2020 Democrats should appearance to Andrew Yang. Nuclear power is the way to go.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Opinion factor
Released 10:27 a.m. ET S ept. 17, 2019 | Updated 1:55 p.m. ET S ept. 17, 2019

Climate modification is a significant talking point in the Democratic governmental primaries. When will they pay attention to the service that really works?

Want to do something about climate change by lowering carbon emissions? If you’re serious, that “something” has to consist of a massive dedication to the construction of new nuclear power plants around the world, as well as making sure that existing nuclear power plants don’t go offline up until they can be changed by brand-new ones.

Nuclear power is the just major, developed, proven source of power that has absolutely no carbon emissions. Of the carbon-free options, only hydroelectric has a long track record as a significant power source, and you can only dam so lots of rivers; solar and wind are still in the teething phases and are not likely to bring the load any time soon.

Nuclear power is dependable, safe and well comprehended. If you oppose nuclear power but call climate change a crisis, then you’re speaking nonsense, unless you just want to decrease energy usage in America to something like what’s seen in current day Venezuela, in which case you’re just speaking a different kind of nonsense.

A choose couple of are being sincere about what is needed

Most, however not all, of the Democratic candidates for president are unclear on the subject, silent or opposed to nuclear power. However not all. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has been a “full-throated” supporter of nuclear power, and nuclear power gets a huge boost from Andrew Yang’s climate modification plan.

According to Yang’s plan, “Nuclear power is a important part in the move toward creating sustainable, carbon-free energy for the United States. However, numerous individuals — including some other candidates — dismiss it out of hand. Why does it have such a bad track record? … First, the public’s understanding of its security has actually been manipulated by TV shows like ‘Chernobyl’ and ‘The Simpsons.’ “

USA TODAY E ditorial Board:Phase out nuclear power? Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders locked in absurd arms race

Yang continues: “When the (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Nuclear Energy Agency and National Aeronautics and Area Administration) analyzed the actual risk of nuclear energy compared with other sources, they found that it caused orders of magnitude fewer deaths than fossil fuel-based energy. And that’s not even thinking about the long-lasting effect of environment change from burning fossil fuels. With modern-day reactors, security is significantly increased, and nuclear waste is considerably reduced.”

That’s precisely right. Yang is particularly interested in reactors powered by thorium instead of uranium, due to the fact that thorium is more efficient and more plentiful, and since thorium reactors can’t produce materials suitable for usage in nuclear weapons. Plus: “Thorium reactors produce less waste than uranium reactors. Thorium waste stays radioactive for several hundred years instead of numerous thousand years. Thorium-based molten salt reactors are safer than earlier-generation nuclear reactors, and the possible for a devastating occasion is negligible, due to the design of the reactor and the truth that thorium is not, by itself, fissile.”

If this is a nationwide emergency, nuclear can’t be overlooked

Yang is definitely right to make these points, and he has gotten some well-deserved attention. But it’s unexpected that he hasn’t gotten more, given how much we’re hearing about the crisis nature of climate change. Because if you take environment modification seriously, you have to take nuclear power seriously. As Michael Shellenberger writes in Forbes, if Germany and California had actually based their emissions strategies on nuclear instead of “renewables” like solar and wind, they’d have 100% clean power now.

But they didn’t, and they wear’t, and the concern is whether the rest of us will discover from their error. The International Energy Company reports that planned nuclear retirements will already lead to 4 billion metric heaps of extra carbon dioxide emissions. If it makes sense to keep functioning reactors online longer rather than changing them with fossil fuels, then definitely it makes sense to replace fossil fuel plants with new nuclear reactors.

There’s something of a renaissance going on in nuclear innovation, with small “inherently safe” reactors being put forward to fill gaps in supply. These reactors might be mass-produced on assembly lines for much lower expenses (current reactors are customized on website) and since of their little size could more easily be put where required. 

Sure, people are afraid and invoke things like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, but when they do, they’re mainly believing about the ridiculously dramatized imaginary variations of those occurrences. (Shellenberger’s column is headlined, “The factor they fictionalize nuclear catastrophes like Chernobyl is because they kill so couple of people”). Yang’s plan specifically recognizes this, noting that nuclear power triggers orders of magnitudes less deaths than fossil fuels.  

