Canada: Paul Murphy Talks Energy With The Titans Of Nuclear Podcast

Our very own Paul Murphy, managing director in Gowling WLG's Energy Group, was recently invited onto the Titans of Nuclear podcast to talk all things nuclear. Topics discussed included: innovative nuclear project financing, the disadvantages of using renewables, the economic impact of global warming, why the US government and nuclear corporations need to join forces, and much more. Take a listen.

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Titans of Nuclear Podcast

"The gravity of the time is such that every new avenue of peace, no matter how dimly discernible, should be explored."

"Never before in history has so much hope for so many people been gathered together in a single organization."

"...you will provide a great share of the wisdom, the courage, and the faith which can bring to this world lasting peace for all nations, and happiness and well-being for all men."

Announcer: In this episode Brett sits down with Paul Murphy, the Managing Director of Gowling WLG. We begin with Paul's introduction to the nuclear industry, as a project finance attorney for Bechtel Power Corporation, before discussing the definition and history of nuclear project financing. They proceed to talk about the ability and benefits of the state wanting to purchase a power plant versus the municipality as well as issues associated with financial modeling. They define innovative financing and discuss the benefits of regulation and de-regulation of the market and why competition in the market isn't always good. Brett and Paul then analyze the economic impact of global warming and why messaging matters and double standards that exist in the oil and nuclear industry. They conclude with why the US government and nuclear corporations need to come together and provide one voice and bilateral relationships and the geo-political nuances of the nuclear industry. We hope you enjoy this episode.

Brett: We are here today with Paul Murphy who is the Managing Director of Special Projects at the law firm, Gowling WLG. Thanks for joining me today.

Paul: Thanks for having me Brett.

Brett: I'd love to hear how do you become a nuclear lawyer to begin with. How do you choose that as your topic of specialty? What led you there?

Paul: Sure. So, I started off my career as a project finance attorney. Major infrastructure projects with a financing bid and basically, how I'd evolved over time, is I happened to work in power, predominantly, and I made the move after a number of years to go in house to Bechtel Power Corporation. At the time Bechtel Power was divided into fossil and nuclear and as a lawyer, as part of the group, we supported those projects. I had the opportunity to start working on nuclear things and Bechtel was a member of an industry group on nuclear liability. It was generally supported by our business development group and they were short staffed and I was a policy major so I went and said, "If you need some extra help here happy to do it." So I started going to these meetings and that group had observer status at the IAEA.

Brett: The IAEA, I'm going to make you break out all acronyms.

Paul: Sure. International Atomic Energy Agency. I rushed back to Bechtel and went to my boss and the president of nuclear and said, "Hey, we should send somebody to this. If you need somebody to go I'd love to go." Of course they were supportive. I went to the general conference. Met the head of the nuclear energy section and we started talking about financing nuclear projects and 4 months later I got a call asking if I would just bid on a working group on innovative financing for nuclear. Bechtel was great enough to support it and off I went. Then it was the classic one thing led to the next and I kept doing more things and it grew really into the main part of what I do.

Brett: So there are a few pieces out of that I'd like to pull out a little bit. I'd like to talk about Bechtel's role and the industry, a little bit, if you could. But also historically what project financing has looked like for nuclear and then, of course, what innovative financing means. Maybe you could walk us through this.

Paul: Sure. Bechtel really is one of the premier architect engineer EPC contractors in the world. They've been around for over 100 years. They had a long history in building plants in the United States from the very beginning of the nuclear industry and worked on plants all over the world.

Brett: So they're the constructors.

Paul: Right.

Brett: A company like Westinghouse, or Combustion Engineering, or GE, they're the ones that have the design for what the plant looks like. But then, of course, you need the construction company to actually manage the welding of the steel, subcontractors.

Paul: Some of the engineering, beyond the nuclear island for the overall plant, they would do all the procurement and then they would manage the construction, as well, to basically deliver the plant. Where the Westinghouse's of the world would be providing the nuclear kit. The nuclear technology, if you will. But the overall delivery of the asset would be the EPC contractor's responsibility.

Brett: Do we know how Bechtel got into the nuclear business to begin with?

Paul: I just think they had a large experience in terms of complicated projects.

Brett: Have you dealt with heavy construction?

Paul: Yeah. So it was just one of those things that having, not only the power experience, but then just the complex project experience kind of lends itself to moving into nuclear and they started at the early days improving it. That was the kind of the Bechtel history. Project finance, interestingly enough, we've never done a project finance deal in nuclear, ever.

Brett: What does that mean?

Paul: Project finance is a type of financing. You're financing a project which, how you get debt and equities for whatever asset you're trying to build, but project finance is a specific technique. That is where you use limited or non-recourse financing. You create a special purpose vehicle that owns the asset and then the investors, and the debt providers who look to revenue generated by the asset, to service the debt and pay back the equity. The problem is in nuclear because of the history, first of all the project costs are very high but because of the history of delays in terms of running late on schedule and over budget, that doesn't lend itself to project financing structures and because of the regulatory implications and some of the uncertainties concerning the development period, it makes lenders nervous to lend into the project when the track record is somewhat difficult at that early stage. If you have something like a combined cycle gas plant where the technology is fairly basic, the construction time is very short, you don't really have regulatory uncertainty, you don't have political risk associated with gas fired projects and a lot of people can do it. You're at nth of the kind. That lends itself to project finance whereas nuclear necessarily doesn't.

Brett: What did they do historically if they weren't able to create these special purpose vehicles and pay back the debt over time?

