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The Chinese Atom

Francois Morin

Monday, April 29, 2024

00:00:02:21 - 00:00:26:10

Chris Keefer

Welcome back to Decouple. Today I'm joined by Francois Morin. Francois is a, early guest on the decouple podcast. I think that was even before we were up on YouTube. So, Francois, the, the guest. We'll get to see your beautiful face. but we had a really wonderful episode again in those early days of decouple, I think it was titled Is China the Future of Nuclear Energy?


00:00:26:12 - 00:00:46:04

Chris Keefer

you, sir, are, I think, still the, World Nuclear Association lead, for China. I'll let you clarify that in just a second. But, we had a, I think just a great episode, went a little bit into your past. you know, you're a fascinating person, at least to me. speaking fluent Chinese and Russian and French.


00:00:46:04 - 00:01:20:06

Chris Keefer

And I think we'll send people back to that episode for, you know, more content there, because I'm so eager just to get a sense of what is happening in China, which really seems to be, the place that is moving most rapidly or where there's the most developments happening, whether it's just pure pace of deployment, whether it's deployment of, you know, new technologies, molten salt reactors, high temperature gas reactors, the, the small modern reactor, the ECP 100, which I think is probably the most advanced in terms of a, grid connected small modular reactor.


00:01:20:08 - 00:01:24:23

Chris Keefer

so, Francois, thank you so much for making the time and joining us again.


00:01:25:01 - 00:01:32:06

Francois Morin

Thank you. Chris. Good morning. Thank you for having me again. I think it was, three years ago. Yes, that we had, Wow.


00:01:32:09 - 00:01:34:07

Chris Keefer

Yeah, that was it. I think so.


00:01:34:09 - 00:01:40:02

Francois Morin

Early. Early Covid period. I was in France at that time because of the Covid. Now I am back in China.


00:01:40:04 - 00:02:00:01

Chris Keefer

That's right, that's right. And, you, of course, introduced me to France. we had a great episode on the preconditions of the Mesmer plan. So just to kind of steer some of our listeners to the earlier catalog. You know, we're 233 episodes. And so for people that have joined recently, I always like to give, you know, a little recommendation for something to dig up in the past.


00:02:00:03 - 00:02:13:19

Chris Keefer

So, Francois. Yeah. Again, let's let's, again, it was three years ago. So give a brief introduction of yourself. feel free to sort of draw on some of some of your past. I find you to just be an absolutely fascinating person. so I guess I'll.


00:02:13:21 - 00:02:52:09

Francois Morin

Probably be seen for that. So that's probably simpler than what you may imagine. I'm a senior engineer. graduated in, physics and mathematics and thermodynamics. I worked in the French Atomic Energy Commission in a research department. for my your short term physics about, biology and was working in, in biophysics. and, but then, after that and a few some other episodes, I joined the nuclear industry, and I worked in the design of reactors in France.


00:02:52:11 - 00:03:15:11

Francois Morin

and I was particularly in charge of the so-called the post Chernobyl studies. And then, and then I moved to nuclear medicine for a while before doing other things. Big projects, infrastructure project in, in Africa, in South America with Chinese. And finally, I joined 12 years ago and there were new construction in Beijing.


00:03:15:12 - 00:03:35:17

Chris Keefer

Wonderful, wonderful. And so, so, Francois, again, I I'm trying to sort of think back to our first episode, and I think it's useful to our listeners to have a bit of a framing of the context of, of nuclear energy in China. something that sort of most stuck out to me was just the sort of pragmatics, the rationale behind, the pursuit of nuclear energy in China.


00:03:35:19 - 00:03:58:05

Chris Keefer

Something that you said again, that stuck out was, that the majority of the coal reserves are in the northwest and a lot of the population is in the southeast. I think something like 50% of all rail traffic in China is moving that coal towards those population centers. and that was one of the big drivers. Can you talk about some of those historic drivers and maybe the more contemporary drivers as you see them now.


00:03:58:07 - 00:04:29:20

Francois Morin

As you talk about coal? Just let me say one word about that. We've seen this year again, significant increase in, coal, use in China, you know, plus 4.3 or 4%, which is, which leads also to an increase in CO2 emission by, by nearly the same amount. the, thermal electricity in China grew by 6.5% last year.


00:04:29:22 - 00:05:01:00

Francois Morin

altogether, I mean, gas plus coal plus oil. so these things are not changing. I mean, this is the background and, whatever the hope is to, go as per the new governmental instructions and Mister President XI Jinping Instruction to, reach or to target, zero carbon in, 2060. we don't see yet the carbon peak, which is targeted by 2030.


00:05:01:01 - 00:05:34:19

Francois Morin

We don't see it arriving. So on the contrary, we see on the on your on your eyes. regarding this, this you mentioned the geography of China North and south. China as a consume last year of 4.6 billion tons of coal. of which six near. No. 550 million were imported. And they were. Wow. Yes. And they were imported from the south of China, from a south of them.


00:05:34:19 - 00:06:05:22

Francois Morin

Countries like Indonesia, Australia, I don't know, I didn't see the numbers, but, they at least they were imported from, from from Indonesia. So, you see, China is even importing, coal. It's importing 65% now, nearly of its oil consumption. It's importing, nearly the same nearly 60% of its gas consumption to China produces a lot of gas, but it's just barely enough to to fulfill half of its, needs.


00:06:06:00 - 00:06:37:12

Francois Morin

So, so, in such, and this figure is not getting better. I mean, in, in the sense it's not getting more, more, Chinese is just getting, every year worse and worse in terms of the ratio of imported things. however, yes, China is stronger now. manufacturer, exporter of energy or energy related things like a solar panel and, and, wind turbine.


00:06:37:12 - 00:07:22:11

Francois Morin

And so the, the most impressive thing from the last year is the investment in, in the so-called, renewable and new energies. The name that new energies, the altogether the electric cars, batteries, turbine, the little bit of hydro and the solar represented, €800 billion of investment last year. The solar itself. represented may be, 10%, nearly 10% of that 80, let's say 80 billion USD, where we're invested just in solar panel and, and solar systems.


00:07:22:13 - 00:07:59:13

Francois Morin

it's a new it was an increase of, plus 50% compared to the last the, the year before. and it's, it's an it means that now they have, how many I forgot exactly. Then started, 60 gigawatt of electric of solar electricity last year. And, now the, the total capacity of, of solar is, around 600, 609 gigawatt of solar capacity installed.


00:07:59:15 - 00:08:10:22

Francois Morin

Can you imagine that? Wow. And still solar. Solar represent only, only a tiny percentage, of course, of the production, 3.3%.


00:08:11:03 - 00:08:35:10

Chris Keefer

That's unreal. Okay, so if I could try and summarize some of what you've said. huge capacity additions. in we didn't actually talk about nuclear so far, but we'll get there, I'm sure. but in, in all sort of traditional forms of, electricity generation as well as the renewables new forms of generation and no real progress, towards, the climate goals towards peaking of emissions in 2030.


00:08:35:10 - 00:08:57:15

Chris Keefer

I hear, a lot of analysis. there's certainly a lot of, you know, breathless, optimism about the pace of renewables deployment in China. It seems like the overall percentages, as you said, are not changing massively. It's not the solar has gone from being. Correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe it's not gone from being sort of like 5% of total generation up to 20 or 30 as it is in some places, say in the US or Australia.


00:08:57:17 - 00:09:04:01

Chris Keefer

it's increasing, but everything else is increasing as well. So there's not a huge sort of relative change. Or am I off on that?


00:09:04:02 - 00:09:40:09

Francois Morin

Nuclear is increasing, significantly. Of course we have in between the production and, and, I mean, the construction and production, we have five, six years difference. So what we see today in terms of electricity production reflects what the decision taken five, six years ago in terms of construction. But still we had, small growth of three, nearly 4%, from one year, from 2022 to 2023, in, in a nuclear, production.


00:09:40:11 - 00:09:54:12

Francois Morin

but it stays. That's 5% of the mix, as you say. And, and we don't see any possibility to go beyond this 5% in the coming at least five years to target the Chinese.


00:09:54:13 - 00:09:55:23

Chris Keefer

Because everything else is growing so.


00:09:55:23 - 00:10:25:23

Francois Morin

Much. Everything is growing. And what is funny, for instance, is when you consider the the amount of data, the electricity, demand for the data centers in China, is growing not faster, but nearly the same pace as nuclear electricity. So the more we build, you know, nuclear, the more we are maybe able to follow with the data center new requirements.


