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What About the Waste?

Madi Hilly

Monday, June 5, 2023

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to the couple. decouple, decouple and I pronounced that weird, but get to mix it up.


I am back. And I'm doing like more of like an emmet Penney introduction. Now I'm putting a little more spice into my interest. But I'm back here with Maddie hilly. Maddie is a two or three time guests you're on decouple, go check out the archives for other great stuff from her. Matt, he's kind of famous. It's kind of a big deal. I think she has the title for the authorship of nuclear advocacies most viral tweet ever on nuclear waste. And we're going to be talking about that today. But the bio doesn't stop there. Also recently published in the New York Times. Great article nuclear waste is misunderstood. Maddie is got a PhD, sir. And I'm not swearing anymore. flipping awesome. substack splitting the atom go sign up for that. She is the I forget what position but think like that. I mean, founder, top dog if it's president, Director, whatever, have campaign for a green nuclear deal. And, you know, absolute pit bull in the fight for Byron and Dresden.


Yeah, I don't know that he stole the self introduction from you. But I'll just ask you what's new? Wow, I


Madison Hilly  1:19  

am. My ears are flushed. Thank you. That was very nice introduction. I hope I live up to the hype. What's new? I've been talking about nuclear waste a lot. And yeah, I had that op ed in the New York Times. In Illinois. Now we've moved the conversation from should we be saving existing nuclear power plants to can we repeal the moratorium on new nuclear so we can build more. And a lot of that focuses a lot of those concerns. And those politics focus around waste as well. So I've been pretty obsessed with nuclear waste for the last year. And I think that shows and my comms and the work I've been doing,


Chris Keefer  2:05  

oh, man, I was just interviewing Jeremy would talk on proliferation. And it was like the three concerns with nuclear Oh, yeah. Waste weapons, and oops, like the whooping accidents of the triple the triple.


Madison Hilly  2:19  

I'm gonna have to use that.


Chris Keefer  2:21  

Anyway, you know, just so so important. Like, we're going to be talking, you know, one of the w's. But in general, I'm just trying to stay focused on always mixing that up with, you know, the positive vision that we have for nuclear powered future. But that's not the purpose of today's interview. As listeners have probably guessed, we are we're deep diving, the worst thing ever since that tweet came out, I've been knocking on his door. And finally, this has all come together.


It's public knowledge now, in New York Times mentioned it, but you're also expecting. So that's, that's very cool. I was like, list that as my greatest accomplishment. Not that I was expecting or gave birth or anything, but just, you know, they're wonderful.


Madison Hilly  3:10  

Yeah, I'm so excited. And it was, it was an interesting part of writing that story. Because, you know, my editor was, you know, she had this sort of cursory understanding of nuclear, she certainly wasn't anti nuclear, but, you know, was sort of, you know, pushing back with a lot of the baked in anti nuclear bias and takes, and one of the things she kept pressing me on was, like, what about the next generation? Are we burdening the next generation? And finally, I got a little frustrated and sent in an email, like, I'm 27 years old, if I don't count as the next generation, the baby I'm pregnant with certainly does. And she's like, we have to talk about that. So normally, I like the argument. You know, I try to keep it like the personal part of it out because I want my ideas to stand on their own merit. But I think it did introduce this cool like, you know, I'm very comfortable with continuing to manage waste into the future. And I hope that my daughter's generation has sorry, swearing on podcast, a crap ton more nuclear waste to have to manage than we do, because I want it to be a nuclear powered, abundant, prosperous future.


Chris Keefer  4:31  

Amen, sister. Amen. You know, obviously the listenership of decouples quite educated on this. So we'll try and keep some of this pretty, pretty hasty. I think I've heard one of your key things when like this is also going to be kind of a bit of a masterclass on waste communication and maybe I don't know maybe we'll label the the episode that we'll have to get you to play some piano with the beginning Maddie, I'm not sure if it tickle the ivories or not but you could do the like that. That that that that or that?


Madison Hilly  4:59  

Or Whatever.


Chris Keefer  5:00  

Alright, I'm actually serious. We'll try and get that on. So when asked, you know, what is nuclear waste if people get there? How do you respond to that?


Madison Hilly  5:10  

So I start by talking about the spent nuclear fuel and, and I think a lot of people who are more technical, probably a lot of your listeners will think, Well, that's not all the nuclear waste, we have created water, we have the low level waste and medium level wit. But most when the as far as the public is concerned, they're thinking about the green liquid goo stored in oil barrels from The Simpsons. And so they're really focused about the spiciest focus on the spiciest, high level waste. So I just say nuclear waste is just spent nuclear fuel. And I like to have my phone, you know, everyone has their phone on them. So in my favorites on my phone, I have a picture of me next to a fuel assembly and say, This is what it looks like going in. And that's actually what it looks like going out as well. And so it's not liquid and green, it's shiny metal tubes bundled together, goes in cooks in the reactor comes out, is allowed to cool off and then put in these large steel and concrete containers. We call them dry casks. And they just sit currently on site and are monitored. It's really boring. I show them the picture of Paris Ortiz wines hugging the waist, I showed myself, you know, selfie at the Zion nuclear waste site, just 30 minutes north of me in Illinois. And I think it's really important. The reason I'm talking about these visuals is that everyone already has imaginary images of waste in their head, whether it's like Mr. Burns and Smithers shoving these barrels into a glowing tree, or like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, putting like those same like radioactive symbol barrels scattered across the landscape. And I think people generally like genuinely think that's what we do. So bringing it into the real world, showing them what the waist looks like showing them that you can touch it that you can be near it, talking about what it really is kind of replaces that imaginary image with something that's you know, physically exists in reality and you feel people become more at ease. Once they understand that,


Chris Keefer  7:32  

yeah, you know, are decoupled studios, you know, videographer Wonderboy comedian, Jesse Freeston, he, you know, he was talking about some of the euphemisms that the industry uses and I think we use them as well sometimes spent fuel. We're actually in Ontario talking about just byproducts. And he made a video, listen to his the most recent episode of nuclear barbarians and that interviews Jesse, it's hilarious, awesome, and I think it's just wonderful. But one of the things he talks about is, you know, making this, we did a he's done a waste video now, but he did a video up with you, Maddie actually, at the world's largest copper nuclear facility in Bruce County, in Ontario, Canada. And


sorry, like, the weird nationalism sneaks its way. Yeah. But anyway, um, you know, he showed it to his friends, because Jesse comes from, you know, the Naomi Klein world, like the David Suzuki world if you don't catch those references, just like, you know, super lefty, environmental folks. And he's thinking about like, not that as his only audience, but basically he was saying, like, he showed them the video, and they were like, but you know, where he talks about spent fuel and he's like, standing on a gantry over the primary spent fuel bay where that waste is cooling off, as he said, In the big deep swimming pool. And that's in the video and his friends were like, Yeah, but what about the waste? He's like, that was the waste. And he's like, so it's important to use that word. How do you feel about that, like use the term spent fuel? You've used the term waste, like in terms of the communications masterclass your what's your take?