Paul: You're looking at kind of balance sheet financing. But what I think was critical when we talk specifically about the United States was all the nuclear plants in the United States were built at a time when our electricity markets were regulated. What you could do is whatever it costs ultimately then got put into the rate base because you had a captive market by that regulated utility. Even if projects ran over you could always recover over time. Maybe your ultimately return on investment was a little bit delayed because of schedule delays but the cost aspect you could always recover and as a regulated utility, from a bank perspective, lending to that utility was viewed as very secure because of the overall market it was servicing. It had a captive market. That worked really well but what's happened in electricity markets is in the United States we de-regulated a lot of them. That's created pressures on the front end and back end because what we've seen is it's very hard to finance anything in a de-regulated market. But what we've also seen in the United States is a lot of nuclear plants are under threat or have been shut down because in those de-regulated markets you have, first of all, low natural gas prices, which natural gas is kind of the price setter, but then we have renewables with subsidies and dispatch priorities so it makes it very hard for nuclear to compete which, you know, the traditional assessment was nuclear is very expensive to build and challenging to build. But once it's up and running it's cheap to run and it kind of prints money. Even though nuclear is relatively cheap to run, given where gas prices are and give what we've done with renewables, it's still, in many cases, losing money.

Brett: Especially with these de-regulated markets.

Paul: In these de-regulated markets. In the regulated markets it's fine. But in the de-regulated markets its under threat. So what we've seen now is a lot of action at the state level to save these plants because the calculus is sort of, well, I may have to provide a bit of a revenue kicker to put these plants in profitability but if I shut them down I lose the jobs, I lose the benefit to the local economy, I lose the tax revenue.

Brett: You lose a long term asset that could be still printing that money down the road.

Paul: Exactly. And, of course, what's really become compelling is when you look at our climate change and ambitions, nuclear is emissions free. It's clean energy. If we're aspiring to meet these clean energy targets, first of all we have to do a lot to get there that has to be done with a combination of assets, not just one over another. So there's a place for different forms of generation. But if you take these large base load nuclear plants off you're just talking yourself farther and farther away from the goal you're trying to achieve. And that climate change argument has become very compelling, at the state level in places, most recently New Jersey just legislation was signed to provide extra support so that some of the plants don't shut down there.

Brett: Is it possible that a state could purchase a nuclear power plant, outright, that might be going bankrupt or that the private company says, "Listen. This isn't profitable for us anymore." Could a state buy it like they buy a van, or a truck, or something like that?

Paul: It's a bit of what revenue sources does the state have to do that. It's not historically our model in terms of states operating the asset themselves. We see municipalities do it. For example, you look at it the South Texas project. There's municipal orders there. You look at the SONGS project that's been shut down. There were municipal owners there. Municipalities, that's definitely been a model, but not really the state level.

Brett: Because you think the state would have a bigger, more money, for instance like Three Mile Island, which Exelon is going to be shutting down. Even when they purchased it, they purchased it for something like 20 million dollars, or something very small.

Paul: Right.

Brett: But for a private company you can still see how it's not in their interests to hold onto that asset because it might be a liability moving forward. But a state, they've got the money, they could buy a billion dollar plant. They would have the budget to do that and then because of all the jobs, because of the long term. A state can think long term where a private company may not be able to.

Paul: I think what you look at too is that corporate has to answer to quarterly returns and annual returns and, just as two examples, when you look at how you model things financially, financial modelers will tell you that after 30 years everything discounts to zero. You only model 30 years out and then you make your go or no go decision on it as to whether you have a positive net present value or not. The problem is for these new reactor designs that are coming online they're going to be licensed for 60 years. Which means they'll probably, with refurbishments, run for 80 if not 100 years. You sit there and your financial model tells you that the only thing that matters is those first 30 years. But logically we sit there and say, at 30 years and a day, if I have an asset that's going to run for another potentially 70 years why wouldn't I want that? Why isn't that a good thing? But our modeling doesn't capture that.

Brett: You can't just depreciate the asset over 60 years instead of 30 years?

Paul: It's not a question of depreciation. You're doing it as what's the discount value? So you're looking at it from how you do your modeling. Similarly, your models don't account for things like climate change. They don't account for energy security, energy diversity. These things don't model at a project level so some of those benefits you don't capture. Another good example is if you compare France versus Italy after 1986 Chernobyl. Italy had operating nuclear units that were doing very well. They decided to shut down the whole program. At that point forward Italy was paying the highest prices for electricity in Western Europe. France was paying the cheapest. Italy was importing electricity. They were importing fuel for whatever generation assets that they had. When you look at that you say at a project level none of that matters. It doesn't matter at a project level if you're paying higher electricity prices or lower electricity prices. But it has a huge impact on the economy. So, for Italy as whole, versus France as a whole, think of the ripple effect that paying the highest prices versus the lowest prices for electricity, but you don't model that in a project decision. But at a macro level that's where you can start thinking how could I justify policies to support certain activities. That's when you draw either your timeline long enough, or your considerations beyond just the project, you start to get very different answers.

Brett: So, I want to tie this back into innovative financing but before I lose my thread of thought here, when Italy did that, this is after 1986, and you saw the effect of the next 20 years how did Germany, after Fukushima, make that exact same decision?

Paul: I think it goes to the emotional aspect of nuclear power.

Brett: But Germany, they should be able to make a logical decision.