And the change could be done rapidly. As Joshua Goldstein, Staffan Qvist and Steven Pinker note in The New York Times, France and Sweden “decarbonized their grids years ago and now produce less than a 10 th of the world average of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. They remain among the world’s most pleasant places to live and delight in much cheaper electrical energy than Germany to boot. They did this with nuclear power. And they did it fast, taking advantage of nuclear power’s intense concentration of energy per pound of fuel. France changed nearly all of its fossil-fueled electrical power with nuclear power across the country in simply 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. In fact, most of the fastest additions of clean electricity traditionally are nations rolling out nuclear power.”

Andrew Yang’s right. So why wait?

It’s basic:Nuclear power is too pricey and too dangerous

It’s time for our leaders to get their heads out of thriller films and start supporting a massive shift to nuclear power. Due to the fact that it’s a crisis, and in a crisis, you do things you sanctuary’t done before.  

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law teacher and the author of “The New School: How the Info Age Will Save American Education from Itself,” is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. 

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Read or Share this story: https://www. usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/09/17/2020-democrat-president-climate-change-andrew-yang-nuclear-power-column/2342031001/


.

Cory Booker Compares Anti-Nuclear Democrats To Republican Climate Deniers

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) compared Democrats who oppose nuclear energy to Republican climate science deniers, highlighting a growing rift in the party over the nation’s biggest source of emissions-free electrical power. 

In a extensive interview with HuffPost, the Democratic presidential enthusiastic said he once shared progressives’ suspicion of nuclear power however ended up being persuaded that reaching net-zero emissions from the utility sector by 2030 was impossible without the source that produces more power than all types of renewables integrated. 

“As much as we state the Republicans when it comes to environment modification must listen to science, our party has the exact same commitment to listen to researchers,” Booker stated. “The information speaks for itself.” 

The remark ― one of the most pointed reviews of the anti-nuclear position in the Democratic primary so far ― grazes a particularly sensitive nerve in the climate policy argument. 

The United States hasn’t certified a new reactor in a quarter century. Yet nuclear power is deeply undesirable. In 2016, Gallup discovered a majority of Americans opposed nuclear energy for the first time given that the pollster began surveying the concern in 1994. If the 2011 meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, stired worry in a generation too young to recall 1979’s Three Mile Island accident, HBO’s new hit miniseries “Chernobyl” exposed viewers to the scaries of radioactive contamination. 

The politics of nuclear energy are tough to pigeonhole. The market tossed its lot in with coal over the past few years in hopes of winning federal subsidies from the Trump administration. Third Way, the centrist think tank, avowedly supports nuclear. Yet so, too, does left-leaning New York magazine writer Eric Levitz, who made an impassioned plea for the progressives to welcome nuclear previously this month. 

In a presidential election, Nevada, where citizens who cast ballots in a definitive early main staunchly oppose keeping nuclear waste in the desert, raises the stakes. 

Senator  Cory  Booker  speaks  throughout  the  2020  Democratic  U.S.  governmental  dispute  in  Houston,  Texas,  U.S.  September  12,  2019.  RE





Senator Cory Booker speaks during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential dispute in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Yet the numbers paint a bleak image of what eliminating emissions from the power sector looks like without nuclear, said Leah Stokes, a scientist and University of California, Santa Barbara assistant professor. 

Over the past decade, sustainable capacity grew at about 0.6% on average each year, Stokes stated. To change the coal and gas plants that still produce a majority of the United States’ electrical power by 2050, renewables requirement to grow by about 2 portion points per year. 

But slashing economywide emissions requires changing combustion-engine cars and trucks, trucks and aircrafts ― the greatest source of carbon dioxide in the United States ― to electric variations. That suggests roughly doubling the electrical power readily available on the grid, requiring the baseline rate of renewables deployed each year grow nearly 7 times faster than today. 

Now consider the climate platforms top Democratic governmental candidates proposed. The strategy Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) launched ― cribbing from erstwhile environment prospect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ― makes no mention of nuclear power. Throughout CNN’s climate town hall, Warren vowed to start “weaning ourselves off nuclear energy” with the goal of shutting down existing plants by 2035. However presuming existing plants stay open, that would need releasing renewables at 17 times the present rate, Stirs said. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took an even firmer position versus nuclear power. He led the charge to shut down the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, which closed in late 2014, and proposed a costs last year to start decommissioning plants across the country. Shuttering nuclear and fossil fuel plants at the exact same time means the renewables would requirement to be deployed at 25 times the existing rate.