Madison Hilly  9:00  

I almost never shy away from using waste, because that's what people are concerned about. And so if they're not clear, now, I'm comfortable saying nuclear waste is primarily spent nuclear fuel to make it clear that what's going in is what's coming out. There's not this extra gooey substrate that somehow magically appears. But in general, I think it's really important to address you know, I think there was this push to sort of rename nuclear or rebrand. We've like in this sort of influencer age, we're like, okay, that's not popular. How do we rebrand or? And I just don't think that's, you know, this is not a new car. This is a technology that's been established a people that exists that looms large in people's consciousness. So really just, it's more about reframing or like correcting what they already believe than like trying to trick them with some sort of Have a new name and honestly like byproducts. I don't know, like sounds like kind of creepy or weird. I feel like


Chris Keefer  10:09  

to hide something,


Madison Hilly  10:10  

right? And it's like it comes from a genuine place off. And like engineers are really hyper focused on being technically accurate. And like from an engineering perspective, that's great. You should be technical. I'm glad that these engineers have that skill. But it's very different when it comes to communication, where it's like, so the trans Uranus and the fission products that it's like, okay, like, let's take a step back for the people who don't really want to know that they want to know, is it safe today? Is it safe tomorrow? Lots of people strangely want to know if it's safe into the apocalypse, which is it's


Chris Keefer  10:54  

when the Sun becomes a red dwarf planet and consumes the Earth. Great fireball. What's going on with the waste, then Maddie? Yeah, we got into the sort of cosmic timescale with Mark and the uranium masterclass. So, you know, and in terms of the low level, you know, I was touring the Western waste management facility here in Ontario, they have the high level, the low level, the medium level, and I don't think we need to spend a lot of time on that. But suffice it suffice it to say, like, the low level is just like gloves that were worn, like, if you walk into level, like the, I forget the exact term, there's one, two and three in terms of the way that the plants broken up, there's the kind of electrical generation stuff the turbines and then medium zone and, and they, you know, hot zone, which is often still like, you still don't get any dose whatsoever. But like, if you go into that three zone, all the clothes, you're wearing, not your undies, but your gloves, whatever, come off and going away spin. And they were, you know, trying to reduce that low level waste inventory, because that stuff does pile up. You know, most of it is totally land fillable. But 60% of it wasn't actually, it didn't actually have any radioactive contamination on it whatsoever. And so they were like, Yeah, we're gonna get rid of that stuff now. Like, why not? Anyway, so just just to cover that without going into detail. You talked a bit about what we currently do with it. You know, the pool, dry cast storage. You know, military waste, actually is kind of green glowing goop that is handled, handled differently. We have an episode on that way, way back with James Conca talks a lot about the WIP the waste Isolation Pilot Project. So I don't think we need to go into that too much. I think the dry casks are a big thing you've you've visited, I'm not sure if you've had the privilege and honor of hugging one. You know, my understanding is they're licensed for a certain period, and then they're probably good for, you know, another long period. Like, I think that's all they're just sitting there in the concrete pad, like, you know, their license for 40 years or something, that means that they're done and they're cracking, and like, you know, green goop is oozing out of them, what's been your experience of the of the dry cask issue and how to communicate about it, and whether you've, you know, again, interacted in any way with with the dry casks. Yeah. So


Madison Hilly  13:01  

this is again, where I find this sort of difference between the industry or like more engineers, and then the people who are actually managing the waste day to day. So in the US, at least the casks, we use our license for 40 years at a time. And you know, you can presumably like reactors, upon good monitoring, and reapplication extend that license. But our casts are designed to last 100 years and last 100 years, while being able to be hit by a missile, or hit by a speeding train, or, you know, sort of revive any act of God or man, essentially. And so these things are built to last, they are durable. And when I went to Zion, so this is a site in Northern Illinois that used to host a nuclear power plant that was shut down prematurely in the 90s. And now that waste still sits on site. And so it was this. You know, I visited it last year, and the company, I believe it was energy solutions that took over the site and remediated, it was like, trying to show off how incredible it was that they had returned this land that you wouldn't even know a nuclear plant out there. And so for me, that was like, oh, like, I hate that, but it's, it was tore


Chris Keefer  14:29  

down an industrial cathedral, you.


Madison Hilly  14:31  

I like think I hung my head and got it. Mark Nelson got a picture of me being sad. But it was, you know, at least it's something to push back on. When people say this land can't be reused. It's like no, it can actually be completely remediated to where you just erased all the all the infrastructure as well as the jobs, the tax revenue, the generational wealth. Anyways, that aside, I was talking to them about the cask storage And they said, Yeah, these are probably going to last for far longer than 100 years. So really durable, almost like I was dumb for asking if they will be okay in 40 years. And then, you know, getting sort of into the long term solutions, I might be jumping ahead. But there's this insistence, any industry that what we're doing is okay for now, but becomes dangerous into the future. And it's only interim, and we need something and we need something and it's not safe. And so I asked, how big of a deal would it be if, you know, say, 100 years from now, 200 years from now, we started to notice some signs of degradation, or just like we're concerned, could you just transfer this into another caste? And they said, Absolutely, it would be trivial. And I mean, if you think about it, that's what we already do, right? We transfer these fuel assemblies into the cask, except in 100 to 200 years, it is far less dangerous by the nature of radiation, it's less toxic, poses less risk. So why wouldn't we just be able to transfer and extend that system? A century, maybe two centuries at a time? So that's sort of crazy to say, or I deviate from the industry a lot when I talk about that, but there's no, no one has given me a reason that that is not physically possible and sound and safe.


Chris Keefer  16:28  

Right. Right. Right. And I think we'll get into like, you know, what to do with the waist long term. And we'll talk a lot more about dtrs. But I mean, you know, just suffice it to say, I don't know, it wants to get ahead too much. But like, the a lot of the rationale I hear is what we need to answer this question of, you know, what to do with this, like, kind of forever ways that kind of conception? Will Will myth bust that in a second, I'm sure. But you know, that this will somehow defuse the anti nukes once we have the solution. And I mean, I just debated Gordon Edwards, who's in Canada's kind of Premier, anti nuclear figure, the grandfather of that movement, if you will. And he's like, you know, like, this is not an excuse to make even more of this stuff, right. Like, at any point it you know, so like, that absolutely doesn't work. And then, for me, like, you know, it sort of amounts to like the urgency and like, you know, we have a $26 billion fund to develop this deep Geologic Repository. And it's like, we should be building new candies with that, like that could build a lot of power plants. Yeah, went over budget. Like, that's the urgency here, folks, like there's a different waste problem, you know, and it's air pollutants and co2 and whatever else, right? So anyway,


Madison Hilly  17:35  

and I have sympathy for the desire to like, oh, the public is really concerned about this, like we can, we can engineer a solution to address those problems, like really taking that at face value, taking it literally. But I think I can't remember if I mentioned this on a previous episode, but my start into nuclear advocacy of environmental progress was a research project where I looked at all planned and canceled starting construction and canceled and then eventually built nuclear plants in the US. So if it was an idea that existed for a nuclear plant, I've looked at it. And I've, you know, went through all the core documents, I went through the newspaper archives, the history, and you just see the exact same anti nuclear game being played, where it's like, we're fine with nuclear as long as you do this, and then moving, having an Earth to get that accepted, and then block it. So for example, Alison MacFarlane, who is a former NRC Commissioner, insanely enough, she wrote an op ed recently for Scientific American talking about nuclear waste is piling up, do we have a plan and the need for a deep geological repository, she spent her much of her career blocking Yucca Mountain. So I just think when you see the history and see this play out, you just realize it's really not about the solution for the people who are, like the most adamant that they would accept nuclear, if only it's really just a strategy to prevent nuclear from being built, or for buying into that framework.


Chris Keefer  19:20  

It's interesting when you kind of discussed being, I don't know, it's almost like you're a graduate from like one of the most intense nuclear education programs in the world, like all of the environmental progress, a call to the call you guys graduates or whatever, right? You guys really, I think we're held up to a pretty high culture of excellence and did a lot of original research. And one of the things I remember hearing, I'm not sure if this was your research project, or someone else's that EP was actually looking at what's the safety record of this super dangerous waste? Have there been any documented deaths from, you know, stored civilian nuclear waste, and that's not reprocessing? I know there have been a few sort of of accidental criticality with reprocessing. But maybe you can answer that question or tell us about what that research project was like. That's from storage, civilian nuclear waste 70 years all over the world. What did you find?