Paul: It became very political at the time and what happened with Germany was there was this deal that was cut before Fukushima to extend the operating life of the current fleet. Because there was talk about maybe shutting it down so they cut a deal where the assets would be extended and then there was going to be a tax that was assessed to help pay for their renewable program. After Fukushima Merkel was in trouble politically in certain states and immediately said we're going to shut everything down. It was for very, I would argue, short term political views and I'll come back to that in a second, but what was fascinating was that the quid pro quo of the life extensions for the tax, but then they took away the life extensions and left the tax in place. Then of course there was all kinds of litigation from the utilities relative to the government. I'm like, now you can't continue to assess the tax. I think what looked like a very short term political decision to change some state elections, perhaps, really expanded into this view in Germany that renewables are the way to go. But when you look at the results Germany is paying very high prices for their electricity. When they shut down half of the fleet, and then didn't extend the other half of the fleet, now they're looking at coal generation.

Brett: They get zero gains against coal. From the entire start of their program zero gains against coal. That's crazy.

Paul: When you look at what they're paying for renewables and then not getting a net gain you sit there and say how can this make sense? But I think that's one of the challenges we have in the nuclear industry is the numbers support one set of answers. Which is, well, logically if we want climate change, if we need base load power, if these are our goals then clearly nuclear has a place in all of this.

Brett: There's the security. I mean there's so many.

Paul: Then we're doing renewables and it's not that it has to be an either or. It's just that as more, you know there's been a lot of good work done on when you have a small amount of renewables it can be beneficial. As you start getting higher amounts you get diminishing returns because of the inclemency. And then there's been all these problems in Europe where when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing you have excess power and it's got nowhere to go so it affects all the interconnects with your neighbouring states, which is not really good for them, and then a bit of the hypocrisy that when they're short on power where does Germany get its excess power from? France, which is nuclear powered. You sit there and say, "If you don't like nuclear power that's fine. But then why would you then buy it from somebody else. Isn't there a bit of hypocrisy there?" It's hard to understand, at a factual level, the numbers point to arguendo as being very unsuccessful. Yet, the Germans keep happily paying for this at a very high level, maybe in the hope that large scale energy storage saves the day. But, you know, one of the problems is that the wind is in the North and the power's needed in the South. They need to build all these transmission lines which are very expensive but then people are resisting building the transmission because they don't want to upset the panorama with all these transmission lines. You sit there and say there's a lack of rationality in all of this but it has very big effects in terms of overall energy planning and cost to the consumers. I think you hope that at the end of the day a rationality prevails where people really do look at the numbers and see that some of these ideas just really aren't working.

Brett: Back to project financing. You said there were some innovative aspects to that. What do you guys conclude?

Paul: We concluded it's very hard. I think that what we see is we're still at a point with the newer technologies. Where we're at first of a kind type problems. From a lending perspective. Now engineers might tell you that the technology is already proven, or elements of the technology is proven, so you can't say first of a kind to the entire asset. And that's fair. But from a lender perspective, until you've built it on time and on budget, you haven't done anything. There's going to be that conservatism. When you look at the entire US fleet it's all Gen2 technology. There's not a single Gen3 plant operating in the US right now. It's doing just fine but as we go to these newer designs, which have benefits, and we aspire to SMR's and advanced reactor designs, Gen4, all these things there's that challenge of, again from a financing perspective, until you've built it and it's run and you've shown that you can build on time and on budget, there's going to be a conservatism from a financial community in terms of doing creative financing because of those challenges. What you are left with is the need for government support. What you're left with is looking at some of the things they've done in a place like France where you had the excelting deal where you put together a bunch of high end users of electricity. They entered into a PPA, Power Purchase Agreement, with Électricité de France for their existing fleet and that revenue is then being used to fund new build. Or in the UK where in the contract for different structure. Or loan guaranty programs in the US or in the UK. Or you're seeing from the Russians and the Chinese, government to government financing. Innovation, it depends on what you mean by it, but these are techniques that are being used to solve problems. To overcome problems. So is it some fancy new thing? Not necessarily so but it's sort of looking at where those techniques we might like to use aren't quite ready because of where the technologies at and then figuring out what we can do to sort of bridge that gap.

Brett: Are there other creative project financing techniques that maybe haven't been implemented yet but come across the brainstorming board that you guys have thought of?

Paul: I think when you start getting into fleet type things, for example, you look at the UAE deal where you're building four units together. Or when you talk about SMR, small modular reactors, and say one of the advantages is scalability. You start to think about the possibility of if I want to build four of something then if I stagger it in such a way that I can start generating revenue from the first to help financing of the future build out. So, you're staging it so that you can start bringing, you know, don't build four all at the same time, but maybe stage it so that your revenue can start coming into support the future ones coming on line. I think that's one thing. I think that there is a legitimate question. We kind of all came to the conclusion, years ago, that de-regulation was a good thing. That by de-regulating you create competition. You lower electricity prices. I think in some cases that's been proven to be true but then you start to lose control over what gets built. I think that by refashioning that, and putting back in place some supports, you're almost getting to re-regulation. But if you leave it to the market, as to say what should be built, you're going to go with cheapest and easiest to build. But that then may not meet some of your other goals, such as climate change.

Brett: Is regulation really such a dirty word that we can't kind of set bounds on it and say, "Listen, everything's already regulation to begin with so it's not like we are in this complete free market scenario anyway. We're just going to change what the regulation is and we're still going to allow tons of competition, within a certain space, as long as we're valuing the characteristics of nuclear appropriately." And then let there be 10 or 20 nuclear companies competing and driving down the cost. I mean, is it really that untenable, politically, to change regulation?