“That’s approximately 50% harder than the Warren strategy,” Stirs said. 

Construction of renewables, meanwhile, is slowing as the investment tax credits that sustained the development of solar and wind over the past decade phase out. In 2018, the worldwide buildout of renewables stopped working to increase year over year for the first time because 2001, according to the International Energy Company. 

“That simply reveals you that taking nuclear off the table simply makes it so much harder to get the job done,” Stokes said. “People wear’t comprehend the absolutely brave deployment rates that we’re talking about.” 

In Vermont, where the Yankee nuclear plant produced 70% of the state’s electrical energy, emissions surged after its closure. Due to the fact that the state switched primarily to hydro power, the boost was mainly due to its dependence on wood-fired heating in cold winters and an aging fleet of gas-guzzling pickup trucks, The Boston Globe reported. However in New England total, where the plant produced 4% of the region’s total electrical power output, emissions surged 15% between 2014 and 2015, according to the trade publication UtilityDive

“If we had a president who was going to pull us out of nuclear, we’d be more reliant on fossil fuels,” Booker said. “It’s as simple as that.”

That was the case in South Korea, where the government moved promptly to shut down nuclear plants after the Fukushima catastrophe. Coal-fired generation hit a new high in 2018, though its share of the electricity mix fell 5 percentage points to about 37% in the first four months of this year as South Korean authorities made a new push for renewables. Still, carbon dioxide emissions increased by an yearly typical of 2.3%.

Booker hopes brand-new research study into smaller, more effective modular reactors could allay some of the concerns over existing plants. The upstart firm NuScale Power revealed a design for a modular reactor that takes 1% of the space a traditional reactor, and might be buried deep underground. In July, the business announced strategies to experiment with selling power to ratepayers in Utah. A lots reactors, lined up like beer cans, might power an whole city and cost what the business estimates to be $3 billion to construct. The Department of Energy invested $300 million into NuScale. Booker’s plan earmarks $20 billion for next-generation nuclear research study. 

If we had a president who was going to pull us out of nuclear, we’d be more reliant on fossil fuels. It’s as basic as that.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Booker, whose $3 trillion climate plan made high appreciation from ecologists, isn’t alone in his welcome of building new nuclear plants. Previous Vice President Joe Biden called for ramping up investment in small modular reactors. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang assured generous investments in brand-new reactors powered by thorium, which produces less radioactive waste than uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association. 

But a heating world raises some of nuclear power’s most significant dangers. Nuclear reactors need 720 gallons of cooling water per megawatt-hour of electricity they produce ― a concern as water resources grow scarcer on a hotter world, as HuffPost previously reported. The threat of violence increases in a warmed world with depleted resources and unprecedented numbers of refugees, raising issues of nuclear sabotage in terrorist attacks or war.

“From transport, to storage, to waste that stays lethal for more than 100,000 years, nuclear plants posture many hazards to our households and our neighborhoods,” said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s worldwide environment policy director. “Meanwhile, clean energy from solar and wind is outcompeting unclean fuels and just getting cheaper, while brand-new nuclear plants are outrageously costly, over budget plan by billions, and economically stopping working.”

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko warned that even mini-reactors will suggest more accidents.

“Every day nearly you see a brand-new story, talking about how we’re not going to resolve the problem of environment change without nuclear reactors,” Jaczko told WBUR this week. “And when I see those things I scratch my head and marvel if they’re talking about the very same market I’ve been familiar with, because I don’t see how nuclear power plants are going to resolve that problem.”

Building new plants will be pricey, and it’s not clear such an financial investment is a much better deal than renewables that continue to grow more affordable. And Democratic governmental candidates, regardless of plain differences on brand-new nuclear plants, are less clear on more pushing, wonky concerns, said Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer and teacher at Princeton University. Those most likely include whether prospects support state or federal aids to keep economically distressed nuclear plants open, or if they’d extend licenses up to 60 years on stations considered safe. 