Madison Hilly  20:13  

Yeah, so this was I was part of this project where we just wanted to archive all nuclear energy related deaths. Like if there was some random worker who had a heart attack at a nuclear plant, you know, we wanted to try to know about it, like part of that is, so we can be ready to answer, you know, what about this? What about this, but one is like, we really want to check what our claims that this is the safest technology that we've ever created to boil water. And it's true like that. I mean, onsite cask storage has a perfect safety record. You know, no one has been harmed from this waste. And it's just, it's, I mean, I'm struggling to even talk about it, because it's almost so inconceivable that something that is perceived as so uniquely dangerous, is so incredibly safe, and other chemicals and industrial waste, that we just accept deaths from our except as dangerous that people don't even think about are much more, you know, dangerous, but don't even, you know, trigger the public's thoughts. It's in the gulf between reality and public perception is so enormous on this issue, which is why I think I find it so interesting. And so important to talk about, because I think it's not just one of, you know, we talked about at the beginning, you like to talk about what a beautiful nuclear future would look like. And this is more of a debunking. But I even see it as more of a reversal than that. It's not like the least bad solution we have, this is an excellent solution. I want a future where we have tasks that artists, local artists, pain and children can like visit, like I do think it's actually part of a beautiful future where we are responsible environmental stewards. And this is seen as an asset and not as a problem.


Chris Keefer  22:21  

I mean, I have to say, after the success of your tweet, I tried to piggyback on that and did a little bit of an imitation tweet, I was like, maybe I can see if I can get 25,000 new followers and whatever else. Yeah, it was good. It was good. I think I got 2000 new followers. But anyway, blah, blah, blah, I mean, that my big focus was, you know, we make dangerous things safe. And making that comparison to aviation, which just has so many more complexities, which I won't get into, again, check out the threat if you're interested. But just you know, it's so obvious flying at 30,000 feet is some dangerous, bleep that out. And you know, landing planes, everything, air traffic control, you know, maintenance, it's crazy how safe it is. And I guess I will go into a few facts, but like 4.3 billion passenger passenger flights, in 2019, I believe pre pandemic. You know, like, that's 43 million separate separate flights, and one 200 deaths per year on average, it's absolutely incredible. And then, you know, anything about the simplicity of shielding the stuff, which absolutely, I think that's part of my comm strategies, is just acknowledging this stuff is crazy dangerous as it comes out of the reactor, right. You know, standing next to unshielded nuclear waste at a meter for like 510 seconds and that sentence, right, but somehow, you know, and then, you know, Jesse also, you know, took that angle in his waist video, which everyone should check out if they haven't, you know, just comparing it to ladders or like stuff that we are complacent about. Anyway, as an emerge Doc, I'm pretty passionate about ladders. And anyway, yeah, so I think I think that's another another sort of key key points. You know, it conceding This shit is dangerous, but but danger hazard risk, right? Right. And


Madison Hilly  24:05  

to your point, it's like this is incredibly dangerous coming out of a reactor like this is nothing to joke around about. But ironically, that's not what people are scared of. They're like, what about the waist and 30,000 years and it's like, you shouldn't be scared of that at all actually, like you'd have to snort it or eat it. It's totally fine. You should be worried about the people taking it out. And the reason you're not is because there we've made this so inherently safe. We don't have accidents. I think


Chris Keefer  24:38  

I'm not sure if your research on dry cast storage included like people getting squished by you know, these several 100 ton dry cast containers but like from what I've seen, like they're moved so slowly. Like it's just it's it's no there's so many procedures with anything nuclear, like it's, I would I would not I'm ADHD I cut corners all the time. Like I would get I heard on day one of working at a nuclear plant, but like it takes a certain personality, right? We're much better on the calm side, shall we say, then? Then operations, but for sure, like it's Yeah. So I don't know if your research included, you know, because as you're as you're saying, you have a heart attack in a nuclear plant, it's it's, you know, taken seriously, or like the injury free hours, like millions of injury free hours on refurbishments here in Ontario, and you know, one guy had a chip fall accident, you know, just walking on a grade or something and broke his knee. And that was like, okay, reset the clock. I have not an x five hours now. But before that, it was like 1.3 million hours like it's, it's safer to work at a nuclear plant than to work in the Office of the regulator of that nuclear plant, like in an office building in Ottawa, totally, I guess crazy.


Madison Hilly  25:43  

And it was something I have to admit, like, as a young person who's passionate about nuclear and kind of annoyed with all the anti nuclear talking points I might have been. I mean, I'm, I was a bit flippant about the safety, where it's like, it's overly safe. It's overly regulated, I scissor


Chris Keefer  26:03  

kicked over over a barrier in a parking lot of a nuclear plant. Because I didn't want to walk around like the handrail, like the security, like practically pointed guns.


Madison Hilly  26:15  

I, you know, that doesn't surprise me. But actually, what really, like cemented that, like, changed my mind or, like, made me appreciate that culture a little bit more was actually visiting Bruce with you guys. And talking to Dan Campbell, who is the nuclear operator who had transferred from a coal plant to work at the nuclear plant. He's like, I love working here. Because I know every day I'm coming home safe, and I'm not breathing in, you know, all of that air from the coal plant, I am guaranteed to be walking home to my kids later. And so I think there is there's just something like really great about nuclear being the gold standard for safety. I think sometimes it can manifest itself in frustrating or expensive ways. And that's definitely a part of the conversation. But in general, it's something that the industry should celebrate, like this is in an incredibly safe technology. And to your point, we've made it that way. It's not inherently safe, but we've made it safe.


Chris Keefer  27:22  

And that's something the left, if they actually give a crap about workers would be, you know, very excited about, like, anyway, they should they should try, actually, you know, talking to workers,


Unknown Speaker  27:34  

I think that would be helpful.


Chris Keefer  27:35  

So, you know, and I think another thing, like you mentioned, these dry casts are licensed for 40 years. And, you know, like, the way that the industry communicates about this, like, you know, I was actually just Googling before we chatted, like, you know, trying to understand how long concrete can last for obviously, like Roman concrete, there's Roman dams that are over 2000 years, I understand that some different chemistry and they're concrete. And having steel, rebar in concrete, you know, can age it. Radiation, can age concrete, maybe faster, but, you know, just getting a ballpark guess would be really helpful, you know, but they'll never give you the ballpark, they'll never give you the ballpark, but you know, just air so I was looking this up air, roads, concrete and rock at a rate of around 0.05 millimeters per year, or five millimeters per century, one decimeter in 2000 years.


You know, so, again, there's other factors at play with the radiation, etc. But that was the closest I got to sort of that question of how long does concrete last? If anyone's listening and knows and can give me a straight, effing answer, please do. Please do. Okay, so


Madison Hilly  28:39  

I believe frustrating. Yeah, it's hard to get a straight answer out of it. Because it's an I get it. It's like the lawyers and the liability, but it's just like, okay, just like person a person, can you just give me something?


Chris Keefer  28:53  

Right? And the answers often so much different than what you'll get from the comms people. But what we'll talk about comps and critiques of comps, as we move along, you know, so volumes of waste. Is that Is that something that you you prioritize how many pellets you need to get all your electricity needs or the volume, you know, because you hear I mean, uranium, as we learned from Mark Nelson, have you sell a naturally occurring element on the periodic table? So it's, you know, near tons and the numeracy that I share as well in terms of you know, so how do you get around? Or how do you get around? How do you celebrate the volume question?