Paul: I don't think so as long as you articulate why you are doing it. I mean, if the current model that we have isn't properly valuing all the things that need to be value, for example, if you look at a solar plant, or wind plant, and you're not assessing the cost of that to include the backup generation that you need when it's not generating, well, that's not exactly fair in terms of the total cost of generation. When you start looking at things and saying, "I have other goals that I need to put in this" and the market is not inserting that I think that is the role for where policy can come into place. I think you've got to clearly articulate that to people because ultimately they're going to say, "Well, if I have to pay anything more, I don't like that." But if you say, take the case of China, where the levels of pollution are such that it is a true health issue and it's shortening lives and causing deaths. Well, how much money are you going to value on a life? You know, or the shortness of a life. What's the right number? I certainly don't want to do that. But clearly there is a value to switching out dirty generation for clean generation for the benefit of society but I think you have to clearly articulate that. Make the case in a very clear, simple, integrated way to the population so that they say, "It is worth paying a little bit more for this benefit." or, "I'm not paying as much as I should be for this generation because their free riding on other things." Intermittent generation only works

Brett: Right! I haven't heard that argument before. There is a bit of free riding going on, isn't there?

Paul: Intermittent generation only works if you have the backbone to step in to cover when that's generating.

Brett: Right.

Paul: So, somebody has to be there when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. There's a cost to that. If you just value the cost based on that standby, back up generation, well that appears very expensive. If you don't want to sign it on the front end to the intermittent generators you've created an economic imbalance merely because you're not assigning the impact costs at the source. Similarly with coal. If you're not assessing the cost of pollution well then coal appears cheaper than it otherwise should be. If we don't have market structures that can do that then that becomes a case for policy or regulated markets. But we tend to think that competition is always a good thing and that's going to lower prices. So whenever you start moving back away from that you've really got to clearly make the case to the population as to why this is essential because what we're doing is sort of falling short of our goals.

Announcer: We'll be right back with Paul Murphy.

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Brett: Is it within the scope of FIRK powers to rejigger the market?

Paul: Full disclosure, I'm not a regulatory lawyer, so I'm not by any means an expert at FIRK, but I know that Secretary Perry sort of tasked FIRK last year with looking at market disruption through intermittent generation and I think FIRK kind of paused a bit and said that maybe some of this stuff is out of our bailiwick. Some things we can look at and others we can't. Maybe FIRK is an imperfect tool. That's not a criticism of them but whenever you're starting to get into how electricity markets work it's very complicated. There's a lot of things that go into it and I always come back to there's certain fundamental things in a society that we sort of take for granted. That when you flip on the light switch the lights go on. When you turn the water spigot water comes out and it's clean water. It's just sort of in a developed country you assume certain things are supposed to be. When you look at how essential electricity is to quality of life and how we live our lives now. Especially when we're even more electrified than ever before with computers and hand held devices and electric vehicles and these things. If you buy your Prius but you're getting electricity from a coal plant you've actually hurt things more than helped things. People don't realize that. A lot of the impacts are not readily transparent to people and I think when we start formulating policy you need to have it done very carefully because it's not just one simple thing that needs to be fixed. There's so many factors that go into it.

Brett: It's a good point that you bring up. We expect that when we flip the switch on that lights come on. It would be chaos if that weren't the case here. Yet we're incentivizing intermittent sources that do not provide that and actually by incentivizing them hurting the other energy sources that do offer us that security that when we flip on the switch the light goes on.

Paul: You look at it and I think it's difficult to plan something as sensitive as energy policy and electricity supply on the assumption that we can keep building out renewables and someday we'll have great scale energy stored and that will solve everything. I mean, clearly grid scale energy storage is the next big thing if we can ever get it, not only technologically but economically.

Brett: I'm not even sure that the physics support grid scale energy storage that has a net carbon reduction. We might be able to solve the technical challenge, and we might be able to bring costs down on grid scale energy storage, but you're manufacturing, building and deploying a lot of stuff and there's a carbon footprint to that as well.

Paul: Even for solar panels. When you look at some of the materials that go in people don't appreciate the climate impact on the fabrication and when you compare nuclear where we have funding requirements to fund decommissioning and it's heavily, heavily regulated as to how you can dispose of nuclear waste and spent fuel or store it properly, that's not happening with solar panels. All over the world and they're being put into general garbage dumps and other means of disposal and some of the nasty stuff that's in solar panels is leaking out and is causing harm to the environment. Again, this goes back to are we truly capturing the full impact, front end and back end, on all of these things. I don't think we are and this isn't to attack renewables. They have a place. Some renewables is great. But if you were to take all of the plants in the United States and look at the amount of real estate you need to generate that amount of power, if you would have to do that equivalent with wind and solar, the amount of real estate that you would need is unfathomable. People would never accept that level of seeing windmills. There is a nimby issue a bit. A solar panel on house. Okay, I'm trendy and doing something for the environment and I feel good about it. But is that really going to replace all the nuclear and other forms of generation if we are going to transform? Which I believe we need to do but we need to sort of plan and say, "We have to look at the numbers. We have to look at the real estate. We have to look at where we're going to put these things. We have to consider where the sun's shining. Where the winds blowing and how we're going to get that power from one place to another." In the US we're kind of spoiled because we have a lot of sources. You go to the rest of the world some of them don't have cheap natural gas. They don't have all the choices that we do. Their choice when it comes to development may be for some rather inefficient and environmentally unfriendly forms of generation where we start to say, "Where's growth happening in the world? It's in the developing world. Where do they need power? They need power in the developing world now to cover what they don't have and their populations growing so you need even more." Maybe the developed world was the main source of climate change problems but in terms of the solution we have to think about what's happening in the developing world and figure out how we can get clean power to them in a ... manner because that ties not only into the climate change dynamic but also into things like desalination, when you consider water scarcity issues here, in the same areas with the same problems. For desalination you need heat or electricity. Well, where are you getting that from? If you don't get that from a clean source now you're solving one problem and creating another. All these things have to be put together holistically which is very difficult. In our country, in the United States at the national level, we're not particularly good at that. But then getting countries to agree on that, with binding commitments, there's a cost aspect but there's an enforceability aspect. We see, unfortunately right now, that we're not meeting the climate change goals that we even set out in the short term.