“If you are taking this risk seriously, then you have to acknowledge that phasing out coal is priority No. 1, phasing out natural gas is the second obstacle, and just after that is complete ought to we be thinking about our nuclear fleet,” Jenkins stated. “The environment concern is crystal clear… and the mathematics is quite unforgiving.”

CORRECTION: An earlier variation mistakenly included a link to an short article about a donation from Exxon Mobil Corp. to Third Way Foundation, which is not connected to Third Method. 


.

The ‘advanced’ nuclear power sector is dystopian

A documentary called New Fire was released promoting ‘advanced’ nuclear power concepts last year. The heroes of the film were young entrepreneurs Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie, creators of a start-up called Transatomic Power that was establishing a ‘Waste-Annihilating Molten-Salt Reactor’.

Problems arose during the long gestation of New Fire. Transatomic Power gave up on its strategy to use nuclear waste as reactor fuel after its theoretical calculations were proven to be false, and the waste-annihilating reactor was reinvented as a waste-producing, uranium-fuelled reactor.

Worse was to come: just previously the release of New Fire, Transatomic Power went broke and collapsed completely. An legendary fail.

Reactor

The Australian parliament’s ‘inquiry into the requirements for nuclear energy‘ is shaping up to be another epic fail. The conservative chair of the query claims that “new technologies in the field are leading to cleaner, more secure and more effective energy production.”

But the ‘advanced’ nuclear power sector isn’t advanced and it isn’t advancing.

The next ‘advanced’ reactor to commence operation will be Russia’s floating nuclear power plant, created to aid exploit fossil fuel reserves in the Arctic ‒ fossil fuel reserves that are more accessible because of environment modification. That isn’t ‘advanced’ ‒ it is dystopian.

Russia’s enthusiastic pursuit of nuclear-powered icebreaker ships (nine such ships are planned by 2035) is closely linked to its agenda of establishing military and economic control of the Northern Sea Route ‒ a route that owes its existence to climate modification.

China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) says the function of its partly-built ACPR50S demonstration reactor is to develop floating nuclear power plants for oilfield exploitation in the Bohai Sea and deep-water oil and gas advancement in the South China Sea.

God-awful

‘Advanced’ nuclear reactors are advancing environment modification. Another example comes from Canada, where one potential application of little reactors is offering power and heat for the extraction of hydrocarbons from tar sands.

Some ‘advanced’ reactors could theoretically take in more nuclear waste than they produce. That sounds fantastic ‒ up until you dig into the information.

An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ‒ co-authored by Allison Macfarlane, a former chair of the US N uclear Regulatory Commission ‒ states that “molten salt reactors and sodium-cooled quick reactors – due to the unusual chemical compositions of their fuels – will in fact worsen spent fuel storage and disposal problems.”

The subclass of sodium-cooled fast reactors called ‘integral fast reactors’ (IFRs) might theoretically gobble up nuclear waste and convert it into low-carbon electricity, utilizing a procedure called pyroprocessing.

But an IFR R&D program in Idaho has left a god-awful mess that the Department of Energy (DOE) is having a hard time to deal with. This legend is comprehensive in a 2017 article and a longer report by the Union of Worried Scientists’ senior researcher Dr. Edwin Lyman, illustration on documents acquired under Liberty of Details legislation.

Breeder

Dr. Lyman writes: “Pyroprocessing has taken one potentially difficult type of nuclear waste and converted it into numerous difficult kinds of nuclear waste. DOE has spent hundreds of millions of dollars only to amplify, rather than simplify, the waste issue. … 

The FOIA documents we obtained have revealed yet another DOE tale of huge amounts of public money being wasted on an unverified technology that has fallen far short of the impractical forecasts that DOE used to sell the task”.

Some ‘advanced’ reactors could theoretically consume more fissile (explosive) nuclear material than they produce. Rather of contributing to weapons expansion dangers and issues, they might contribute to the resolution of those issues.

That sounds excellent ‒ till you dig into the information. After Russia’s drifting nuclear plant, the next ‘advanced’ reactor to commence operation might be the Model Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in India.

Weapons

The PFBR has a blanket with thorium and uranium to type fissile uranium-233 and plutonium respectively ‒ in other words, it will be ideal for weapons production.