00:10:26:00 - 00:10:55:08

Francois Morin

But that will not it will not. I mean, it will not replace or challenge the other, needs that are, fulfilled now by more or I draw. So it's it's a very challenging thing now. however the, the the, you must not forget that first, the governmental target is to reach 15% of the electricity mix by 2040.


00:10:55:13 - 00:11:23:20

Francois Morin

Let's say, from nuclear, maybe a little bit earlier, maybe a little bit later. So 15%. And even without considering the future, if you look at the map of China, you have, big province, the nuclear is all, the coastal area, and we have provinces with, 100 million inhabitants or 660 millions or 80 million inhabitants as big as countries.


00:11:23:22 - 00:11:52:23

Francois Morin

in in these provinces, the nuclear share in the mix is, 20%, 20%, up to 25%, depending on the province. So, Chinese know how to have a relatively high percentage of nuclear in the mix. You know, it's not it's not something we should not, get stuck on this 5%. You know that. That's true. for the whole country.


00:11:53:05 - 00:11:58:18

Francois Morin

But there is a large part of it, which as not yet, considered nuclear.


00:11:58:19 - 00:12:12:21

Chris Keefer

So just to clarify, the relative proportion of solar and wind have those increased, say, more than the you said nuclear sort of stayed stable? About 5%. have the relative, contributions of wind and solar increased? If so, yes. I kind of how.


00:12:12:21 - 00:12:42:13

Francois Morin

Much the wind contribution, increased by 9%. And, and the wind, wind is nearly is not not twice, but it to 1.9 times nuclear in term in terms of production. And the solar is, below nuclear, but all together, all together, the main they make, three, not three, but 2.5 times nuclear.


00:12:42:15 - 00:13:06:09

Chris Keefer

Right. Because, you know, I think one of the concerns with intermittent sources is at certain levels of penetration, they start to cannibalize each other's values and, and start to impose, excessive costs in terms of grid services and transmission, etc.. From what I understand, China is still at a relatively low despite the absolute numbers there. You know, what was it, 60GW added this year?


00:13:06:09 - 00:13:12:19

Chris Keefer

It's still relatively low proportion relative to its dispatchable forms of electricity. That is that correct? Yes.


00:13:13:01 - 00:13:31:12

Francois Morin

Yes. The the overall, capacity is now it's nearly 3000, 3000 gigawatt. Yes. So if you had the 60, you, you have the proportion you it's, it's 60 over of the 3000.


00:13:31:14 - 00:13:53:04

Chris Keefer

So I think what you've painted here for me anyway, is a real problem of energy security, importing that amount of oil. I gather a lot of it's from the Middle East. We're seeing, Israel and Iran launching attacks at each other over the, Straits of Hormuz, or over the Persian Gulf. Anyway, so that 65% dependance on oil, a real concern.


00:13:53:04 - 00:14:07:23

Chris Keefer

Similarly, gas, I mean, very interesting that they import a significant amount of coal, I guess probably a bunch of that is, is, met coal as well as just a thermal coal. But one of the things I've heard is that, you know, the big drive and I understand the, penetration of electric vehicles is quite high in China.


00:14:07:23 - 00:14:23:08

Chris Keefer

A big drive for that is to diminish dependance on imported oil, and try and become more energy dependent, more broadly through electrification. to particularly in the oil front, try and try and reduce, that dependance is that jive with, with your sense.


00:14:23:14 - 00:14:56:16

Francois Morin

This this is what. Yes. We usually this makes sense. I mean, it's common sense. However, when you look at the real picture, if China wants to electrify more its energy system. So it might, have twice as much electricity generation in 2050 compared to now. So multiplying all that by by two is an enormous challenge, you know? So if a particularly if.


00:14:56:18 - 00:15:09:11

Chris Keefer

You're, you're you're in China right now just anecdotally I mean I hear that there are a huge amount of electric vehicles being put on the market every year in China. Do you see that out on the streets? and that contributing to improved air quality and things.


00:15:09:11 - 00:15:33:08

Francois Morin

Like that in big cities? Yes, of course, we see now under they have quite a, quite an efficient system. You know, the taxi drivers, they, they, they, they don't charge their batteries, they go to the garage and and they, and they take a new, charge battery against the, the empty one. I mean, not all of them, but many of them do that.


00:15:33:10 - 00:15:58:06

Francois Morin

So, it it it works. They don't they don't I mean, they don't see the shortcomings of the, of the electric vehicle because they, they are not concerned by the charging regarding private cars. Of course, they must charge at all more in some dedicated places. it's it's big numbers, but, we still need for the big cities.


00:15:58:08 - 00:16:16:05

Chris Keefer

In terms of, you know, some of the changes maybe since we last spoke three years ago. And I really want to get into, you know, what's happening with deployments inside China. the rate, the pace, the reactor technologies that are being chosen, etc.. but before we do, China is is starting to emerge as, as more of a nuclear exporter.


00:16:16:05 - 00:16:33:02

Chris Keefer

So far, I think we have some reactors exported to Pakistan. I'm not sure about anywhere else, but it seems like with, with such a bustling industry and with this kind of geopolitical soft power, that being a nuclear exporter gives you, China is very ripe to move into that market. Are we starting to see, that that happening?


00:16:33:06 - 00:17:22:23

Francois Morin

Yes. So China I exported successfully to Pakistan already years ago and, intends to do more, one, one important for them, target was, UK for, setting the their final longer model. they spent a lot of money and time and energy, in getting the GDA general design assessment approved by the UK government, as they were somehow promised that they would get after their financial involvement in English Point, they might have this opportunity to get to, the site Bradwell for building two volume two units.


00:17:23:00 - 00:17:46:15

Francois Morin

hoping betting on that. They prepared all the documentation they spent maybe. I don't know, I don't know. The figure was up something something around 20 million pounds or maybe 30 million pounds or 2 in 4 years work. Four years and a half. And then they were kicked out. So they are they have been very, very disappointed regarding other places.


00:17:46:17 - 00:18:14:12

Francois Morin

They have, yes. They tried to to they went to all around the world, in Africa, in Kenya, in, in Eastern Europe, in, in, in, even in Ukraine, in Romania, in Cheshire, probably in, but they were slowly also, somehow kicked out of this, at least in, in, in European side.


00:18:14:14 - 00:18:38:14

Francois Morin

they have also they had also another target in South America, in Argentina. But we with the new president now we, we don't believe that the conditions are good for having the, confirmation of the violent project in Argentina, but who knows? You know, but it may change. rapidly. Also.


00:18:38:16 - 00:19:03:05

Chris Keefer

I mean, you've been around long enough to to remember the Cold War and remember remember the different blocs and the nonaligned countries. It sounds like, we're emerging into a new multipolar world that's, kind of along similar lines as that old Cold War with Russia and China, being the the powers that are sort of, I don't want to say in opposition necessarily, but, you know, the what the world's the world's divided again, along pretty similar lines.


00:19:03:07 - 00:19:17:01

Chris Keefer

and, China is not finding its way into, you know, Western or Western influence market. So it sounds like it's going to be more Africa, some parts of South America, potentially, but it does sound like the a little more constrained one.


00:19:17:01 - 00:19:43:05

Francois Morin

One interesting remark regarding this energy war. Now, as a consequence, which is a consequence of this new Cold War, sometimes you can see in the, in the newspapers some, comments on the Russian, the gas and oil, sold to China, at a discounted price because, Russia has no would not have, any other solution, any other market.


00:19:43:06 - 00:20:15:09

Francois Morin

I disagree with this point and because China is in extreme need of gas, for instance, according to all forecasts, by 2040, China alone could swallow all Gazprom production. It it would just fulfill its national need. So there is, of course, maybe there is no from the Russian point of view, maybe there is no competition outside China.


00:20:15:09 - 00:20:27:05

Francois Morin

But China itself is so much in need. I believe that still today, China is more in need of Russian gas than than Russia is in need to sell its gas.


00:20:27:07 - 00:20:53:00

Chris Keefer

Is very interesting. I had, I'm going to butcher his last name, Stefan Pinsky on. He's a, Bloomberg, gas trading journalist, or journalist on the, on the gas markets. he's written some great threads, particularly in Japan, and just seeing some sort of visualizations of kind of the octopus tentacles of, of Japanese energy strategy in terms of all the places it imports its gas from, its coal from, etc..