Brett: Not even close.

Paul: Something dramatic has to happen, but unfortunately, in society we tend to wait for the problem to manifest itself to such a degree that it's too late to fix or too expensive to fix or you get sort of behind the curve and it's just that much harder to solve.

Brett: Especially with the climate systems. There's the known inertia, as well, to the problems that we're creating now. Specifically might not manifest themselves to later because of the physics of the earth's systems itself. How heat is moved around our planet. How it's stored. Delayed effects of carbon. That is a real concern

Paul: I think it's the ripple effect. It's sort of to say we need to keep global warming to 2º or less. Then people can kind of understand that mathematically. Okay. It's 2º. I get that but what does it really mean? Where do we get that number from and what happens when sea levels rise to island countries, or to coastal cities, and then to severe storms and the economic impact of that? When you sit there and say, "Yes, it's going to cost me now to address these problems. It's not cost free but am I saving money much later on?" Because to solve it later is going to be a harder problem to solve or to solve the effect of something that I created is going to be even more expensive. When you say, "Okay. If the sea levels rise what happens to Manhattan?" I mean, devastating effects that I think it's too late when the problem has hit you front and center. I think a lot of people see it as theoretical. Well, if I don't get to it today, I'll get to it tomorrow.

Brett: Yeah, but, what is the psychological impact of us saying that our challenge is to keep something under 2º? Keeping temperature to 2º doesn't sound like a rallying cry that would summon together the forces of humanity.

Paul: Think of in your house, if you say I have my thermostat at 72º instead of 70º for my air conditioning.

Brett: Big deal. Let it go.

Paul: It's only 2º, yeah. So it doesn't hit close to home and that's where it's like it's not the fact that it's a little warmer. It's the impact to the environment.

Brett: I know you can't actually answer this but you got me on a rant now. Why was the problem described in terms of units of degrees? It's a very scientific approach but also one that requires you to understand earth's systems. To understand 2º.

Paul: I think you're hitting on it. First of all, I don't know the answer but I think you're hitting on something that is not unique to nuclear. It's certainly a problem for nuclear. Is that a lot of the technical analysis is lost on the general population because unless you're trained in the discipline you don't appreciate, it's not a question of intelligence, or I just don't care about this, or I don't want to spend the time to figure it out. It's these are complex problems and unless you can make it, I mean sometimes the art of being an advisor, or consultant, is taking something very difficult to do or understand and simplifying it in a way that the people that are not experts in that area can understand, make decisions about and move forward on. I think that in these technical areas we tend to keep talking in technical means. Which, if you're talking to engineer to engineer, it makes sense. It's like two lawyers talking. You go to a conference and who are the worst presenters most of the time? It's the lawyers. Because they get up and they act like they're talking to a room full of 300 lawyers and maybe there's 7 in the audience, who are nodding and paying attention, and the rest of the people are like oh my god, when is this over? I think the ability to take your area of expertise and all that depth of knowledge but then simplify it, not with distorting the facts, but translating it in a way that people can absorb the problem. If you say, "Look we're talking about 2º, not because it feels 2º warmer today than yesterday, okay fine." That doesn't mean much to people. But then when you say, "This is what happens to the world when those 2º impact all these things." Then people say, "Oh, I understand that. Now I get it." But you need that Ah ha! moment then I think sometimes on these technical things, you know, we're talking about safety margins on reactor core damage at to 10 to the minus 6th versus 10 to the minus 7th. Well, 10 to the minus 7th is better than 10 to the minus 6th. It doesn't even resonate with people because I don't even know what 10 to the minus 6th means. I got to get out a pencil and paper. Okay, that's what it is. But a lot of people it just doesn't have any impact. I think that whether it's the nuclear sector, or climate change more broadly, or energy planning, we have to sort of break it down into digestible chunks of information so that people understand what we're worried about. Then a simple path forward. You start to make it overly complex and people kind of throw up their hands in frustration and say, "I just don't understand this." and then, "I don't trust it." I think that's been part of nuclear, sometimes, is that it's too complicated. There must be something that I'm missing. You're the expert. I'm not and therefore I just don't trust this anymore. Something else I can understand so I'm going to go with that." That dialogue, I think, is very important. The messaging is important. But also honesty in the messaging because it has to be pure. It has to be something that someone's not going to find you out later. Because that you can't recover from.

Brett: Really? I mean the oil companies recover from that all the time.

Paul: You know, it's funny. Let's talk about oil, if you will. What fascinates me is when you compare the automotive industry to the nuclear industry. If somebody sneezes too loudly in a nuclear plant we're ready to shut the whole industry down.

Brett: Right.