India plans to usage fast breeder reactors (a. k.a. quick neutron reactors) to produce weapon-grade plutonium for usage as the initial ‘driver’ fuel in thorium reactors.

As John Carlson, the former Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, has repeatedly noted, those plans are highly bothersome with regard to weapons expansion and security.

There’s nothing “cleaner, safer and more effective” about India’s ‘advanced’ reactor program. On the contrary, it is harmful and it fans regional tensions and proliferation concerns in South Asia ‒ all the more so given that India declines to allow International Atomic Energy Firm safeguards assessments of its ‘advanced’ nuclear power program.

And if those regional stress boil over into nuclear warfare, catastrophic climate change will most likely result. Fossil fuels supply the best route to catastrophic environment modification; nuclear warfare supplies the quickest path.

Reactors

The ‘advanced’ nuclear power sector isn’t advanced ‒ it is dystopian. And it isn’t advancing ‒ it is regressing.

The Russian government just recently clawed back United States$4 billion from Rosatom’s budget plan by postponing its fast neutron reactor program; particularly, by putting on hold plans for what would have been the only gigawatt-scale quick neutron reactor anywhere in the world.

France recently abandoned plans for a demonstration fast reactor. Pursuit of quick reactor innovation is no longer a concern in France according to the World Nuclear Association.

And funding is tight due to the fact that of yet another failing job: a 100- megawatt materials screening reactor that is 500 percent over-budget (and counting) and 8 years behind schedule (and counting).

Other fast reactor projects have collapsed in recent years. TerraPower abandoned its strategy for a prototype fast reactor in China last year due to restrictions put on nuclear trade with China by the Trump administration, and requests for United States government funding have apparently received a negative reception.

The US and UK federal governments have both thought about utilizing GE H itachi’s ‘PRISM’ fast reactor innovation to procedure surplus plutonium stocks ‒ but both federal governments have rejected the proposal.

Failed

Fast reactors and other ‘advanced’ concepts are often called Generation IV principles.

But fast reactors have been around since the dawn of the nuclear age. They are finest described as failed Generation I innovation ‒ “demonstrably failed technology” in the words of Allison Macfarlane.

The number of operating fast reactors reached double figures in the 1980 s however has progressively fallen and will stay in single figures for the foreseeable future.

Currently, just 5 quick reactors are operating ‒ all of them described by the World Nuclear Association as experimental or demonstration reactors.

Modular

As discussed previously in The Ecologist, most of the handful of small modular reactors (SMRs) under building are over-budget and behind schedule; there are troubling connections between SMRs, weapons proliferation and militarism more generally; and about half of the SMRs under building are meant to be utilized to facilitate the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

SMRs aren’t leading to “cleaner, safer and more effective energy production”. And SMRs aren’t advancing ‒ projects are falling over left, right and centre:

  • Babcock & Wilcox abandoned its mPower SMR job in the US in spite of getting government funding of US$111 million.
  • Westinghouse dramatically lowered its investment in SMRs after stopping working to safe US federal government funding.
  • China is structure a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) however it is behind schedule and over-budget and prepares for extra HTGRs at the same website have actually been “dropped” according to the World Nuclear Association.
  • MidAmerican Energy offered up on its prepares for SMRs in Iowa after stopping working to protected legislation that would force rate-payers to part-pay building and construction costs.
  • Rolls-Royce dramatically decreased its SMR investment in the UK to “a handful of incomes” and is threatening to abandon its R&D entirely unless enormous subsidies are supplied by the British federal government.

 

Zombie reactors

Fast reactors are demonstrably stopped working innovation. SMRs have failed formerly and are in the procedure of failing yet once again. What else is there in the ‘advanced’ nuclear sector?

Fusion? At best, it is decades away and most likely it will permanently remain decades away. Two articles in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Dr. Daniel Jassby ‒ a combination researcher ‒ thoroughly debunk all of the rhetoric spouted by combination lovers.

Thorium? There are no essential differences between thorium and uranium, so building a thorium fuel cycle from scratch to change the uranium fuel cycle would be absurd ‒ and it won’t happen.

High-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) consisting of the pebble-bed modular reactor sub-type? This zombie principle declines to die even as  one after another country embarks on R&D, stops working, and offers up. As pointed out, China is structure a prototype however has dropped prepares for additional HTGRs.