00:20:53:02 - 00:21:18:05

Chris Keefer

China, you know, again, getting back to this energy security question, is vulnerable in terms of moving a lot of Persian Gulf oil, I mean, out of the Persian Gulf, but also through the Straits of Malacca, the island chains, you know, in the south China Sea as a, as a zone of conflict, but very easy, you know, just geographically, I was reading a great book called Prisoners of Geography, and it really explains why countries pursue the strategies that they have and make the territorial grabs they have.


00:21:18:05 - 00:21:44:03

Chris Keefer

And it's it's not because of the whims, per se of, of a, you know, particular political figure. It's just basic geography. I mean, you want to control the high lands or the sources of the great rivers. So you go and you make sure that you have it in Tibet rather than the Indians, for instance, or the Russians, you know, being so concerned about Ukraine in those kind of northern plains that sort of leave an unobstructed entry point into into Russia and similarly, you know, Chinese, you know, security imperatives to control that.


00:21:44:03 - 00:22:04:06

Chris Keefer

I think it's called like the first island chain, in control of the South China Sea that's, you know, from a, geopolitical perspective that's to be less vulnerable to naval blockade. there's there's a few sort of straits that they can move through, I think, between Taiwan and, and one of the Japanese bases, Okinawa, where the U.S. military has a big base.


00:22:04:06 - 00:22:26:05

Chris Keefer

I mean, there's there's all sorts of surface to ship missiles systems all throughout there. I mean, China is really hemmed in and really vulnerable, I think, to energy blockade. So I think that that speaks to like why there's such a strong Russian Chinese alliance building, you know, in this new pipeline, the Trans-Siberian pipeline, I believe it's called, it's it it's our I just love understanding power.


00:22:26:06 - 00:22:27:08

Chris Keefer

Power of Siberia.


00:22:27:08 - 00:22:52:20

Francois Morin

Yeah, they will double it, in the coming years. And, and still it will represent on you a tiny portion of Chinese, consumption. of course, geography plays a role outside China. Inside China too. you know, they had, some plans, for instance, ten years ago to increase, to double the hydro, capacity.


00:22:52:20 - 00:23:21:11

Francois Morin

That was the 300, gigawatt at that time. And but now, after several consideration, investigation on the capabilities offered by rivers and mountains, you know, to get hydro power, in fact, it seems that the, the, highest limit is 500 gigawatt. And today China has, capacity. Hydro capacity also 422. So they are getting.


00:23:21:11 - 00:23:22:13

Chris Keefer

To 80GW for me.


00:23:22:13 - 00:23:45:01

Francois Morin

Yes, yes. So it's why they kind of count on that. And this and this is all these gigawatts are produced in the west part of the central west part of the country. so, I mean, it's full now. And so they have to find other, other means.


00:23:45:03 - 00:24:02:02

Chris Keefer

Well, while we're on the topic of geography, water cooling for thermal plants seems to be an issue in, in the kind of more arid interior of China. And I think that might be, again, why they are pursuing some alternative, reactor concepts and designs. can you speak to that?


00:24:02:04 - 00:24:26:08

Francois Morin

I don't I don't think it's a question of water cooling. I think it's more because they they know how to have all these, towers and, and there are enough, water resources. not maybe not enough for, hydro, because it's not the lack of water. It's the lack of mountains, which is. And, but, for cooling the plants.


00:24:26:08 - 00:25:01:00

Francois Morin

It's not the question. The question is the fear of release of radioactive material. this this this fear was, became very, very, sensitive issue after Fukushima. and, because the population is so numerous on the downstream of potential sites that, because of that, the fear that if any, any piece of water would be contaminated, then, they don't know how it would be managed.


00:25:01:02 - 00:25:22:14

Chris Keefer

It was it was very interesting seeing, China's diplomatic objections to the Fukushima water release. there was some data looking at, some operating Chinese nuclear plants, that were releasing far greater amounts of tritium into the water. so, you know, that that was interesting and kind of attitudes, towards radiation, in China. That's that's a kind of interesting topic.


00:25:22:16 - 00:25:30:23

Chris Keefer

in terms of, you know, it seems like that's kind of receding as a fear in the West right now. paradoxically, maybe, but it's.


00:25:30:23 - 00:25:52:08

Francois Morin

They will use again for in the coming years this question of Fukushima, Fukushima water, you know, just just to put a just throw a stone in the Japanese garden. but I believe the Japanese garden can, can stand most on its own. And it's even the specificity of Japanese gardens.


00:25:52:10 - 00:25:53:04

Chris Keefer

yeah.


00:25:53:06 - 00:26:49:02

Francois Morin

No, they, I, I think they will also build, nuclear plants, inland because the number of sites, the number if they want to reach. Let's let's go to some, some figures briefly. now we have 57 gigawatt of nuclear capacity. We have no, set a target for 2050, but there are many rumors, options, discussions, to go up to maybe 500 gigawatt of nuclear capacity by 2050, which is more than the whole world today, which also means that it would, consume the whole, more more than the, 65,000 tons uranium and that, that, consume, every year today in the whole world.


00:26:49:04 - 00:27:22:20

Francois Morin

but even if they don't go as, as high as that, let's say if their target to 350 gigawatt plus, 30 gigawatt for, heating, heating, dedicated reactors. But even with, even with a 350GW of nuclear capacity, this cannot be, reached with the coastal sites on the U.S., 47, from coastal sites and approximately the same inland.


00:27:22:22 - 00:27:53:23

Francois Morin

we have already this 57 already installed capacity in some sites. You can have six reactors in some others you can have only four. so all all that's considered, the coastal sites cannot exceed 200. And, 50 gigawatt approximately. So, so this means that they definitely need at least for 100 gigawatt, build, reactors, inland.


00:27:54:01 - 00:28:15:08

Chris Keefer

And I mean, we have the example of Palo Verde in the US, a reactor in the, in the arid deserts of, of Arizona, I think actually four reactors there, so certainly it's it's it's been done. I guess the question is, does that require non, you know, light water reactors, does that require, you know, different coolants and moderator or you said there's enough water and yes, we can build.


00:28:15:08 - 00:28:15:17

Chris Keefer

Well there is.


00:28:15:17 - 00:28:16:06

Francois Morin

No, no, no.


00:28:16:07 - 00:28:17:01

Chris Keefer

Like water reactors.


00:28:17:01 - 00:28:40:15

Francois Morin

Water is not a problem. I would even say that it's too much water is the threat is much. It's more the flood and then the than the lack of water. Right. But, no, the question is, just the question of safety. But provided that, it's guaranteed that there will not be any, radioactive release even in case of accident, then, they will start.


00:28:40:15 - 00:29:16:23

Francois Morin

It has been advocated this week again by several important people, to, to, to start building inland reactors. They after Fukushima, they stopped. It was officially said that they would consider after 2020, but now it's 2024. So they must to rush to to get some installed before 2030. I believe that before the end of the year, there will be the first, authorization for starting, plant reactor, on the inland side.


00:29:17:01 - 00:29:36:12

Chris Keefer

Got you, got you. Yeah, I was I was just on the World Nuclear Association website looking at the China, China web page. Excellent resource, I must say. but, yeah, you see this real kind of exponential curve, sort of 20 tens to 2020s, and then it kind of slumps. and I guess that's because of the kind of Fukushima hangover.


00:29:36:12 - 00:30:08:17

Chris Keefer

And we're probably going to see another exponential sort of hockey stick, coming very, very shortly. so I mean, things are certainly humming along. you know, in my brief kind of review of, of, the history of Chinese nuclear, really at buffet lunch of reactor technologies and vendors that that were selected. The Americans, the Europeans, the Canadians, I think, the only, the only countries that have not sold reactors to China, probably for historically, historical geopolitical reasons are Japan and I think Korea.


00:30:08:18 - 00:30:28:14

Chris Keefer

but you could you could fill fill me in on some gaps there. but it does sound like, China is in digitizing technologies, becoming fully sufficient, self-sufficient in, in those technologies. And it seems like we're narrowing in on two sort of contenders. for the kind of future these gigawatt scale light water build out.


00:30:28:14 - 00:30:51:08

Chris Keefer

And those are the Chinese Ap1000 and AP 1400, which is the derivative and the long one. So I'm very interested in, first maybe clarifying my my initial statement there in terms of characterizing the buffet lunch of, of the history of Chinese nuclear deployments and then, yeah, where we're going, in which technologies are emerging as kind of the standardized, nuclear plant for the future.