Madison Hilly  29:29  

Yeah, I mean, example that was in the Scientific American op ed, it was like, there's 88,000 tons and we're creating more every year. And I just, you know, I mean, I knew it, but I thought as someone who didn't know 8000 tons sounds like a lot. But when you put it into okay, even if we put this in dry casks and stack this on a football field, 70 years of commercial operation would be less than 500 feet. tall. And if you're just talking about the spiciest stuff that you're worried about the fuel pellets, that's 10 feet tall, 70 years 20% of our electricity. I mean, that's something to celebrate, like you said, that's not something to be afraid of. I think this is a classic, something like a classic waste fear mongering maneuvers, you give numbers absent any context, or you'll also, you know, you can get radiation in back rolls or millisieverts, and not explain what that is, or just say, tons of radiation, I see that all the time, the tons of radiation flowing into the Pacific from Fukushima, when three, three grams drink a gallon, yeah, you would have to drink a gallon of the diluted water coming out into the ocean to have the same amount of radiation exposure is eating a banana, like, that's embarrassing all the time. Like, I'm embarrassed to say it's that low.


Chris Keefer  31:01  

Right, right. I mean, and to give, you know, to give more context, you know, it's realistically wouldn't be piled on a football field, but people are talking about digging a hole and putting it in there. I mean, that gives you a sense of the size of the hole you need.


I quite like this whole text high store system, which is, you know, very shallow bearing very accessible, very retrievable, and they can do 580 tons of used fuel per acre, Jack Devanney, crunch some of the numbers, if we basically use nuclear for all of our electricity needs, it would have been stored for 600 years before, essentially kind of landfilling stuff or reusing it 21 Square Miles about the size of Manhattan to do dry like that high storage, dry cask storage for 600 years for the whole US producing all their electricity with nuclear, it gives you a sense of how manageable it is. And you know, like, I think Jesse has some some visuals in his waste video of like, how much co2 is produced every day, you know, in the US, and that kind of volume. And like, it's like little little balls essentially, like, you know, like, overtop of the Empire State Building, spewing out everywhere, like there's there's other waste streams, but we've rarely very, very rarely put that in context or coal ash or, you know, whatever else you want to you want to get at So,


or wind or solar panels, which I think 300 to one in terms of volumes, you know, a little easier to manage? Well, I mean, easier to manage in some ways, right? Because it's like, I kind of wonder about the number of accidents, just moving that volume around, like, it's clearly not going to fry you in five seconds. But it's like, it's pretty easy to move tiny volumes of nuclear waste underwater into a pool and then into a dry cask compared to, you know, 300 times that. I don't know, just shipping containers into landfills into the global electronic waste distribution stream.


Madison Hilly  32:46  

Right. I mean, that's the big difference between the industry's like volumes aside, the nuclear industry is responsible for managing their waste from mining all the way to spent nuclear fuel and beyond. Like, we have this sense that we need to monitor this for 1000s of years. And a lot of other technologies, including solar and wind are not held to that standard. So they're just entering normal electronic waste stream or just ending up in the environment being shipped over to Asia, the New York Times did an article about this. So from an environmental perspective, I'm grateful that no nuclear waste is ending up in the natural environment. And I think that should be the standard.


Chris Keefer  33:31  

Yeah, I mean, it's impossible for that to be the standard for basically every other energy technology. So you're setting a high bar


Madison Hilly  33:38  

standard without saying like, okay, and it has to turn off if you know, I having energy is the most important thing. I will always say All else equal, it would be better.


Chris Keefer  33:51  

Yeah, I mean, I was looking at some competitors. In Canada, we have this old Goldmine, which ended up as a byproduct you want to talk about byproducts waste, produced enough arsenic to kill every human on Earth four times over. So a quarter million tonnes, I think you're seeing all the spent nuclear fuel is 700 in the US anyway. 780,000 or


Madison Hilly  34:12  

8000? How many sorry? 88,000


Chris Keefer  34:16  

Oh, 8000. Okay, okay, so, we're talking now a quarter million tons of this toxic dust. It's already leaked into the great Slave Lake. And the way they're stabilizing it, it's down in the mining tunnels, not in containers. You know, the ground gets warmer as you go down. We went two kilometers down into into the Canadian Shield. But that's a whole nother story, check out the decouple episode, two couple studios episode, but they're just pumping like a coolant to sort of try and freeze the rock around it so water doesn't get in and out. I mean, this these are some of the other waste problems that we have. And it's just like that cooling system. Okay, you want to talk about lasting something lasting 1000 years. Come on. Right. And with global warming like right now it realized it's in a cold area. So in the winter, it's fine. But in the summer, it's a bit challenging, but like that we have we have bigger fish, fish to fry without getting too technical. Okay, so So I think one of the key things you mentioned is people worry about it on like a super long timescale. So tell us about exponential radioactive decay,


Madison Hilly  35:18  

right? I mean, that's sort of the beautiful thing about nuclear waste, it's unique, and that it becomes less dangerous over time. And so how radiation works is that the spicier, the more radioactive something is, the shorter the half life, it becomes far less dangerous much more quickly. So yes, when that spent nuclear fuel is right out of the reactor, it's really hot. But by 40 years, it will have lost 99 Over 99% of its radioactivity and its thermal energy. So you're already talking about 99% reduction. And, and the longer lived isotopes are, again, they have longer half life, which means they're less dangerous, like because of how that's just the nature of radiation. And so you know, we talked about this before, you would have to actually grind up spent fuel and inhale it or ingest it, to have any sort of like health risk posed to you after and that's 500 years. And the thing that I find helpful to talk about is we deal with toxic waste every day, that never becomes less toxic over time, I think that the concept of half life and having radioactivity remained for hundreds of 1000s of years really scares people. But there are most of the substances that we manage the highly toxic substances never lose that toxicity. So I talked about anhydrous ammonia, which is extremely explosive, flammable, is a, you know, clear gas, it can be on site before responders even like can detect it. And it never becomes less toxic over time. And in fact, we have fatalities and injuries, you know, not fatalities every year, but certainly leaks and injuries every year in the US. Now, there's no public outcry to ban it. And that's a good thing because it's a really important input for fertilizer, that's what feeds us. So we accept some level of risk and waste because it's really important for society and for humanity and for prosperity. But that's one thing that we get to be lucky you know, again, it's just Contrary to popular belief the radiation is actually a selling point for nuclear safety not some reason to treat it as uniquely dangerous.


Chris Keefer  38:06  

I'm gonna push back on that Maddie because and I was this is this is kind of a testament to like how nerdy the nuclear advocacy world is. But nuclear waste is forever waste because it decays to lead lead as a heavy metal so I thought that was really interesting. But I mean let us also pretty useful he's a fraud we use it for all kinds of applications. Anyway, I just thought that's like a you know, like this is Oh, that