Paper reactors

Claims that brand-new nuclear technologies are leading to “cleaner, more secure and more efficient energy production” could just be warranted with reference to concepts that exist just as designs on paper.

As a nuclear industry insider quipped: “We understand that the paper-moderated, ink-cooled reactor is the best of all. All kinds of unanticipated issues may occur after a project has been introduced.”

There’s nothing that can be stated about ‘advanced’ reactor rhetoric that wasn’t said by Admiral Hyman Rickover ‒ a leader of the US nuclear program ‒ all the method back in 1953.

“An scholastic reactor or reactor plant practically always has the following fundamental attributes: (1) It is basic. (2) It is little. (3) It is cheap (4) It is light. (5) It can be developed really quickly. (6) It is really versatile in function (‘omnibus reactor’). (7) Extremely bit development is required. It will usage mainly off-the-shelf parts. (8) The reactor is in the research study stage. It is not being developed now.

“On the other hand, a useful reactor plant can be distinguished by the following qualities: (1) It is being constructed now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It is requiring an tremendous quantity of advancement on obviously minor items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to develop since of the engineering advancement issues. (6) It is big. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.”

This Author

Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear advocate with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Display newsletter.


.

What Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren get incorrect about nuclear power

At the current climate town hall for the Democratic presidential prospects, both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders showed an exceptional command of the truths, and better still a severe appreciation of the severe urgency of the subject — especially in contrast to their competitor Joe Biden, who was rambling and uncertain (when he wasn’t literally bleeding from the eyes). Either Sanders or Warren would be head and shoulders above any previous president on environment, Barack Obama really much consisted of.

But both have actually dedicated a serious policy mistake. They both disavowed the use of nuclear power, and even worse, said existing nuclear power plants should be slowly taken apart. Sanders touted his (otherwise excellent) climate strategy, which would put a “moratorium” on existing nuclear power license renewals. Warren agreed at the town hall, saying “we won’t be building new nuclear plants. We will begin weaning ourselves off nuclear and replace it with renewables.” This is a bad concern for climate policy.

Now, it’s completely reasonable where this attitude comes from. Nuclear waste is harmful and can remain so for tens of thousands of years, and nuclear accidents can be the things of nightmares. The idea of dying badly from some invisible atomic poison one can neither see nor odor tends to grip the imagination, as demonstrated by the huge success of the dazzling HBO series Chernobyl. If nuclear goes incorrect, it goes very wrong. As a result, numerous environmentalists have actually internalized the idea that nuclear is just as bad as coal, if not even worse.

But this merely is not the case. Not just does nuclear fruit and vegetables near-zero emissions, even if we grant all the worst approximates of how numerous people have died from nuclear accidents, the total is absolutely overshadowed by the ziggurat of skulls stacked up annual just from the direct impacts of carbon pollution. The Chernobyl catastrophe (the worst nuclear mishap by far) killed someplace in between 4,000 and 60,000 individuals, while Fukushima killed about 1,600. On the other hand a recent study discovered about 3.6 million early deaths triggered every year simply by fossil-fuel air pollution alone. As Hannah Ritchie calculates, per system of electrical energy generated, oil is 263 times more deadly than nuclear, common coal 352 times deadlier, and lignite coal 467 times deadlier. (Then on top of that there are a still-unknown however absolutely growing number of environment casualties.)

And as New York‘s Eric Levitz writes, the best example of in history of a super-rapid decarbonization came from a mass nuclear buildout:

Between 1979 and 1988, the French cut their carbon emissions by an average annual rate of 2.9 percent. Over that exact same period, France minimized the carbon intensity of its energy system by 4.5 percent, by far the biggest decrease any country has actually achieved in a single years. [New York]

On the other hand, nuclear is not a climate panacea, as a certain brand name of annoying know-it-all centrist would have it. The most glib proponents of this view represent nuclear as a fast, safe, simple, and essentially cost-free way to resolve environment modification, if just the silly unclean hippies would stop being so irrational.