00:30:51:08 - 00:31:26:18

Francois Morin

Builds a decision to have, diversity in technologies was, taken, in 2007, the Chinese plan, was first to to to work with the French in the 90s, in the last century, 1990s, the first plant, the first reactor started and connected to the grid in China was a fully Chinese reactor. So they might have gone this national all the way, all the way right to now.


00:31:26:20 - 00:32:00:06

Francois Morin

And they are some Chinese, people who say, I mean experts in nuclear. We say we should not have bought these Western technologies. We should have gone our way. The one thing itself, which now seems to be important in all the plans, that we have 11 long under constructions today, 11 and the fourth or 18. So it seems very important and, but, it started also 12 years ago, you know, the design and, all assessments around the following.


00:32:00:07 - 00:32:30:02

Francois Morin

It started many years ago. however, the decision was taken. Yes. To, to have a very diverse, origin of, of the reactors, but in the same it's same in Finland, Finland, which is a 6 to 6.5 million inhabitants. so also 3 or 4 technologies. so, so the. Yes. So they have opted first for the French, then the, then the, Candu and the VVA.


00:32:30:02 - 00:33:10:10

Francois Morin

Don't forget the Russians. yes. For creating plants and the foreign the construction. and also, yes, the AP, the famous Ap1000, and and, and their own new options like the CP 1400. Yes. All these, all these reactors are now either working, either being under construction regarding a new Candu. I know that, Canadian are, somehow, positive about the possibility to sell the new Candu reactor.


00:33:10:12 - 00:33:41:12

Francois Morin

which is, has been, agreed in terms of development with China. We need some years ago the ACA for whatever. I don't see that. I don't see the the room for it in the current picture, but, it's still possible. I know the French also would like to sell more EPR. Now they have two EPR in, in, in in Taishan site in Guangdong province in the south.


00:33:41:14 - 00:33:54:09

Francois Morin

And they still hope that they can sell Taiwan three Taishan for as EPR. I don't see such a Chinese decision. soon I may be wrong, but I don't I don't see yeah.


00:33:54:11 - 00:34:11:07

Chris Keefer

Okay. So let's, let's let's, unpack that. I mean, first off, maybe just kind of rapid fire questions here because I don't want to dwell too long on any of them. But you said the first, Chinese reactor, connected to the grid was fully Chinese indigenous technology. was that based upon prior.


00:34:11:08 - 00:34:18:05

Francois Morin

The 300 megawatt, 300 megawatt which started in 1887?


00:34:18:07 - 00:34:39:13

Chris Keefer

Okay, okay, let's let's let's kind of fast forward then. so the EPR and Ap1000 experience in China, like looking at the medium build times, you have I think there's two reactors that were built on a, on a shorter time schedule in terms of shovel to to breaker connection. but, you know, waving my little Canadian flag, the Candu did pretty well.


00:34:39:13 - 00:34:57:23

Chris Keefer

I think, you know, third and fourth quickest deploy that, you know, four and a half, five years. But the median build time in China was five and a half years. And the Ap1000 and EPR took just under ten years. So why why is EPR not being pursued and why is the and digitized Ap1000 continuing to be deployed?


00:34:58:01 - 00:35:29:08

Francois Morin

EPR and Ap1000 were competitor in in in 2007 and there was no official bid at that time and know national tender and the Ap1000 won that. So it makes sense. And now to to see that they have more if you 1000 than EPR I would say that the two EPR in Taishan were given to the French as a compensation to have lost the tender.


00:35:29:10 - 00:36:00:17

Francois Morin

So, he has so, so I mean, there is no not much more interrogation about that. Now, if you look at the price per kilowatt, for instance, Chinese yuan per kilowatt, the, the, the Ap1000 are more expensive than the EPR. You have a con. Yes. You can hear me. Maybe a kind of a smaller, scaling effect, which is not very often seen in nuclear, but, we can we could consider it.


00:36:00:17 - 00:36:08:12

Francois Morin

Yeah. And there's a difference of price between EPR and Ap1000 comes from this scaling effect, which works here.


00:36:08:13 - 00:36:18:04

Chris Keefer

Just because the EPR is, is a massive it's, 1750 versus thousands, 1100. Is it the largest? Is it the largest reactor like ever built?


00:36:18:09 - 00:36:19:10

Francois Morin

But they have some.


00:36:19:10 - 00:36:19:23

Chris Keefer

That being said.


00:36:19:23 - 00:36:48:23

Francois Morin

They'll have their own. But there's not any. Also Chinese with which which comes from the evolution of the Ap1000 and that's he's a fully Chinese, entirely, free of, prior intellectual property rights, to, to Westinghouse and, and which is 1500 megawatt roughly. But there is a new, a new version which is going to come after the first two under construction.


00:36:48:23 - 00:36:57:16

Francois Morin

Now in, should out one base. and the new one might be 1700 megawatt. Megawatt.


00:36:57:18 - 00:37:17:15

Chris Keefer

Okay, just just on that topic. Okay. So just just to kind of, maybe wrap up on that, there are not any new EPR, reactors planned, despite the lower, per kilowatt construction cost is what I'm hearing, at least compared to the first AP 1000. but there are, you know, the whole and AP 1000 seem to be emerging as the kind of standardized down selection.


00:37:17:17 - 00:37:23:21

Chris Keefer

How many, how long are being planned? How many? cap 1000 or 14 hundreds are being planned right now.


00:37:23:23 - 00:37:48:21

Francois Morin

What, how many volume plans there are? Maybe altogether. We see. I told you for now, working in operation 11, you never know. Under construction. And maybe behind that we can see 30. So that that would mean. That would mean, between 45 and 50. Huarong at the end of the end, Ap1000.


00:37:48:23 - 00:37:50:07

Chris Keefer

And what about the cap?


00:37:50:07 - 00:38:25:00

Francois Morin

Yes, 81,000 will remain below that. Ap1000 had this, market perspective, to, have a lot to like 70, 70 units in China that back in 20 2012, it was the forecast. But, now, no, nobody can believe that. And, we more expect something between the 14 units one, four and 18 units maximum.


00:38:25:01 - 00:38:31:19

Chris Keefer

So the whole along sounds like sounds like the winter here. And the whole thing is based on the French three loop design. Is that the kind of, yes.


00:38:31:21 - 00:38:52:18

Francois Morin

Yes. In terms of global, yes. It looks like somehow. Yes. But but with the new features, including, of course, the passive safety system, which requires a lot of, additional, concrete and steel, 50% more, 50% more.


00:38:52:19 - 00:39:17:06

Chris Keefer

Because because this is, you know, without going to off track here, my understanding of kind of origin story of the EPR is that this was, you know, the European Pressurized Reactor. They tried to harmonize lots of different regulations in Europe and ended up with the harshest regulations, from each country, leading to a design that's is harder to build, has more concrete and steel, involves, double containment, I think, for trains, etc..


00:39:17:11 - 00:39:35:01

Chris Keefer

Safety trains. and that's a criticism that I hear. I mean, and we haven't seen, you know, if we're going to talk, I think a little bit about negative and positive learning rates, but it seems to be a reactor that's been difficult to construct. I mean, the Ap1000 in the US is also quite difficult, but I think much more economical in terms of concrete and steel etc..


00:39:35:03 - 00:39:38:22

Chris Keefer

do you do you see that? Is that an accurate portrayal or my in my way?


00:39:39:00 - 00:40:07:20

Francois Morin

Not fully as I just told you, that in terms of cost per kilowatt, EPR is cheaper than the AP 1000. So, yes, the construction time here maybe plays a role, but not that much. You know, when when your reactor is to supposed to work 80 years, 60 to 80 years, you know, five years delay or, plus or minus is not really significant.


00:40:07:22 - 00:40:11:21

Chris Keefer

something you can say in China, I think that you cannot say anywhere else in the world right now, or certainly in the West.


00:40:12:00 - 00:40:58:11

Francois Morin

But look, the Ap1000 construction time is quite high, 107 107 mod nine years and and two months in a in a in average. So and it has not seen significant decrease due to learning, aspect of the construction. and hired, the Sandman to invest some in two was maybe a little bit, shorter in time to segment one, but not, not really much because they had this primary pond problem and they had to sell the primary pond back to the US.