Madison Hilly  38:29  

actually check me


Chris Keefer  38:32  

Yeah, totally. Yeah. So yeah, my tweet and by migrate tweet, you know, I talked a bit about those those doses right and like and trying to make them intelligible you know, to people making some medical comparisons So 200 years after comes to the reactor standing is 30 centimeters when remember the inverse square law so it's dropping off by I think a factor of like a cube cube like to the power of three it's the equivalent of four whole body CT scans and like why you would need to stand there for you know, an hour I'm not exactly sure, but that's because the gammas are highly penetrating and you get down you know, in I mean not even 400 years we're talking 200 years there's not much gamma left and that's why you need to eat and swallow it it's it's alphas it's a little helium 's that are shooting off and blocked by a piece of paper or beta is blocked by aluminum foil. And so you know, Jesse also in his great ways to video, you know, he could cut all the fuel bundle and watch like one of his really long favorite films are like every episode of decouple studios. You know, cuddling the field bundle I think it was that like, I'm sure was 400 or 600 years. You get the sense I think you know, if you watched it with this field bundle 1010 feet away, you know, he could do it pretty quick, like 100 years anyway, look that up. It's a lot of fun. But yeah, I think that really points to you know, how manageable of a of a problem this is. Okay, enough preaching by me. Yeah, so let's maybe we will We'll pivot to we've talked a little bit about dry cast, we've talked about high store, we're going to give deep DGR its own little chapter here. But you know, Jesse highlighted Kaurava and the Netherlands, which is their, you know, they have an art gallery on top of their nuclear waste. You mentioned like painting the dry casks or having like a playground or something like, are you aware of like anywhere else that, you know, when we when we highlighted Korva I think the Swedes or something or the Swiss piped in and said, We also invite the public and so like, in your experience, like I don't know what Zion like, I went when we went to Indian Point recently with the team. They wouldn't let us touch the dry cast, we could walk into the yard It was held but like we got like, severely yelled at for like, you know, getting a few centimeters from the drag guys. Those rates and, you know, I visited in Canada are less than flying in an airplane hugging it. But yeah, like, what, what's your sense of how the industry is doing in terms of those kinds of comps, in terms of bringing people in contact with with the waste?


Madison Hilly  40:57  

I mean, it's really, it's, at least my experience been, like, historically, really bad, like, the opportunity to go see Zion, they brought community leaders, like the chief of police librarians, council people, and that was the first time they're like, This is it. And just like, one of the women, I think it was the librarian leaned over to me, she's like, this is really boring. And I'm like, that's actually a great read. Like, I love that, because there's no fear there. That just is like, Yeah, this is just a pad of concrete with a bunch of things. It's totally fine. So I think there's this impulse to shield the public like to either not talk about it or to like to just kind of like, yeah, out of sight, out of mind the issue, but I think that allows for the imaginary vision of the waist to dominate, whenever it gets brought up. So I think the industry should be bringing people in I think the facility in the Netherlands is a masterclass in what to do with waste, because sometimes they have art installations hanging. I mean, the facility is like this bright kind of marigold orange color. It's very cool to see I think they have field trips, like their equivalent of Girl Scout troops coming through. And so that's something that I would like to see it. At EP, we created this, and we never ended up putting it anywhere. But I hope I can find it. It was this picture of dry casks. And we were like, what would what would we do if we can make it beautiful and everyone got to like pick a design for their dry cast? So I think someone had like Van Gogh's Starry Night put on to it. I came up with two that both made the final cut, you know, prompts me which one was like a Lisa Frank design. Do you remember her from the 90s as crazy colors and it was like trippy psychedelic unicorns for like little girls. It was absolutely insane. And then one was like a Miller High Life can where you're just


Chris Keefer  43:09  

like, oh my god, Andy Warhol soup can write us. Yeah, exactly.


Madison Hilly  43:12  

And so I'm like, this is like, because when people just see that, it's like, oh, you can there's just concrete that you can paint. And so I got some pushback where it's like, wouldn't that make it harder to to monitor or isn't that dangerous? And actually the shin quarry I haven't right here powerplant has like birds painted on the top. And are we saying that like, oh, South Koreans don't have good safety because they decided to like make their cooling towel. Did


Chris Keefer  43:43  

they drill holes in their containment or what's what's up with that object?


Madison Hilly  43:48  

This is a this is a candle a tea light holder? Oh, my God. No. Okay. Yeah, actual containment does not have holes.


Chris Keefer  43:55  

Okay, everybody, jump onto YouTube, subscribe to the YouTube channel. And, and see the video there. Also, I've been meaning to make like mid station breaks, because we are really needing some help. So hop over to Patreon to give us some support. Don't forget to leave a nice like review. Subscribe on YouTube and on whatever podcast platform you're listening to. And, you know, give us props. Spread the word. Okay, yeah. So art. I mean, Jesse talks about this as well, in the core of his little part on Kaurava. The Netherlands waste management, like they, they you've mentioned that beautiful kind of Clementine color, they repaint every like 20 years, if that's their plan to show it diminishing, like it gets fainter and fainter. The other things they talked about, like people are like, well, it's so hard to store for 400 years and they're like we store art here that is 400 500 years old and needs to be maintained and like not just here but in art galleries like human beings are capable of stewarding you know, delicate fragile canvases painted with God knows what kind of like pigments and animal fats that were used to make paint like in the Renaissance. And then my last comment is on that on that sense of the aesthetics and the Andy Warhol cans have you ever seen the movie Exit Through The Gift Shop?


Madison Hilly  45:06  

No.


Chris Keefer  45:07  

Okay, well, everyone should check that out. It's about Banksy. And no one knows if it's a spoof or not. But this guy who's kind of the hero villain of the of the movie ends up Yeah, making like, you know, the street art stuff that's like super gaudy and awesome, but you know, very, very, you know, he has a lot of props, people from the film industry to make super cool stuff, then, and people should watch that movie too. But that is another idea of you know, how to make these things look fun and like pop cans or whatever you want. let's unleash a little creativity here. Anyone in the nuclear industry is listening and has a spine to actually sorry. Okay, what else can we do with the waste? We're gonna get into DeGeneres? Let's leave that for the end. And like, I know, I'm gonna say Sheila Webstock. I love you. And, you know, I think it's, yeah, I mean, this is a complex issue, we're going to be sensitive to it. I know, people are fighting really hard in their communities over the DGR issue, and to have pronuclear people kind of questioning it probably feels like a huge backstab. So we're gonna, like handle that sensitively. But I do think, you know, decouples, all about having a broad discourse on this. So beyond DGR. In your communications, masterclass experience, what do you think about recycling the waste breeders, and shooting the waste into the sun? That's a joke. Let's just talk about the recycling and breathing. But I mean, is it the shooting into something so illustrative of like, how insane the discourse is about waste? Going to shoot them? Like the world's heaviest, you know, element, you know, anyway. No emissions, we lose all the emissions benefits of nuclear by like Elon Musk, you're shooting Falcon rockets have wasted too. Okay, so recycling breeding, is that is that like a part of your comps? Do you use that? Is it useful?


Madison Hilly  46:56  

We talk about it, when I talk about nuclear waste being an asset and not a liability, just pointing out that over 90% of what's left is still usable fuel. So in a future where we have breeder reactors, or if we so choose, like France, like Japan, we can recycle the waste. Now, I think it's worth pointing out that we just don't do it right now. Mostly because it's not economical. And it's fine. How it is. But we can decide that if policymakers get together and decide that's a priority, like has been done elsewhere, we can choose to do that. And in fact, like, you know, I think both of us are not skeptical, but reasonably, like, I guess, maybe skeptical about claims from advanced reactors and how quickly they're going to come online.


Chris Keefer  47:55  

Yeah, there's no, there's no economic imperative right now, like, uranium is so dirt cheap. And like, for this substance that like it is finite. You know, it's more abundant than gold, for sure. But we don't, as Mark was saying, we don't, you know, turn gold into, you know, efficient products and actinides. But, like, I'd like to make a comparison of like, I don't know what the spot price price of uranium is per pound. But like, you ever go to the bulk store, and my famous scam at the bulk store was buying pine nuts and labeling them as pinto beans. Pinto Beans are really cheap, and they look alike and cashiers don't really know the difference. Anyway, I hope that's a crime for which there's what he called it like a grace period.


Madison Hilly  48:38  

Everyone cancel Chris canceled a couple.