Paul: Yet as we're talking in the last 30 seconds somewhere, someone, just died in a car accident.

Brett: Right.

Paul: Spend 30 more seconds and someone will have saved ... Somehow, in certain industries, we have decided that certain problems or certain levels of risk are okay. I mean, when we came to work today you decided to leave your house. You could have walked to work, you could have ridden a bike, you could have ridden a car, a car with seatbelts, a car with airbags or a car with armour plating. But our cars don't have armour plating unless you're the President of the United States because that's too much. We've decided there's a point where something's okay until it's not okay. There's a rationality to that. It doesn't make it right but we're somehow okay with people dying in auto accidents all the time. Yet you look at Fukushima. Nobody died from the nuclear accident. You look at 3 Mile Island. Nobody died from a nuclear accident. But we have mining accidents every day and other industries and we're not shutting them down. There's a bit of a double standard. The safety requirements in nuclear are a source of strength. Going back to your question, pre-Fukushima there was a lot of discussion about how the oil industry could learn from the nuclear industry, in terms of safety and all of the systems that are built into nuclear projects. That stopped after Fukushima. You remember we had deep water a rise of groups going, "Hey, the oil industry needs to get its act together." Fukushima obviously changed things in a different way but, yeah, somehow we've made these decisions in other areas that we're okay with a certain level of problem or risk. I think that one of the challenges of nuclear is, because you have the weapon side, which is completely separate and apart from the civilian side, but people understand that there are nuclear weapons and that kept the peace during the Cold War but it also threatened us with annihilation and so the word nuclear is in nuclear weapons. Well the word nuclear is in nuclear power as well so I'm just going to merge these things together in my mind and say, "Something isn't okay here and in order for it to make it okay you've got to go above and beyond and then some for me to be even remotely comfortable with you doing anything in the civilian nuclear industry." Other industries don't live to those standards. Okay, it's not fair but that's the way it is. Other areas have bigger lobbying. There's a bit of that reality.

Brett: Can you extrapolate on that a little bit?

Paul: Oil industry has a lot of money. Nuclear energy doesn't approach that. It's not even a drop in the bucket so they can mobilize lobbyists. The environmental community mobilize lobbyists that nuclear doesn't. This isn't a pity party. It's not a criticism. It's just, you know, money does matter. Funding does matter and the nuclear industry has been very insular. There's a bit of we'll just stay off to the side and be quiet. We'll do the things we do and please leave us alone. There hasn't been that sort of advocacy because there's always been the sense of caution given the seriousness of what's being done. Other industries don't play by those set of rules and I think that what we're seeing now, more so, is that the nuclear industry is starting to get out of its own way. I think the industry's very good at talking to itself. It needs to get better at talking to the people that aren't part of the industry to educate, to inform and you see, again, going back to something that was said earlier, the issues that are happening at state level to keep some of these plants running. When you put the facts out there. When you help people understand what's going on, because they're simply not aware, the facts become very compelling but it does require that you reach out beyond your comfort zone. Who's in a nuclear conference? It's just the nuclear industry. You stand up and you talk to the same people that you saw last month at a different conference and we all cheer and what a great speech that was and oh, you made some great points. But the message isn't necessarily getting out to the wider community. Yeah, there are going to be people that absolutely hate nuclear and there's nothing you can ever say to change their minds. But I think that's a small population. It's the everybody else that is very compelling and has to be informed to even take a case, you go to India, right? After Fukushima the Russians were building the Kudankulam project in India. You had some EnGIO's go to the local community. It was kind of, you know, fisherman and farmers, not MIT nuclear engineers, and provide them with information. A lot of which was inaccurate but that's what the people got. They scared them and they protested against the project. The Indian government learned from that and said, "Okay, in the future we have to do a better job educating the local community." We see in a place like the UAE with their program. The UAE isn't a democracy. But they spent a lot of time working with the local community to understand why the nation made a decision to go nuclear, provided lots of information to the community about nuclear, allowed people to ask questions and got the information out there in a very proactive way. Not to deceive. To inform. I think that's the key. It's you're informing with the facts. But, you know, sometimes the messaging also matters. If you have some of the classic nuclear voices providing that message maybe there's some skepticism. What we've seen too at the state levels, you have organizations that don't have nuclear or atomic in their title, that have taken up this cause principally for climate change issues and are advocating and that's very powerful because they're viewed, rightly and wrongly, as more objective. More neutral. You can say the same thing with the same facts but who's verbalizing that really does matter. How that information is delivered. It's not just the information but how it's delivered is also very important so that people can absorb it in a way that they feel they're getting objective information and not sort of biased information from one source trying to make a point.

Brett: So I want ... to think this is all going to but before we do that, and before we get too off track, I want to just continue a little more with your story. What happened after Bechtel?

Paul: I went back into private practice. I went to my former firm to help grow the nuclear practice. This was at a time, this was pre-Fukushima, where everybody's very excited about the nuclear renaissance so the timing was very nice. We ended up working on the financing for the reactors in Abu Dhabi. That was a really rewarding thing and then of course Fukushima happened and kind of changed things a bit. But I've remained in private practice, now with Gowling WLG, so we're an international law firm, 18 offices, 10 countries, 1,400 lawyers, and we have a soup to nuts nuclear practice. Everything from financing to project development to intellectual property to regulatory issues. What I find exciting, I'm an international policy major from all the way back to college, and so what I find very interesting is the international aspect to this. It's unfortunate that we're not really doing much in the US in the terms of new build but it's a very vibrant international environment.