That is far from the truth. The plain reality is that modern-day nuclear has severe implementation issues. Nuclear plants (at least in their standard American form) are really big, extremely made complex, extremely heavily managed (for excellent factor), and hence very difficult to finance and guarantee. American organizations at all levels, public or personal, have had a hard time strongly with big building projects of any kind of late, be they structure nuclear plants, aircraft carriers, subways, or high-speed rail. Indeed, nuclear has exhibited a bit of a negative knowing curve price-wise — that is, getting more costly over time, while over the very same time solar and wind have dropped like a stone in cost.

The last significant effort to construct a brand-new plant in the U.S. bankrupted Westinghouse and had to be deserted, in spite of billions in federal aids. Present nuclear plants are under hazard from the basic truth that their electrical energy expenses more to produce than natural gas and renewables (at least in present markets). Unlike in the 1980 s when France was structure their nuclear fleet, any cost-conscious climate effort today would be focused around renewables.

Nevertheless, it should be admitted that nuclear boosters still have a major point, particularly when it comes to existing plants. These offer nearly a fifth of all American electricity — the biggest single source of climate-friendly energy, and more than all renewables put together (so far). Provided the severe urgency of cutting emissions, it is senseless to let this source of energy go till fossil-fuel power has been extirpated, and perhaps not even then (it may be smart to keep around some non-renewable baseload capability). As Levitz writes, “We understand what happens when a country dedicated to scaling up renewables decommissions its nuclear plants — it starts burning more coal.”

Finally, there are extremely appealing theoretical reactor designs that should have luxurious research investment. Thorium reactors in particular have the potential to offer low-cost power with nearly none of the drawbacks of current reactor styles. It would likely take a Manhattan Project-scale effort to in fact figure out if they really work, and to take them to the development stage. However somebody is going to have to figure out simply what has actually gone incorrect with American building and set it right — reactors aside, any Green New Deal will require a terrific deal of railroads, transit systems, hyper-efficient buildings, and so on, which just won’t take place if everything expenses 10 -20 times what it should. A T horium Task is as good a place to start that work as any.

At any rate, the environment hour is late undoubtedly. The urgency of the circumstance calls for a ruthlessly ecumenical energy technique. Future decarbonization definitely must rely heavily on renewables — however nuclear should be part of the mix as well, and depending on how research pans out, possibly quite a lot in future.


.

What If We Get Unlimited Supercheap Natural Gas (Methane)?

In a reader comment I shall always treasure, I got this: What’s next, the economics of importing methane by wormhole from Titan?  

There is always the economics of landing an immersible cubic kilometer capacity sphere ship into the methane/ethane lakes of Titan and scooping up a cubic kilometer of Titanian LNG –456 megatons –with a suitable gas core engine the payload might make it home but really the energy squandered is far more than the mere combustion of methane could provide(that incoming tanker would have far over a gigaton explosive yield if deliberately crashed) 

The actual configuration of such a super-super tanker might be, very durable outside hull deorbits with thin membrane bag within, fills it up, boosts to Titan orbit at 1900 m/sec or so (EV 2.639 km/s)  and rendevous with dump station, dump bag and crew, new crew and bag in, bag gets added to tow string, expensive gas core tanker goes back to Titan, ideally three times a day. Dump station would be better in LOQ Titan orbit, at a lower delta V, but the main point is you want to amortize that huge tanker. ideally a thousand trips a year, and the tanker itself might have a dumb frame and switch outable maintenence intensive tug section including the engines and well-shielded crew compartment. (unlike most designs mass for shielding is DEFINITELY not a problem on this baby) .

Although my first thought was a gas core reactor, such as I postulated for the speculative Aldebaran 2 spacecraft  https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/08/in-praise-of-large-payloads-for-space.html actually a Zuppero style ordinary low temperature solid core reactor would work for the boost, so low is the delta V.
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/03/friedlanders-idea-for-nuclear-hopper.html  
 For me the definitive approach to the problem of a robust and buildable solid core thermal rocket reactor is Zuppero et al’s 1998 paper on a Lunar South Pole Space Water Extraction and Trucking System.


There, Zuppero et al postulate easily sublimed lunar volatiles that can be captured near the lunar poles and then trucked to lunar orbit 20 tons at a time (throwing away 92.6 tons propellant water per flight, part of which (75.7 tons) gets them liftoff to orbit, part of which (16.9 tons) retros them and enables landing back on the Moon. The dry ship weighs 10.4 tons including a 292 thermal megawatt reactor deliberately engineered for many many cycles for robustness, durability and low maintenance—keys, as it happens—to economical reuse.