Chris Keefer  48:41  

Okay, so like maybe beans per pound are probably like way cheaper than or more expensive, I can't remember. Okay, then, like uranium per pound. So basically, like, that's my skepticism is like the only urgency or perceived urgency for, you know, these waste reactors. And trust me, I think it's really cool as a science project, there should be like an eater. With like that for fusion for you know, molten salts for fast reactors, everything else. Uranium is dirt cheap. I don't know how you get an economical reactor with having to like Pyro process spent, you know, spent fuel it's kind of hard, you know, hot cells to handle this stuff. Like, let's give it a few 100 years when it's totally cooled off. I don't know. That's where I'm coming from on this like that. And again, it's this response to the anti nuke. So if we can show we have the solution to the waste, they'll shut up and give us huge social relations and get on to nuclear.


Madison Hilly  49:29  

I guess this sort of gives the game away. But my preferred solution is to just keep on doing what we're doing. And so and yeah, so I think it's helpful to point out that this is possible, but I certainly don't advocate for it like, and that's why we should be viewing this. Just saying, Yeah, but I think it gives people some sort of like, it breaks what we think about or like breaks that notion in their brain that this is waste forever. It's useless. It's so dangerous, like this can be future fuel if we choose for it to be, but it's also fine now. So it's more of a comms than I think this is the path forward, at least in the near future.


Chris Keefer  50:12  

Yeah, I mean, shout outs to replan it. They've done a great campaign in well, not just in Europe now because they are taking over their worldwide, Australia, etc. But you know, they've had a great campaign about, you know, I'm not sure if it's like don't waste the waste, but like, there's, there's all this energy in it. We could power Europe for X long, just using the waste. So I think that rebrand is key, and we're talking about a comms masterclass. So, want to give some shout outs or shout outs or do I think like a big issue is the kind of overall like the industry responds by, okay, we're going to over engineer everything. This is an engineering problem, not a comms problem. And that's, you know, I think one of my big objections to DGR is like, Why does nuclear waste have this like special? Like, why are we playing into these specials making it especially dangerous waste that needs I mean, okay, just to give you some numbers, because I did this, you know, physician perspective on nuclear waste, I went and talked in, you know, the most likely host community of the Canadian deep Geologic Repository. Again, even though I have some misgivings, I was like, I'm gonna go, you know, help my brothers and sisters out there. And I think it was a really good talk. But before I did, that, I needed to get really prepped and know my facts. And we always talk about like, dose rate, when we're talking about radiation, you mentioned the back heroes issue, etc, making some comparisons. So the worst case scenario at the plan Canadian DGR, with all the engineering and barriers are talking about, because we have some of the best rock in the world, where it takes, you know, three to 3 million 30 million years for water to infiltrate a meter through the rock. Anyway, the worst case scenario, not just that, you know, the casks fail and there's a little defect in the weld and water slowly infiltrates in you know, dissolves the zirconium cladding and the fuel dissolves the ceramic, which really doesn't happen in an anoxic environment, and then the water slowly trickles out through the tiny well defect. They're like, No, no, there's not even a cask. There's this huge geologic fault they didn't recognize. There's a few other sort of, you know, they're sort of disadvantaging themselves. The maximally exposed theoretical person like lives in the most quote unquote contaminated spot gets all their water from a well, they're raises their, you know, meats and grains and everything on that piece of land. You get the picture at nano sieverts per year is the worst case scenario. totally unrealistic scenario, but worst case scenario. So to put that in perspective, that is 1/1000 of the dose that you get if you have a ionization smoke detector and has the most common form of smoke detectors. This is this is bonkers. This is bonkers, bonkers, bonkers. And it's like Edward, we want to get it even better than that. And it's like an end, I'll go and do these talks and communities. And they'll have a whole thing that here's our copper specialist. And here's how amazing our copper layer is. And, you know, here's pieces of copper, you know, that you know, from underground that are still intact, despite being on it's great science. But it's like you're scaring the bejesus out of people. And you guys notice I'm using non swear words here, but Jesus out of people with this, like obsessive over engineering, and you know, this project is gonna cost $26 billion. I'm like, how many kids? Could you like, make you can make University free for I don't know how long with $26 billion. But it's like, it's a mis allocation of precious societal resources. And so it's like, so if you want to bury it, like, could you just do it basically, in the dry casks, and like a big hole that you drill? Like, what would be that? Like? What I want to know is what's the worst case scenario, maximum dose rate you get? When does it happen? Because again, that 80 nanosuit per year happens in a million years, by the way. I mean, I don't know you're like, I think more than the optimist and the Doom or pessimists side, but a million years humanity will see. Anyway, I'm preaching here. Sorry about that. But like, no, that's where I'm coming from.


Madison Hilly  53:55  

No, I think you're exactly right. And so, you know, I talked about in my original waste thread, this really ticked off people in the industry, when I said we've spent $15 billion on Yucca Mountain for zero deaths prevented, zero cancers prevented zero additional safety benefit. I mean, talk about wasting societal resources. And so I think, if we are going to change the way we store our waste, there needs to be some added benefit. Now, I could believe that having dry casts replacing them every 100 years, having them stored at each individual site where they all need their own monitoring staff and security staff is probably not the most efficient way. So I'm all for a different solution that has some sort of benefit and likely because of how safe waste is how little environmental risk it poses. It's going to come down to a Economics. So if you tell me if we centralize the waste, we will be able to have one security staff, one monitoring staff, transportation costs will be small compared to what we save, eliminating waste across the sites like across having, you know, 70 plus sites of waste, then I'm open to it. But then my next question is instantly going to become so why does that have to be underground? Why can't that be above ground and or highest


Chris Keefer  55:32  

or high store right? Like Supercell Libero buried, but like fully accessible and retrievable?


Madison Hilly  55:38  

Right? I just think burying it talking about getting it far away from the biosphere, or as far away from humans reaffirms the idea that this waste is uniquely dangerous, which just isn't true. Like is scientifically not factual. So I like from a communication standpoint, I don't think it's good I, you know, this is going to sound maybe I shouldn't even say it, well, it's fine. It my I'm trying not to, I really don't mean this as like a way to troll, I just I do believe there are some spiritual needs that humans have. And part of that is why I love the idea of painting the casks like making it feel good bringing the public and like making something beautiful, out of ways. And so maybe you just believe in Canada that we could make this into like a beautiful underground temple to show just our prowess and might and how wealthy we are as a nation, and that meets some spiritual need. But I don't think that's actually what's going on there. I think that does more public harm, by reaffirming the danger of lace and does good by alleviating fears of it. But again, if there if you if you know, the waste management company, I know that's wrong of Canada comes to me and just says actually, we ran the numbers, and this is cheaper to consolidate. And the facility underground means that we don't have to meet certain regulations that would be above ground and blah, blah, blah. And it's cheaper than I am totally for it, actually. And I will fight the kind of uphill gradient on comms because I think it makes nuclear cheaper. But there's I just think it comes from this obsession of like, nuclear is unique and has to be walk away safe, and has to be safe for 40,000 years. But we don't treat anything else in society like that. We don't have walk away oil refineries. We don't have walk away cities because we plan for society to continue. And I think that's healthy. Like you said, I'm an optimist. I think humans are really good at making dangerous things safe. I think we should plan for a society to continue on and continue prospering and so I'm comfortable with continuous