Brett: Let's pull that apart a little bit. A vibrant international environment. I don't think most people realize that nuclear is searching forth across the world. That the US is not representative of new nuclear.

Paul: It isn't. So you look at places. Like China has a massive new build program. Russia is building.

Brett: How big are these programs now and how big are they going to be?

Paul: Remains to be seen. There's stated ambitions and usually things go a little bit slower but China has multiple sites under construction using multiple technologies, both large scale and now some, you know, they're developing smaller reactors. India the same. Russia the same. You have large programs in places like that. The UK is trying to bring back new nuclear build and they have multiple sites going. All of them are facing challenges. We'll see how they do. Then you have, I think, the UAE which was sort of the first wave of these newcomer countries that have no history in nuclear. That CEEA is playing a very important role in terms of climate change and ENERc, security and energy diversity. I think the challenge there is you have a lot of countries that are interested in nuclear. But that's where it's how do we get it to them because financing's a challenge. All the programmatic things that you need to do to make it a sustainable, responsible program, take time and effort. That's not just money but it's also human resource in terms of having the people do that. I think you have a lot of countries that see nuclear as a solution to a lot of their problems but then there's that hurdle of how do you get over that. You see, I think, Russia, China being very active, and export promotion. There's sort of maybe three core issues. There's a lot of issues but I think when you look at financing, human resources development and public acceptance, those are kind of the three threshold issues that you have to get past. Even if you had the best intentions, if you can't solve those three, you're not going to have a program. I think financing is becoming a tool. You're seeing a lot of government to government deals. Which then, of course, have geopolitical significance. The IAEA talks about this being a 100 year commitment. If I now exported my technology to you and I'm providing support services later on and fuel and training, it's a very long term bilateral relationship.

Brett: It's a bond between two different economies for a long time.

Paul: And what we see too is countries are going and using these nuclear deals as the tip of the spear. And then there's signing deals across multiple sectors as part of that bilateral relationship.

Brett: Like what?

Paul: It could be things like military cooperation. It could be deals in other sectors in terms of energy or other types of technological exchanges. It becomes a very broad based relationship over time with nuclear kind of being one of those core issues that helps drive the overall bilateral relationship. It does start to matter when you see some of the countries doing things in certain parts of the world. We have Saudi Arabia now saying that they want to pick a reactor technology within this calendar year. We'll see if that schedule is met. But who the Saudi's pick, it's not just like you're buying a car. It's about the bilateral relationship, and whether they pick US or French or Korean or Russian or Chinese technology, that has a lot of long term implications. I think that, you know, we've been talking a lot about where nuclear fits in from a climate change perspective, but there's a whole other pillar to this which is the, sort of the, geopolitics of nuclear. I think the UAE was very conscious, when they started the program, that if you say nuclear in the Middle East in the same sentence, people get nervous. They're very proactive about managing that effectively. Saudi's now going forward. They had their set of issues but who they choose has a geopolitical impact.

Brett: Given the geopolitical component of this what should the role be that our government plays?

Paul: I think that all countries are not created equal. Certain countries are more of a priority from a foreign policy perspective than others. I think that when you look at Saudi Arabia, that has a unique relationship with the United States, and it's place in the region. Mexico, next year, is probably going to have a procurement for new reactors. Obviously Mexico is very important to the United States. Bangladesh is picking Russian technology. It's important for the nuclear industry that that project goes well but is it really of concern to the United States geopolitically that Bangladesh has picked Russian technology? It's not as big as strategic priority to the United States. I mean, that's just being blunt and honest. I think for whatever country, whether you're China, Russia, the United States, France, there are certain places where you have important relationships. You want to maintain those relationships and then you look and say, "What do I need to do to make this deal happen?" It's a bit about technology. It's a bit about financing. It's a bit about other forms of cooperation, training and regulatory changes and access to universities, our labs. There's all kinds of things you can structure around. The challenge I think we have has a country is when we look at the competition, other than the Japanese companies which arguably have a very special relationship with their government anyway, US companies are corporate whereas the competition is state owned entities. That creates a very different dynamic in how they approach this. That's not a criticism of them. It's just an acknowledgement that it's different. It's a different relationship talking to ROSATOM, which the head of ROSATOM is a ministerial level position in the Russian government, so government and industry are very much aligned. In the United States we tend to separate corporate and government. In order to compete against those other offerings, which are very attractive frankly, industry and governments need to come together and speak with one voice. Provide a solution that, arguably, you can't do it the same way as the Russians or the Chinese because, again, state owned entities and they just do business differently. Not a criticism. Just an acknowledgement. You sit there and say, "Then what are the tools we could use as the United States to provide an attractive offering?" That may be a combination of different factors. When you look at, back in 2008 at the end of the Bush administration, when Bush was trying to figure out how can we build a greater relationship with India. It's the largest democracy in Asia. It's the second largest country in the world by population. To be the first we need to do better. One of the things was India had been isolated from the nuclear community for years because of their weapons program. The US basically undertook to bring India back into the international nuclear community. In exchange we got two sites for probably 6 reactors each. There was a bit of quid pro quo there but I think only the US could have played that role in bringing India back into the international community. But it asked for something in return. I think because of the geopolitical aspects of this, absent government involvement from our government, it will be very hard for US companies to compete. The technology is solid but there are other challenges, when you look at the competitive landscape, there are places that may decide I don't want to work with country X or country Y and that obviously changes the strategy if the competitive environment is different. But where everybody's showing up and others are presenting these integrated offers, with state owned entities and financing, we have to look and say, "Okay. What do we have to offer?" Right now US Exim still doesn't have a quorum. Our export credit agency

Brett: US Exim. That's the export and import which their role is that they help finance projects when other countries buy US products.