00:40:58:13 - 00:41:28:18

Francois Morin

And and get a new one. And this happened several times. so, they lost time in the, in this particular case, the, the Huaneng compare the compare to the in the EP 1000. The following is a 8882 month construction time. But here also you have an interesting feature. The first two following made by CNN. And see in floating site, just across the Taiwan Strait.


00:41:28:20 - 00:41:51:16

Francois Morin

This one have been much shorter in, in, in construction time, than the one only made by Cgtn in southern China, coast. and those require nearly one year or more. So. And, and the second unit was not shorter in time compared to the first in both cases.


00:41:51:18 - 00:42:13:11

Chris Keefer

So this goes like this goes against all of the aspirations that we hear. You know, in the West we have commitments now to triple, nuclear energy by 2050 coming out of, you know, corp declaration by I think 30 nations that signed. Interestingly, I don't think China was a signatory to that particular declaration, but they're the most credible to actually deliver and maybe deliver that all sort of in-country.


00:42:13:13 - 00:42:45:10

Chris Keefer

but, yeah, I'm, I'm curious, about that, about, you know, this, this, this phenomenon that we see of actual negative learning rates. And we would think, I think in China, where they're really teed up supply chain, you know, everything that we're sort of lacking in the West or maybe what France had in the 70s and 80s that those, those ingredients, those core ingredients seem to be there in terms of a, you know, you know, large and highly qualified workforce, whether that's craft labor, engineers, project managers, etc..


00:42:45:10 - 00:43:05:21

Chris Keefer

And what you're telling me is we're still not seeing much in the way of, of, positive learning and certainly not consistently like one thing I've heard is that sort of on site, you know, if you build several reactors on site, typically you see a cost reduction. I guess you have some counterfactuals there. but you don't see that between sites or between states, within a, within a country or between countries.


00:43:05:21 - 00:43:08:21

Chris Keefer

But let's yeah, let's, let's dive a little bit into this.


00:43:08:21 - 00:43:37:09

Francois Morin

On the one side, you may have a kind of a learning effect, which, applies for, for the cost. Yes. May be why? Because you mobilize less. Probably you need less capital, maybe for all the cranes or the infrastructure. everything which is around. Yes. But even even on one side, you don't see, as I just told you, you don't see a decrease in in terms of time.


00:43:37:11 - 00:43:41:06

Francois Morin

Construction time remains the same or even higher.


00:43:41:06 - 00:43:44:14

Chris Keefer

Why? That makes no sense. Why?


00:43:44:16 - 00:44:13:23

Francois Morin

Because it's not because not a learning learning effect exists in many industries, in all industry, in car manufacturing industry, in, in the, in plane, manufacturing, of course, it makes sense because all these things can be I mean, that sometimes there is a big infrastructure, but this infrastructure can be cut into pieces, which is not the case in a, in a, in a nuclear, plant.


00:44:14:00 - 00:44:42:04

Francois Morin

you have an extremely massive, amount of concrete, which, I'm, I mean, you have the, of course, the steel, but you have also extremely heavy equipment, so you must have dedicated crane for each, for moving each equipment. Sometimes you have to build the cranes in order to to move the equipment on site.


00:44:42:06 - 00:45:21:12

Francois Morin

And, it's why, for instance, moving one crane to a site is considered as a nuclear news, you know. Oh, we they move the they move the crane on the on the segment sedimentary. and, and, the thing is too big to be, to take advantage of any kind of, learning effect. And these extremely, site dependent, operations go and, of course, on the other, they follow a planning, schedule, but, unexpected things happen all the time.


00:45:21:14 - 00:45:43:09

Francois Morin

You know, the weather is not what you want. It, the transport of the equipment is not what you expected. and there is there is no way to control that. There is no way to make a to to to to make it modular. We have a kind of modular Ap1000. Yes. Okay. But still, you know, ten years construction.


00:45:43:11 - 00:46:01:20

Chris Keefer

I mean, to be charitable, it sounds like. And when we've really deep dive this question, and we do have the, the, the beauty of having a sort of case control study, you know, the US versus China, where you don't have, you know, you do have a strict regulator in China, but it's not quite the NRC. You don't have the air aircraft impact assessment rule.


00:46:01:22 - 00:46:19:06

Chris Keefer

you have a very, you know, highly skilled project management workforce and craft labor workforce in China. You don't have that in the states. And yet Vogel took took ten years, maybe ten and a half. And and sun Man, etc.. The sites in China took nine and a half years. So the common denominator seems to be that the design wasn't finished.


00:46:19:08 - 00:46:38:17

Chris Keefer

now the design is finished. Some people say, okay, well, you know, you can move quite a bit of the AP 1000 construction, you know, into more of a factory environment in terms of creating those modules. So we should see a, you know, a significant change, without all the design reviews and changes. Do you, do you share that, that optimism or you're smiling?


00:46:38:17 - 00:47:07:09

Francois Morin

Yes, I, I smile because I think the key in the, in this is Chinese, Pete, if there is a Chinese speed, because even even in China, construction time are rising instead of rising. If you take altogether I mean the Ap1000, the, the EPA, the finals, and you compare the construction time today to what it was before, it's just it has just increased by 20%.


00:47:07:11 - 00:47:13:05

Francois Morin

So, yes, even in China, construction time is increasing. And


00:47:13:06 - 00:47:15:22

Chris Keefer

Okay, so there's this,


00:47:16:00 - 00:47:45:04

Francois Morin

Question of design solutions. the capital, you know, how much money do they put at the beginning from scratch, not only on the site to build to, to to do it for the concrete and steel and struction, but, also for the equipment. You know, I have seen this several times myself in several, equipment manufacturing, company factories in China.


00:47:45:06 - 00:48:12:06

Francois Morin

equipment finished already, equipment that costs tens of millions of US dollars each for like the steam generator for for the CP 1400. I don't know, but the cost I didn't disclose to me the the cost, but the it's maybe something around the 30, 35 million USD and, and these two steam generator fronts, in this case in Shanghai, they were lying in the factory.


00:48:12:07 - 00:48:31:02

Francois Morin

They were ready. Can you imagine that? This this, 70 to 80 million USD stock here in mobilize here. And, without getting their return, I mean, without being fully sold,


00:48:31:04 - 00:48:34:09

Chris Keefer

Because they were waiting for something to happen on the critical path.


00:48:34:11 - 00:48:39:15

Francois Morin

Because they were because they were launched early in advance.


00:48:39:17 - 00:48:40:10

Chris Keefer

Okay.


00:48:40:12 - 00:49:14:04

Francois Morin

But the launching of the big equipment requires, is extremely, capital demanding, you know, and we don't accept that in the West, we shall not launch in advance the construction of a big equipment. I mean, we shall not, modernize tens of millions of US dollars if we have no clear agenda, years schedule in which we would at least minimize the the number of months or years.


00:49:14:06 - 00:49:26:18

Francois Morin

In this case, it was years. but the Chinese, they can do that. Yes. So that that they lose in terms of, the profit, but, they can do it. Yes.


00:49:26:21 - 00:49:42:23

Chris Keefer

Okay. And what you're saying, though, is we're still seeing a 20% increase in schedule over the last few years. Like, is that driven by the Ap1000 and the EPR that took nine and a half years, or are we seeing prolongs or. You know, I'm trying to think of a stable design that's been around for 10 or 15 years.


00:49:42:23 - 00:49:46:16

Chris Keefer

Are those reactors also starting to take longer to build?


00:49:46:18 - 00:49:59:10

Francois Morin

Yes. Huaneng is also today still, six and a half years. It's more than the supposed five years. It's close to seven years.


00:49:59:10 - 00:49:59:20

Chris Keefer

So you got to go.


00:49:59:20 - 00:50:00:20

Francois Morin

Back in seven years.


00:50:00:23 - 00:50:22:12

Chris Keefer

If you want to build something fast, you got to go back to can do it. Sounds like I'm just kidding. Maybe, Okay. I mean, this this is interesting. I had a guest on recently. He had a brilliant quote. I've been trying to find the source of it. He said it was Euripides. but he said, you know, the quote is, you know, man is blind until he has a metaphor or, I guess, an allegory that allows him to see.


00:50:22:14 - 00:50:49:04

Chris Keefer

Right. And, you know, nuclear is just so different and distinct. And I think a lot of errors in terms of how we think about it occur because of the metaphors and allegories that we apply, the category of errors that we make. And so one of the famous ones I think about is, the Silicon Valley tech investor who is a techno optimist, has made a bunch of money, is turning to more, you know, aspirational goals of fighting climate change and says, wow, there's so much potential here in nuclear.