Chris Keefer  58:04  

and it's not, it's not dangerous for that long, right, like, right. And I think I had a little quibble with Nick Touran, claiming that, you know, the waist basically returns returns to the level of radioactivity of the or, you know, from which and that's kind of like, you can imagine a beautiful story of that, like, you know, this is a circular thing. We mined it from the ground, we return it to the ground, it returns to the same overrate activity. That's true in terms of the fission products, which is really what we care about. It's not true. There's a few extra trends your annex which are very long lived, but again, you got to crush them up and do lines of them, snorting them, ingest them, or they need to trap they have to okay, they have to get dissolved by this water that makes its way through rock at the pace of three to 30 million years per meter, you know, get through the bentonite clay, which is also just absolutely incredible barrier, get through the casks get through the copper or the steel, get through the cladding, as I said, dissolve the ceramic get all the way back out, go out through the rocks. And then oh, this is the other factor they put against themselves in terms of these maximum doses. There's something called sorption, which is radionuclides in solution moving through rock, most of them evenly bind to the rock. And so it's almost like a filter that getting out the one isotope that they say is the biggest worry is an isotope of iodine, I think is one to nine or one to six halflife 16 million years. Gerry Thomas is big on this. Geraldine Thomas the who runs the Chernobyl tissue bank, you know the world one of the basically the world expert on on the thyroid cancer applications of Chernobyl. She's like the reason that you know, is only kids and that's not a great story, but people kids with rapidly dividing thyroid cells, the reason that those folks had an elevated rate is because of you know, it's the biological Half Life was the physical half life. So I had on 131 Physical athlete for eight days and a biological half left in the body of 80 days. That means basically all the energy in that pretty damn energetic isotope, right? A nuclide is deposited in the thyroid didn't cause cancer in adults, but you know, And so they're obsessing over this, this other isotope of iodine with the half life of 16 million years, because it's one that doesn't SORP into the rock as it would make its way out, you know, over the course of like, you know, I don't know, three to 30 million years per meter. And we got to get through the Colebrook formation, you know, into the other strata and the Cobra formations like 100 200 meters thick, like it's just, its partners. It's bonkers, right?


Madison Hilly  1:00:25  

And I'm officially inviting myself back on to decouple in the near future to talk about this, because it's a whole separate can of worms. But recently, I've been doing a deep dive on Hanford, because so many of the comments from the New York Times, and even in response, my initial waste read were like, What about Hanford? You didn't even talk about Hanford. And my impulse is was, you know, most nuclear advocates are just to say, well, that has nothing to do with commercial nuclear energy. That's weapons production. But I finally was like, No, I actually wonder because my, because the, you know, what the public believes about nuclear waste is so different from reality, could that be true of the most nuclear the most toxic nuclear waste dump in the world. And what you just find is even like they chose the Hanford Site, because they were like, well, we're going to be spilling all this liquid waste. So we might as well have an arid sort of desert, like strong rock where it's not going to immediately leach into the groundwater, but they are releasing iodine 131 into the air. They're like, leaking waste intentionally and then unintentionally underground. And this has been really studied. And it's sort of like, anyways, I don't want to exaggerate. But there, they found zero evidence that even during the years of largest releases of iodine, no excess thyroid cancer, no access, thyroid abnormalities of any kind, no human health impacts based on the doses we're seeing, most of the site falls within the levels that the EPA sets for post remediation. So like is already well, within conservative levels. It's just, we eat and that's worst case scenario. And so you think about what actually happened there, they spent like $5 billion in 20 $23. On this crash weapons program, they turned on the B Reactor 22 months, less than two years after the experiment on your stag field that prove that a chain reaction was even possible. That is insane. And the stakes were so high, right, like, we needed to get a bomb before Nazi Germany did a during the deadliest largest war in the world. Meanwhile, we have spent to date something like $13 billion. And now annual spending is above 2 billion on Hanford cleanup, which is saving zero lives. Like it right now. The report on the environmental impacts is that even direct releases did not affect aquatic biota. And in fact, it's in nature reserve because of the lack of human interference. And so the authors of this study, say, you know, it might be that it's actually worse remediation is worse because of what potentially will happen afterwards. Because humans will either move in or it'll be come a different industrial site. Anyways, I just find it helpful to say, what is the actual worst case scenario, like Chernobyl was safety, like Hanford with waste, and just put it into context to show it's really not apocalyptic people like to put the apocalypse on to nuclear because of this like transference of fear from nuclear weapons. But when we actually look at the issues, it's just so much less risky than we actually think it is.


Chris Keefer  1:04:05  

Yeah, no, I think that's like a, you know, big objection with the Fukushima stuff is okay, sure, it didn't kill anyone from radiation. But they're banking, like $100 billion on cleanup, and it's like to get to, like millisievert levels, you know, back to kind of normal levels of background radiation. Meanwhile, you know, let's evacuate Denver, Colorado, because you're around 10 millisieverts per year, and like, almost the entire prefectures like, I don't know, five anyway, below 10. It's, it's completely insane. But you know, that's where you're scraping up all the topsoil off of like these super fertile rice fields, putting it in big plastic bags. That's the like, just I don't know Robert Bryce, we had an episode about his visit to Fukushima and just the number of tanks of treated water sitting on site like, that's what scares the shit out of people and makes them go. I don't know about this. And that is on the industry. I guess it's on the regulators as well. And that's all I'm Gregory, Jack. So who scared the crap out of the Japanese population with, you know, false ideas around spent fuel back to waste spent fuel pool fire? And I don't know if you know anything about that stuff. But I think that that is kind of interesting. Maybe we were over an hour or so we'll get to that in another episode, perhaps, you know, the thing that is strikes me as absolutely bonkers is that nuclear still economic, it's the second cheapest source of electricity in Ontario. Here, for instance, it was the cheapest source of electricity in Germany. You know, except for really wacky deregulated markets where wind and solar can come in with zero marginal costs and out price on the five minute spot market. nukes are doing pretty great economically, particularly ones that have been around for a while. But anyway, that provides a lot of the way still economic despite putting aside $26 billion for a DGR you know, still economic despite, you know, the enormous budget of an Elon duck talk any slack. But you know, it's pretty incredible. And I think a testament to how economic and how much more economic nuclear could be. And 100 reflection,


you know, at the DGR, like, the level of planning and again, like you go and visit with organizations like NWO, you walk in, and you spend the first half hour going, like, this is insane. These people are crazy. And then you go like, wow, this is so cool. You know, that's, like, you know, this this degree, again, of making dangerous thing safe to this level. Like it's it's a genius, like, and the level of expertise of the scientists involved. Incredible. But you know, just to give you a sense of like, their worst case scenario planning, they were modeling, like, what if a meteor hits the deep Geologic Repository, and essentially, like the power of the meteor strike would essentially like wiped out the dinosaurs like it would wipe out life on Earth, in terms of actually causing, you know, I'm not even sure if it's a significant radiation release, it might just be any radiation release.


Anyway, you get the sense. And I think, I think what, you know, I don't want to end on my diatribe. So why don't you have one last diatribe, Maddie. And then we'll wrap her up in a bow.