Paul: It's content based financing and its export promotion. Right now US Exim still doesn't have quorum on its board. It can't loan more than 10 million, that's with an "m" not a "b", dollars.

Brett: Doesn't go very far.

Paul: Doesn't go very far. So we've got to get US Exim back involved and export credit financing becomes very important because of the conservatism of the commercial banking community with regards to nuclear. That's where we need to have financing available. We need to offer other things that are attractive from the United States. All the countries and their technologies are different and some things will resonate in certain places and not others. But you can't compete everywhere. You've got to figure out what areas are most important and then how you can bring a win strategy to that that will be compelling. Because the amounts and the time levels are so long that it's a huge decision. Once you pick your reactor technology, you go back to we were talking about project financing before. One of the remedies in a project finance structure is termination. Another is taking over the project if you're the lender. The last thing you want is a bunch of bankers taking over a nuclear project so put that one to the side. But you talk about something like termination. If you're doing a toll road and you don't like the way the contractor's leveling the ground and laying pavement you can terminate them and you can find somebody else to come in and do the same thing. But you can't find somebody else to build an AP1000. That's Westinghouse's thing. If you terminate Westinghouse ... I think that you look and say you're joined at the hip for a very long time. These are long term relationships and they have to sustain. I think the US does have relationships with certain countries, and long term vested interest that they can leverage, but you have to have a viable offering that checks the boxes for that country and often times is helping that country overcome some of its challenges because, especially if they've never done it before, they don't have the people trained. So there's a human resources issue. There's just a lot of stuff they have to do in terms of regulatory development, etcetera, we can help there. It's putting together that integrated package which historically we keep, as I've said before, government and corporate separate and nuclear we got to bring it back together. You know you think about the military industry. If you make a tank and you want to sell it abroad you have to work with government to do it. You just can't sell US military equipment, sensitive military technology, abroad. Government industry working together. I think there's a model there for cooperation that we've done in the defense industry because of the unique nature of that asset class that we can also do in nuclear. Because people like to say, "Oh nuclear is not that different." or, "Oh let the market decide and if you can't compete then why do we care?" Nuclear is different. There's different considerations that come involved. If we don't appreciate that and build a strategy of industry and government together we're going to have trouble competing overseas because the Russians, the Chinese, they are doing a lot. They are bringing financing. They know what they're doing, you know. Their stuff works. You have to do something to offset that because they do have real experience now. They are delivering projects successfully. Not always perfectly but neither are we. But the more that they do the better they're getting. Whereas the less that we do we're getting further and further away from effective project delivery.

Brett: As we wrap up here, given that you've clearly got this great doable perspective of what's happening, if you could wave your magic wand and say, you know, if we're going to solve some of these major problems and we're going to solve them with nuclear, we're going to need to build about 1,000 gigawatt scale reactors or tens of thousands of smaller reactors in the next couple of decades. If you could wave your magic wand to put us on the path to do that what would be the first thing that would happen?

Paul: The first thing is financing. There's got to be the money to support these projects. They're really expensive but what other asset do you have that's going to run for 100 years? Solving the financing problem, I think, is like, obviously human resources is an issue. Obviously the supply chain is an issue. Obviously public acceptance is an issue. All those things can be addressed at some level. You have to pay attention to them but at the end of the day, even if you've solved all those things but you can't finance it, you don't have a project. Finding the money, not only for our projects here but abroad and helping countries that may not have the money, becomes an issue. I think that when you layer in climate change considerations, and you layer things like water scarcity, we have to solve these problems in totality. You look at displacement of peoples for things like the ... and the impact that has on so many countries. Water scarcity is going to have displacement type impact. You can't, as a country, just say, "Well, this is somebody else's problem. I'm taking care of myself. You're not my people. You just do what you want." because climate change, water levels rising, water scarcity, all these things are going to have disruptive impact on nation states and population bases. Somehow, collectively, we've got to solve these problems. We have to all buy into the fact that it is a problem. And then we can say, "Okay. If this is the problem how are we going to solve it?" then you make the case and you find the tools. But I think in a lot of these things that's where I'm, I think the nuclear industry has a lot of challenges but long term I'm very optimistic for the industry, globally, because I don't see a way to solve these problems without nuclear. If we start with that premise then it's a well, if I need nuclear now, if I've made the case as to why I need nuclear as opposed to something else, now I can put the policies in place to make that happen. But we need to first clearly establish where nuclear fits in all of this so that then we can move on to solving the problems of how we deploy it instead of being stuck on some of the issues that we're stuck on right now.

Brett: Paul Murphy. Thank you so much.

Paul: My pleasure. Thank you. Take care.

Brett: We hope you enjoyed this episode with Paul Murphy and we want to conclude with a special announcement. Thanks to all of our listeners we're now in over 50 countries across the world. To get a broader perspective of the nuclear industry I spent a few weeks travelling around 8 countries in Europe. For the next month we'll be rolling out those episodes from 28 experts in the international community covering a wide ranging set of topics in order to broaden our perspective. See you next week.

"... and initiate at least a new approach to the many difficult problems that must be solved in

both private and public conversations, if the world is to shake off the inertia imposed by fear,

and is to make positive progress toward peace."

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