00:50:49:04 - 00:51:09:06

Chris Keefer

There's so many beautiful narratives, there's so many ways, that this technology can address all of its problems in terms of proliferation, in waste. And I've disrupted a lot in Silicon Valley. I'm a tech disruptor. I'm going to come to nuclear, do the same. That's that's kind of one category where you apply, you know, a career in tech and think that that is is applicable maybe to nuclear.


00:51:09:07 - 00:51:29:02

Chris Keefer

I try and, you know, struggle to find, you know, imperfect, but maybe superior allegories or metaphors for nuclear. And what I can sort of come back to is, you know, nuclear is a lot like hydroelectricity. you know, big capital, high risk construction project with a, you know, you know, a high value asset but valued over many, many decades.


00:51:29:04 - 00:51:47:20

Chris Keefer

that can underpin a lot of, you know, economic well-being that produces cheap power eventually. and obviously, there's differences in terms of the operation of a hydroelectric facility doesn't require, you know, workforce of hundreds. but I find that to be, especially in terms of wrestling with these considerations of, you know, how how much can we speed up construction schedule?


00:51:47:22 - 00:52:03:13

Chris Keefer

what are some of the hard limits or what are some of the limits imposed by the the characteristics of the technology itself? Hydroelectricity and nuclear seem to be sort of the closest, you know, at least within that narrow frame, still very imperfect metaphor, allegory, but probably some.


00:52:03:15 - 00:52:04:19

Francois Morin

A lot of the more.


00:52:04:21 - 00:52:07:11

Chris Keefer

Nuclear is not like a gas plant, not like a coal plant, you know.


00:52:07:13 - 00:52:32:15

Francois Morin

It's not. And you're right. I even would, push the allegory further. I would say yes, or I would say nuclear is closer to, road construction to bridges and tunnels. You know, you expect to tunnel to be built in, I don't know, one year. And then all of a sudden, there is a big part, that you could not guess because of the geology.


00:52:32:21 - 00:53:01:07

Francois Morin

And it needs new tools and new equipment, and then up you you you you lose one year that that's that nuclear is closer to that. New has nothing to do with, airplane industry, you know, airplane industry you have you put pieces all together, and, like the chairs insides on the windows. It's you don't have these kind of you kind of split the nuclear even if if it even if you 1000 tries to make that modular.


00:53:01:08 - 00:53:16:05

Francois Morin

But the so-called modularization is still extremely huge pieces of metal and so it cannot be compared. Yes. With gas plant. Gas plant is just a Lego Lego kind of pipes.


00:53:16:06 - 00:53:45:20

Chris Keefer

Yeah. I mean, so let's, let's yeah, I'd like to I'd like to expand on, on the question of modularity because that's, that's really been pitched to sort of the salvation of the nuclear industry or the way to to speed things up. And I think it's compelling. I mean, move the higher percentage of work from a unproductive construction site to a higher, say, more productive, factory site where the labor cost drop, where you can have, more efficiencies that are, that are built in if you have enough orders to justify, you know, modular module factories and, modular assembly plants, etc..


00:53:45:22 - 00:54:04:12

Chris Keefer

what are what are your thoughts about, you know, the panacea? I'm not trying to frame the question in that way, the promises of modularity and nuclear, because certainly they have been made. They've been tied basically to small reactors. But, yeah, that's certainly been something that's being chased the can. Does that concern, for instance, for open top?


00:54:04:14 - 00:54:10:21

Chris Keefer

there's a lot of modularity involved in that. And maybe that helps explain the fast construction time. What are your thoughts on on modularity?


00:54:10:23 - 00:54:36:12

Francois Morin

It's at least it's a project to have modularity for small modular reactors. but I saw interesting thing, that a few months ago when, Exim Bank in us decided that they would afford long term loans for, small construction, long terms of 20 years, and, no, I forgot the number, but a low interest rate.


00:54:36:14 - 00:55:07:05

Francois Morin

This will be the key for building smaller, not the modularity. The low interest rate and the long term loan is what the Chinese do. and it is the. It is the key. It the key is in the money. now, now, regarding the modular technical modularity of, as I think we we already talked about that last time, I forgot, but, for me, the key in smart.


00:55:07:07 - 00:55:34:21

Francois Morin

Yes. is modular, is nice, is beautiful. But the m m for modular will not work without an M for many. If you don't have an order of 20 or 30 at once, it's what will be modular. Your design will be modular, but your construction will be one by one. You know, so. And you get how do you get ten orders at once?


00:55:35:00 - 00:55:36:07

Francois Morin

How do you get that?


00:55:36:09 - 00:55:51:22

Chris Keefer

Especially if the sticker shock of the first of a kind or the third or fourth of a kind is, is, you know, these are going to be more expensive than gigawatt scale plants on a, on a per megawatt basis. so that's, that's something and especially a first of a kind designs. And they all are first of a kind designs at this point.


00:55:51:22 - 00:56:07:05

Chris Keefer

And you know, maybe that brings us to talking, about the ACP 100, the Chinese small modular reactor that's under construction. Just seeing some pictures and videos. This thing still looks like a massive plant with a small reactor pressure vessel. Like, it doesn't seem like they've scaled down the civil works on that.


00:56:07:06 - 00:56:32:05

Francois Morin

It's what the Chinese tell me. You know it in me. I didn't visit it yet, but I'm supposed to go there someday, and, that's on me. I don't expect the thing to be small. I know it's 15m high, and, it looks big. In fact, it doesn't look much smaller than the neighboring, final gander. Maybe smaller than the final, but not than the CPR 1000, for instance.


00:56:32:07 - 00:56:45:00

Francois Morin

So, so, yes, the ACP, one of it is a so-called small reactor. it will be connected to the grid by probably early 2026.


00:56:45:02 - 00:57:03:16

Chris Keefer

And what's what's the rationale there is, is this, is this to start powering, you know, Chinese military bases in the South China Sea? I mean, that's still a pretty large reactor for that. So, like, where are they thinking of deploying this? Why are they pursuing a small, reactor in the setting of, you know, these extraordinary additions they're planning, up to, you know, hundreds of gigawatts more nuclear.


00:57:03:17 - 00:57:32:04

Francois Morin

This is even 100 is not the only Chinese, SMR design. even at the IAEA, there are ten, registered, different Chinese design. For example. And, and if you add on the top of that the dedicated to sheet, production, the SMR in China will have the that makes, that makes at least 14 different designs.


00:57:32:06 - 00:57:35:13

Francois Morin

So 14 SMR in China. Yes.


00:57:35:15 - 00:57:52:19

Chris Keefer

and SMR for district heat makes makes you need it. You need a small smaller reactor. It needs to be sited closer to the population center. you know, the the megawatts thermal are, you know, still quite a lot, even in a 1500 megawatt reactor. Like, it seems like that is really the case for SMR. Is that similar to.


00:57:52:19 - 00:58:16:18

Francois Morin

It is the same as in, in the US? It's, replacing the coal plants, particularly in the north. And the coal plants, as you say it is. they are in the cities. So if you put any SMR in the scene or very close to a city, you need to be absolutely certain of its safety that, you will not need to evacuate the whole city.


00:58:16:19 - 00:59:12:20

Francois Morin

So the question of the EPA's emergency zone is very important here. I know that the countries are not binded by the IAEA recommendations, which is to have these five kilometers, emergency zone for evacuation. And so, I know that however, the countries follow the recommendation of IAEA and, so this problem of putting, SMR in on, on coal sites, on coal plant site, this will be solved only when some countries like the US, which have already which has already gone for this step, but plus China plus maybe another country plus the IAEA, if they come to a consensus and this consensus still today, even if the IAEA is working positively on


00:59:12:20 - 00:59:30:06

Francois Morin

that, but it still seem to be it seems to be remote enough from now because, it's not in the IAEA mentality. IAEA does not consider the design. IAEA considers only the quantity of radioactive material storage.


00:59:30:08 - 00:59:38:06

Chris Keefer

Right. And sorry. So these coal plants that are looking to be replaced, their district heating coal plants or they, power generation coal for both.


00:59:38:08 - 01:00:09:14

Francois Morin

You're right. If it's only for a kind of, what? The name of pool reactor. You have the four different designs for a pool reactor by different companies in China. So you have, uranium in water. The water gets hot, and you. It's a you you you you supplied one single loop, up to 90°C, roughly.