Madison Hilly  1:07:04  

Well, yeah, I mean, when it when I talked about, like, people like to think about the apocalypse with the waist. And so yeah, what if a meteor hit? What if like something for a cast? People ask what happens if the cast breaks open, and like I do try to be as like, literally, you know, take them at their word, like, Okay, here's what literally happened, but just explain. If a cast cracks open, and some of that inert gas gets out, most of the stuff will be contained, but you probably would not give a crap about it. Because whatever happened, like you would have way bigger problems from whatever caused that cast to get cracked open. And it's that same Meteor example. But I want to just reiterate like what you're saying, with the DGR, I think it is an incredible, like humans are just incredible. And the the level of expertise and how we can make things safe. This isn't like my critiques of DGR have nothing to do with the people that I think are earnestly working hard to make. What they think is make the public feel safe and secured from this ways. I just argue that, you know, I've all I've had a really high success rate of just being honest with people talking to them, showing them pictures, and that there's this alternative world where we don't have to engineer a solution to nuclear waste, where this is a public engagement problem. And we can just engage honestly and openly with the public. So people like to ask, well, then, what do you suggest, if not DGR, if not recycling, and I just think continue to assure day to day safety with casks with monitoring exactly what we're doing. I do think there is a legitimate criticism, which is that the nuclear waste Policy Act, at least for the US, you know, says we will have some sort of repository. And so we just abandon that. And right now, our plan is just okay, well, like the utilities just have to deal with it. And we're being very unintentional. I think it's important to be intentional with your waste plan. So we talked about the Netherlands before, what they do is basically convene every 20 years, reevaluate, look at the advances in technology. Look at the advances in science, look at how their waste has fared thus far, and say, Okay, well, should we change anything? Nope, we're all good. See you again, in 20 years, I actually really liked that. Nuclear waste storage, I believe becomes cheaper with time because we can see what we like what is realistically needed with it. And then the most important thing that we've already talked about is just let the public see it. And I would think even better let it be an actual public asset. I mean, I'm sure the NRA See will have a lot to say if they ever listen to this and hear me talk about making it a park, but like, can't we condition local artists in Zion to paint to have like an art contest, or each one is assigned a different, you know, we have it be a gallery of waste.


Chris Keefer  1:10:20  

That might that might cost that might cost too much. Like, here's an example of an example of the economics here. So, you know, there's two potential sites and Ontario ones and like the most perfect rock in the world down, like very close to all the nuclear plants. One is like pretty far up north, you know, it's still the rock is still absolutely fine. It's a little more contentious, because it's, you know, there's, you know, more indigenous folks nearby, etc. But, you know, what I was told is like, and I was like, so why would you pick that site way, that way up north, when the power plants are all in the south? And they go, Well, listen, I mean, it's all about like, us getting the community consent. So if you know, the committee consents better up there, and we choose that site, it's only an extra $760 million to transport the waste up there. $760 million. Let's, let's pay some artists, you know, more than their starving artists wages and make the stuff beautiful, and, and, you know, just help people change, change their understanding, because I think, you know, the work that you're doing on that front, I think is again, whereas like the overengineering of Waste Solutions, just furthers the fear mongering, it's it gets it's as effective as the anti nuclear movement, in creating fear, terror, etc, about the waist, and like even getting back to like, so what if a dry cask cracks in half? I mean, let's, let's actually walk that through. And I think that's a useful thing to walk through with people. It's like, green ooze doesn't leak out of there. volatile gases, I don't even think leak out of there. You have, you know, this inverse square law. Like, if you're again, we went through those stats, if it's been 100 years, 200 years, and you're you're standing 30 centimeters away for an hour, you'll get four CT scans worth of dose, who's gonna go and like, I mean, I'm sure curious onlookers might come and check it out for a little bit, but like, not gonna stand 30 centimeters away for for an hour, right, like,


Madison Hilly  1:12:14  

and the NRC has studied this issue, like we live in a scary world so people reasonably asked like, what if nuclear waste was targeted by a terrorist? And it is like I really don't want to mock people's very real fears, but it almost sounds like you're mocking them when you walk them through okay, realistically, so these things weigh like 100 Yeah, or like they just are massive you you could not carry them with a truck you couldn't just like pull up your pickup, but somehow you manage to like break through the security of a nuclear power plant which in the US is heavily heavily armed, you manage to steal a vehicle from somewhere either on site but probably from somewhere else to get this cast, you managed to somehow drive it down the highway without our helicopter to your like, Batman style underground cave and you have to like the NRC looked in there like you would have to like strategically know, you would have to know the inside and out of this cast to be able to detonate it like they just just they said there's no credible terrorism threat. And in a worst case scenario, if somehow like say ignore all of that and just say they managed to like blow up a spent fuel assembly in a high populated area. I think they predicted like one premature death and 270 Premature cancers or cancers that may not have like it's just and so they they wrote there is no credible scenario so we just can't even regulate around this. I mean, it's we've really done a great job of making it safe but yeah, like trying to get every you know, every extra nano Seaver or protect against? Yeah, dinosaur level Meteor is just feels crazy. Like, we're operating in a reality that is not around


Chris Keefer  1:14:32  

well, and like how far do you take it because it's like, okay, meteors may be a threat. So we're gonna need to have, you know, some nuclear missile silos as part of our air defense system so that when the media comes, we can, you know, use our ICBMs to blow up the media before it hits the DGR like, you can you can start like logically moving to that degree of ridiculousness when you don't just say okay, we stop here because this is just so not credible. And I mean I guess there's been that air in terms of nuclear hubris, like in the early days of nuclear power. Jack Devanney, I think does a great job of this where it's like, they're saying, Well, essentially a nuclear power plant having a meltdown is impossible. And that was hubristic. And it's frankly, bullshit. We've had meltdowns. But what were the consequences of the meltdown? So we need to like actually talk realistically and mechanistically about those consequences. And acknowledge, like, theoretically, something can happen. Yeah, you know, it's, it's, it's not really credible to even imagine that it could. But let's, let's say that there are black swan events. What are the consequences? The cast breaks open, and the fuel clad uranium pellets? Don't go anywhere.


Anyway, I think we've gone on long enough. Now we're heading into just whatever banter, Maddy, it's it's been great. This has been fun. I think we've probably offended way too many people. To those people. I say, you know, hats off to you my respect, again for, you know, the scientific expertise, the engineering, engineering expertise for working within what are perceived to be the constraints of public perceptions. But I think, really important in a world of nuclear communications with the industry communications, where it's like, this is the party line, and it must be told all the way down through the entire hierarchy. It's, it's, it's North Korea, ask. It's like commissar ask. And, again, that's probably gonna offend people, but I'm serious, like, take a look in the mirror. In terms of the comms culture, because I don't think it's winning. And you know, for the best ideas to surface I mean, getting back to the kind of thing Jessie's and Emirates conversation or some other conversations I've had, like, in a free pluralistic society, like one of the reasons the US could out compete the Soviet Union many reasons, but one is like a free democratic pluralistic society with freedom of speech and ideas is just such a benefit to actually selecting what are the best ideas? So at the very least, except this humble shot in the darkness of some heterodoxy, and let's, let's have better conversations. And we could be wrong.


Madison Hilly  1:17:09  

Yeah, prove I want the evidence I if someone has it prove me wrong. I really am serious about if someone has an economic analysis showing that these repositories are cheaper, I would love to see it. I mean, I'm always looking for ways to make nuclear more affordable. So I would love Love, love, love to see that in all, you know, being very genuine.


Chris Keefer  1:17:34  

Okay, cool. We'll leave it there. Maddie pleasure. We'll have you back. I think you gave us the long and skinny on Hanford. But yeah, that's a fascinating.


Madison Hilly  1:17:44  

We'll find some people many so


Chris Keefer  1:17:47  

were that were the bad boys have and bad nuke bros, new new gals of nuclear advocacy. So thick skins, many arrows in them. It's all good. I'm sure we'll find many more excuses to have you back over the many more years of decouple And holy crap. We are coming up on the third anniversary of decouple that will be May 26. Magic started, you know, shortly after locked down here in Canada. And this was the coping mechanism started very humbly, we had 40 downloads in the first two weeks in terms of my stats, and now we're into the you know, 10,000 range. So, to the audience, thank you for sticking around and being loyal. Please do support us on Patreon. And yeah, subscribe. And after that, farewell, stay classy, stay radiant, as Emmett would say. And it's been been a slice and many more years of decoupling to come. So it's a community. Let's all let's all enjoy it. Okay, enough. Bas. Talk to you soon. Maddie.


Unknown Speaker  1:18:51  

Bye, guys.



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