, you're not hearing these kinds of problems. I imagine their capacity factors are very, very good. They're they're paying a high carbon tax

Mark Nelson  1:05:24  

availability, availability factors, good capacity factors have been low enough that if it were just on economics, most of that culture is shut down, but hasn't been because there's the Germans are good at protecting their interest. The French can't even identify what their interests are, and still try to STI incompetently to protect it.

Chris Keefer  1:05:44  

We're kind of getting towards the end of our time. And I guess this is this is a moment to ask you that cheesy question of, you know, kind of what what gives you hope or what, what hope is there? Do you see any promising moves? You know, what is to be done? What's what's necessary? And, you know, I asked my guests this question, often towards the end of an episode when there's there's not time to explore it. And it's a lot to sort of take on and suggest that maybe if you can kind of keep it abstract. What are your ideas or suggestions as to how to fix this rot? How to take the intravenous catheters out of the blood bag, how to prevent the final logging to a stump and maybe allow some of those branches to spring forth with new foliage like a prune tree, rather than a butcher tree? Let us not Mark, what's your prescription here.

Mark Nelson  1:06:33  

What we're seeing with EDF is what happens when EDF is under an immense amount of pain, but with no no understanding and society and no political will to change it. Now, we still haven't seen a political will to change it. It's still not clear whether society understands, but the pain is shared. Everybody is starting to feel this pain. And you know, even though French the French public has been protected from a lot of the energy price shocks and electricity that other countries are saying, and of course how are they protecting it a few more big old needles in every vein, you can find in ETF like ETF, they expanded our in shot and and forced ETF which had already sold that extra power to buy it back at the high price in order to sell it again at the low price, right. So those jabbers are still going straight into ETFs. Next, but EDF is clearly reaching like a point where its production is collapsing. It's it's collapsing faster than anyone could have ever imagined. And in the end, that pain will have to be shared to the French public, and they will eventually demand answers. And even if answers aren't forthcoming, leaders will cycle through until somebody gets up there. And reform CDF.

Chris Keefer  1:07:50  

It's so it's so goddamn reactive. It drives you crazy

Mark Nelson  1:07:53  

about this. How about this? Here's another little bit of light that maybe is better. French folks I talked to say that the best path they see now and they see there's some chance there's some chance they can see that this will happen is that you take EDF entirely out of energy sales of every type. And instead, EDF has just told we need this amount of production. What do you need in order to get on and that could if if done well could maybe stop EDF from doing thinking that it's an energy trader attempting within a completely broken market? That doesn't make any sense. We didn't we didn't talk to it. This. We didn't talk to this point. And the time is almost over. But ETFs energy trading division is a famous catastrophe. Some of the worst traders ever have made them their public names by losing hundreds of millions of dollars for their their trading arms, trading ETF and other electricity. So that's been a catastrophe. And EDF does all sorts of weird things that look possibly like market manipulations where they turn down nuclear plants in order to keep gas plants running like it's it's really perverse in an energy crisis. All of that nonsense, hopefully, could be eliminated. If EDF has just told we needed to hit 440 terawatt hours a year, every single year, what do you need in order what they need

Chris Keefer  1:09:16  

is some money to do it. And that's, you know, and they need blood in the bag essentially. And that's what I think is a huge tragedy. You're gonna build,

Mark Nelson  1:09:24  

they have good bone marrow, they have good bone marrow. So far, only some of their bones have rotted, hopefully there isn't cancer, we'll see if they are able to fix the cracks in the safety safety backup system, that there's enough healthy bone marrow that they may not need to transplant, they may need just time to recover and regrow and a bunch of a bunch of chicken broth. Okay.

Chris Keefer  1:09:52  

All right, Mark. Yeah, I mean, in terms of just getting the fleet where it should be, let alone building new plants. They're gonna need they're gonna need resources. They're gonna need good bone marrow. Okay, thank you for the entertaining story, this, this tragicomedy, whatever it is. And for a little bit of hope at the end there, Mark, this show has been a long time coming. Really glad that we could sit down and make it happen. Just a reminder as well, where can people find you

Mark Nelson  1:10:19  

Twitter's best. And you have your energy balance,

Chris Keefer  1:10:23  

energy balance. Yeah, we'll link that and you have your DMS open. And I know you make a real point of, you know, talking to people individually. You know, that's how we met and yeah, it's been it's been a great collab. So thanks for coming back as the most frequent guest on Decouple. We've missed you for the last few months. Good to be here, Chris.

Mark Nelson  1:10:41  

Thanks for having me.

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