01:00:09:16 - 01:00:10:17

Francois Morin

So it's,


01:00:10:19 - 01:00:14:07

Chris Keefer

That's got to be cheap. That sounds that sounds cheap. Like pool reactors. Not not very.


01:00:14:09 - 01:00:29:06

Francois Morin

Cheap. But, Chris, it doesn't work in summertime. So it's it's same, same shortcoming as a solar solar panels. We do not which do not work at night. So this heating.


01:00:29:11 - 01:00:30:01

Chris Keefer

Once you don't need.


01:00:30:04 - 01:00:30:15

Francois Morin

It, you don't.


01:00:30:15 - 01:00:33:04

Chris Keefer

Need it in the summertime. It's not that it doesn't work, but you just don't need it.


01:00:33:04 - 01:00:36:09

Francois Morin

Yes, yes opposite problem.


01:00:36:10 - 01:00:37:15

Chris Keefer

It's still still a.


01:00:37:17 - 01:00:56:22

Francois Morin

Problem, but similar I mean yes. So so this is a big concern for the for the profitability of the thing, you know. Right. Is cheaper. But it must be, it must be. It has to be, half cheaper. not a little bit cheaper.


01:00:57:00 - 01:01:02:23

Chris Keefer

So, so again, just, just to sort of try and pin you down on what the Chinese SMR strategy is.


01:01:03:01 - 01:01:03:16

Francois Morin

competition.


01:01:03:16 - 01:01:05:17

Chris Keefer

There's probably some more kind of competition.


01:01:05:18 - 01:01:09:17

Francois Morin

The key is competition, you know, three of four, in.


01:01:09:17 - 01:01:10:13

Chris Keefer

Terms of international.


01:01:10:13 - 01:01:11:17

Francois Morin

Markets between them for.


01:01:11:17 - 01:01:12:00

Chris Keefer

Terms of.


01:01:12:00 - 01:01:20:20

Francois Morin

International, between themselves for, for companies, and each of them having 2 or 3 designs.


01:01:20:22 - 01:01:38:09

Chris Keefer

But, but like why, why is China looking to deploy a similar as if they're saying we're going to add hundreds of gigawatts of nuclear capacity in China, which is a country with incredibly huge demands, big population centers, you know, like I understand in the West, there's a rationale for pursuing modular small reactors. And that's, you know, big time social license.


01:01:38:11 - 01:01:52:14

Chris Keefer

It's we're never going to get governments to pony up billions of dollars. It's, you know, frankly, a lot of it is social license related. I mean, maybe that's the case in China. but I'm I'm curious, like, what is the use case in China? You mentioned district heating. That makes a lot of sense.


01:01:52:14 - 01:02:03:02

Francois Morin

To district heating. That would be for small, small power, reactor. Yes. Of course, less than around 120MW. so more. Yes.


01:02:03:04 - 01:02:05:19

Chris Keefer

So, so what are the other use cases for, for small.


01:02:05:21 - 01:02:27:11

Francois Morin

Have they, have they say they have remote places in China, you know, from Tibet, to Gansu, they have, even in the south, in the mountains, you have many, many remote places where, where it's difficult to bring, electricity. I mean, at low cost. And, you have also islands and, yes. You mentioned there, including the military ones.


01:02:27:13 - 01:02:42:01

Francois Morin

Yes. It's other than China. and, you can also have this modular type of thing by piling, piling, reactors as the for the high temperature reactor.


01:02:42:06 - 01:02:42:20

Chris Keefer

And microwaves.


01:02:42:20 - 01:03:11:08

Francois Morin

You know, the high temperature reactor is, 200 megawatt, but they intend to have three times the same reactor. In one more compact, you need to have a 660 megawatt, reactor in the future. So they are use these individually for remote places for, also exploration, sites in the sea in the South China Sea. There is it's not very deep.


01:03:11:08 - 01:03:34:23

Francois Morin

The water is not very deep. And, they have many projects of oil extraction on the coasts of boring Vietnam. it's in dispute, by the way, with Vietnam. But they they intend to, to get this oil out of the sea and, they need electricity for that. So they may have, floating, kind of plants.


01:03:35:01 - 01:03:53:14

Chris Keefer

I mean, it's so interesting because in the West, we're in this phase of just imagining all these applications. We're trying to chase climate change solutions, looking at nuclear, to do things like process heat to, you know, get remote communities off of diesel, you know, barge based nuclear for, you know, a variety of those kind of applications.


01:03:53:16 - 01:04:12:18

Chris Keefer

you know, advanced nuclear concepts. And that's all in our imagination. It's all in our head so far. Basically, even grid scale us on Mars, you know, essentially Ontario will lead on that. But but China, China is in an active process of actually doing all of these things. so maybe maybe just touch on the high temperature gas reactor, the molten salt reactor, barge nuclear.


01:04:12:18 - 01:04:19:15

Chris Keefer

I mean, there's like, we could talk for hours and we won't be able to today for, so I'll have to have you back, but maybe just catch us up on those those few things.


01:04:19:17 - 01:04:54:17

Francois Morin

So. Yeah. So your question is about a high temperature reactor. Yes. This one was, was a kind of, it was developed by Tsinghua University and, and, and, it was not supposed to be on the market at that time. There was a first Chinese consider that the TR you know, what would be much higher in price in terms of cost than the rest, and that the LCoE might be of 18 to 20% more or more expensive than the than the other $10.


01:04:54:19 - 01:05:25:13

Francois Morin

All so but but after, all this, yes. So consideration of a carbon reduction, you all of a sudden we, we we saw that the heat is, is a good thing by itself. Heat has value. So, the tr become after, I would say after it started construction, you know, it started in 2007, but after it started construction.


01:05:25:15 - 01:05:36:11

Francois Morin

you know, it started I mean, the project was. But the FCD must have been 20, 2012, I think 2012. but anyway, that time, that's.


01:05:36:11 - 01:05:39:00

Chris Keefer

The first concrete progress.


01:05:39:02 - 01:06:12:23

Francois Morin

for the TR and, but but, anyway, nobody had in mind the at that time, the value of heat. It came afterwards. And now we consider that. Yes, there are a lot of industries that could, take advantage of such heat, particularly. Yes. In, in coastal China, we have many chemical industries and so, so they could they could get these 500 and something degrees for their chemical processes.


01:06:13:01 - 01:06:34:12

Chris Keefer

Okay. So, I'm trying to wrap up a few other loose ends that we had. so one question again regarding the Hwa Long versus Chinese Ap1000, rivalry. I'm wondering if part of that is affected by, export controls. I know that China negotiated with Westinghouse and, you know, got fully licensed in terms of, I think, domestic deployment of Ap1000 and its derivatives.


01:06:34:14 - 01:06:55:22

Chris Keefer

But I think in 2018, Trump put in, the Trump administration, you know, put in restrictions, on exports of the Chinese Ap1000, AP 1400. I imagine that's, you know, it'd be disputed and that would be less of an issue in a Chinese aligned kind of, country than, say, Poland or somewhere else. We're frankly just not going to happen.


01:06:56:00 - 01:07:05:01

Chris Keefer

is that is that a reason for, the pursuit of the whole long to have something where there's, you know, no real export limitations beyond just this kind of nuclear war or what do you think.


01:07:05:03 - 01:07:33:05

Francois Morin

Chinese construction company are on the blacklist? Yeah, definitely. So this is, this is a problem, but, would it, would it prevent from, for instance, Turkey from buying it? I don't know, maybe not. You know, even if Turkey is in NATO and Turkey has bought a Russian river and the Turkey might as well buy, Chinese CP 1400, it's still possible.


01:07:33:05 - 01:07:34:15

Francois Morin

It's still possible.


01:07:34:17 - 01:07:50:10

Chris Keefer

Okay. And just one last, I guess, maybe concluding question. And we're going to have to have you back to deep dive a few of these topics if you're willing, is, you know, I think like the, the all time sort of world record for, construction speed, you know, per megawatt capacity or the a BWR builds in Japan.


01:07:50:12 - 01:08:10:06

Chris Keefer

as I understand it, you know, very modular reactor. And the Japanese just, you know, knocked it out of the park. I forget which side of it was the the one that begins with K that I can't pronounce. but, you know, like, I think like the aspiration, the hope is, you know, could we develop in a variety of countries that capability to deploy as quickly as the Japanese did with a BWR?


01:08:10:07 - 01:08:17:04

Chris Keefer

What was behind that speed of deployment? and is that replicable, outside of Japan in the 1990s?


01:08:17:06 - 01:08:51:00

Francois Morin

I don't know. Well, Japanese case, to be honest, but, I think we should not term be extremely focused on this, construction time, obstacle. if the Chinese, for instance, if the delivery and the authorizations for six to 8 to 8 or maybe more, ten up to ten for a year. So this this is main thing, you know, the Chinese supply chain, a Chinese construction capability.


01:08:51:00 - 01:09:25:13

Francois Morin

Can they have this plus ten, reactors a year? today? Yes. They can today each component can be manufactured by five different companies in China. So so there is not that much problem. But if we go from five plants a year, five reactors a year to ten vectors a year, then the overall construction, capability must be multiplied to two, regardless of the speed.


01:09:25:15 - 01:09:31:17

Francois Morin

You know, the speed is not the speed is not the main problem. the main.


01:09:31:17 - 01:09:35:08

Chris Keefer

Problem, if you have if you have low cost capital, that is a big proviso.


01:09:35:08 - 01:10:10:07

Francois Morin

Yes, yes. but and the physical capability, today do not exist to sustain the construction of ten reactors per year. what exist can make a. Yes, six reactors per. Yeah, that's ten. Would be that mean? It would mean that, you might have 50 reactors at the same time under construction. 60 reactor? Yes. With with the same, let's say a few, handful of companies.


01:10:10:09 - 01:10:37:20

Francois Morin

No, it cannot be done. Yes you must. The must to have, a little bit more of the supply chain there must increase the, capacities of, the main, manufacturers, which are in Shanghai, 3.53, Harbin Electric in different places in China, but also the construction, I mean, concrete and steel and the experts in nuclear construction.


01:10:37:20 - 01:10:40:06

Francois Morin

Yes. They must be multiplied by two.


01:10:40:08 - 01:10:59:03

Chris Keefer

So so China's this, like, again, fascinating case study of, you know, all of the optimism and aspirations of the West, are being tested in China technical terms, being exposed to the being exposed to the, you know, hard conditions of, of reality. like, is there anything that's not running optimally in China in terms of its nuclear sector?


01:10:59:03 - 01:11:17:01

Chris Keefer

Because we, you know, we have this access to local capital, we have this ramped up supply chain. We have incredible craft labor, lots of tacit knowledge. We have. I mean, I understand probably there's romanticizing some things, but like what what is yet to be optimized in terms of, this and this is way too broad of a question as we sort of close out this interview, but are there any.


01:11:17:03 - 01:11:17:05

Francois Morin

Other.


01:11:17:07 - 01:11:18:11

Chris Keefer

Things that stand out, maybe.


01:11:18:13 - 01:11:55:04

Francois Morin

Maybe a better collaboration between the, Chinese, governmental institutions that the, the city council wants to have, ten reactors per year authorized in 2022. In 2022, they gave them it's time for ten reactors in 2023 also. But in both years, we we've seen only five new CDs. So. And why why there is such a discrepancy between the theoretical authorizations and the practical authorization because of the autonomy.


01:11:55:04 - 01:12:21:14

Francois Morin

And, it's a good thing. It means that they are reliable of the NSC, the nuclear safety authority, the nuclear safety authority, as no any other agenda than guaranteeing safety. So they want to take their time by investigating every aspect of a one new specific project. so you see, time is also here. Time. It doesn't start counting.


01:12:21:14 - 01:12:44:21

Francois Morin

Time doesn't start when, when you put the first, concrete and the time start, start, when they think about giving or not giving authorization, you have or you have already reached this limit between the ten approved. The five started again, ten approve again, five on these started. So we are losing years already. Two years are last here.


01:12:44:23 - 01:13:19:22

Francois Morin

Whatever is used contraction, speed. So but but I think it's I was interviewed, years ago by CNN, was asked me if I were, if we would be all confident of, construction in China because, you know, they told me, you know, we've seen, so, so many schools which fell down during the earthquake in Sichuan in 2006, because of the bad construction quality.


01:13:20:00 - 01:13:35:14

Francois Morin

Could the same happen with, nuclear? So thanks to this limited speed of authorization, I think we can be confident that this will not happen in China. Yes, we can. We can trust we can trust the construction quality.


01:13:35:16 - 01:13:59:12

Chris Keefer

Okay, one last question. And I do promise that this this will be the last one. but it's not it doesn't. It's this short one to answer. you know, with this, proposed scale. And listen, we see all the time, you know, commitments to building hundreds of reactors and that often doesn't actually come true, or a tiny fraction of the aspirational goal come true, whether that's JFK calling for a thousand reactors in the US or I think the initial Messmer plan called for far more than 56 reactors.


01:13:59:14 - 01:14:11:09

Chris Keefer

but, leaving beside those examples and the reasons for them, fuel, is that is that something that's going to start to become a constraint if China does get to say, you know, 350GW capacity of nuclear.


01:14:11:09 - 01:14:11:19

Francois Morin

Yes, of.


01:14:11:19 - 01:14:12:19

Chris Keefer

Course, at 2050.


01:14:13:00 - 01:14:13:14

Francois Morin

If China.


01:14:13:19 - 01:14:14:19

Chris Keefer

And does that mean it's.


01:14:14:19 - 01:14:15:21

Francois Morin

Sorry. Yes.


01:14:15:23 - 01:14:29:02

Chris Keefer

And what what are what are the solutions there? I mean, China doesn't have massive uranium reserves. Does that mean they start looking at breeder reactors? What's what's like the long long term prospects for China talking like 2050s out. What are the constraints. Is it is it fuel the big one?


01:14:29:04 - 01:15:08:00

Francois Morin

I don't think so. they have the uranium. Might be a constraint, yes, but not the fuel fabrication. They are increasing now all the capacities in, in terms of enrichment and the conversion, they have a lot of, reactors that are supplied by the supplier, by Rosatom, by the French, by EDF, somebody. So so for the first load, at least, and they are learning how to make, all the fields for the VVA for the Kendal, for the, for, and the EPR and the Apu 1000.


01:15:08:00 - 01:15:20:14

Francois Morin

Yeah. They know now how to make they have not the full capacity in terms of, number. Yes. yeah. Yeah. But they will they will get it. It's going to be to just in terms of it.


01:15:20:16 - 01:15:36:12

Chris Keefer

Just in terms of having enough, uranium fuel like, I mean, this is a common sort of anti-nuclear talking point. If you were to scale nuclear up by X amount, we only have 60 years or 70 years of nuclear fuel. And obviously, that argument doesn't take into account sort of reserves versus resources and unexplored uranium out there.


01:15:36:12 - 01:15:49:03

Chris Keefer

But is there talk in China about, you know, in the early days of, of nuclear energy in the US, for instance, we thought uranium was quite scarce. Breeder reactors were seen as the future, you know, is this is this something that's even in the discourse or it's far enough away that.


01:15:49:04 - 01:16:09:15

Francois Morin

No, no, no, they talk about. Yes. No, they they they have all this in mind, CNN, NCA, which is one of the big companies, and they are now investigating how to get uranium out of the seawater. So it means it means that they are even considering that we might not have enough uranium, on land. So. So, yes.


01:16:09:15 - 01:16:43:04

Francois Morin

Why not in the seawater as the Japanese do? however, there are still probably many discoveries to be made in China because it's a large country with unexplored, places. So they might find more, uranium. anyhow, it will never be enough. It will never, never be sufficient. China, if they are really to make these 350GW of capacity by 20, let's say 50, of course they need to, they, they, they will need to, to import.


01:16:43:06 - 01:16:53:11

Francois Morin

Same as I sold, say, at the beginning regarding oil and gas, they will need to import, more than half of their, of their uranium. Definitely.


01:16:53:13 - 01:17:14:09

Chris Keefer

Okay. Okay. Well, I'm just doing the quick, back of the envelope math here. And getting an additional 300GW deployed is, ten gigawatt scale reactors per year. Color me a little bit skeptical. Francois. Thank you. this was this was incredible. I would have loved to have deep dive sort of each of the various, themes that we touched today.


01:17:14:11 - 01:17:24:06

Chris Keefer

but hopefully we'll be able to lure you back in a shorter time interval than three years. thank you for making yourself available. I know you're a busy guy. Just got back from Kazakhstan. so we appreciate you, making the time.


01:17:24:09 - 01:17:26:00

Francois Morin

Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you.



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