The Zuppero et al paper says,

The nuclear reactor mass of 1818 kg (4000 lbs) is considered 50% more than minimum. The reactor must deliver 292 megawatts to the steam at a mixed mean outlet temperature of 1100 K with propellant flow of 155 kg/s. A rocket nozzle area ratio of 200:1 will deliver a specific impulse of 198 seconds.

Unlike there however on a Moon mission you need to boost to orbit  with lunar water and retro down, here on Titan you get the priceless gifts of aerobraking and free liquid cryogens which changes the picture beyond recognition.

 In fact so favorable is the aviation environment in Titan’s atmosphere that a nuclear ramjet ascent might well allow something close to flying into orbit without anything but around 25% of the propellant loadings (at some altitude scooping thin air tends to add more drag than the collected gas gives boost so you need to go back to rocket power).

This article discusses the aviation paradise of Titan, http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=22445
In an environment where gravity is seven times less than on Earth, we’re dealing with an atmospheric pressure one and a half times greater than Earth’s. It was Robert Zubrin who suggested, back in the 1990s, that humans with wings strapped to their arms would be able to fly in this thick and soupy environment. We’ve already seen evidence of this atmosphere’s effect on the Huygens probe, which took fully two and a half hours to descend to the surface in early 2005. 

The paper quoted in the article notes that the same vehicle power and wing configuration will lift 28 times more on Titan than Earth, and 1000 times more on Titan than Mars.  A 250 ton capacity https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-225_Mriya An 225 on Earth if could fly on Titan could lift 7000 tons.

  I am not depending on that here though you can easily imagine a hybrid mode– seaplane/spaceplane reenters, buoyantly lands in Kraken Mare (levitated by a cubic kilometer of vacuum),  splashdown, crack the valves open and get to siphoning.
Remember Zuppero’s 1st gen reactor was designed for 1100 K. Nerva nuclear tests showed 2800 K to be a reasonable target.  If 2800 K can be achieved and coking can be avoided liquid methane can give an exhaust velocity of 5942.8299 m/sec (606 seconds of impulse) vs 4.5 for hydrogen oxygen chemical fuels.(See Zubrin’s table below) 

 I hope no one will object to the cost because remember liquid methane is nearly free FOB Kraken Mare.  I am giving figures for a gigaton class  tanker but I don’t really think our first exporting station will use gigaton tankers, just trying to get a feel for the ultimate scale possible even if there were 1000 x the official 9000 cubic kilometers of LNG available.  3 flights a day is half a teraton a year of natural gas. For one shuttle.  So dense is the Titanian atmosphere that a very small ascent rocket might need to use a balloon to get high enough to successfully ascend; a very large ship can neglect (within reason) atmospheric resistance.


Robert Zubrin’s Wonderful NIMF paper on exploring Mars with nuclear rockets and compressors from1990 gives nuclear exhaust velocities on common chemicals run through a nuclear rocket:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19910012833.pdf

A cubic kilometer 456 megaton ton cargo of Titanian LNG would need around 300 million tons of structure in the ship to also contain the propellant. (If that sounds high it’s not given you want a very robust ship and are also carrying another 500 megatons of LNG as propellant both for ascent and terminal pre splashdown use. My instinct is you could get away with a third that amount of structure but I am thinking of a ship as reusable as an Earthly tugboat (I guarantee the engines will need massive switching out and maintenance in the orbital port) 
Liftoff mass 1300 megatons,  cargo 500 megatons, (includes 40 megatons retro propellant allowance) structure 300 megatons, exhaust velocity 5942 m/sec, (methane) propellant 500 megatons  delta v 2885 m/sec (part of this pays for drag and gravity losses)  Mission delta-v to low Titan Orbit 1900-2700 m/sec (Titan escape velocity  2.639 km/s) 
Zubrin gives 2.4 gigawatts 2400 mw as needed for lifting 330 tons at 2800 K engine temperature. 
~9600 terawatts (9600 thousand gigawatts) thermal are needed for a 1.3 gigaton liftoff from Titan at 2800 K engine temperature. 
Remember the Liberty ship engine discussed in my article here 
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/08/in-praise-of-large-payloads-for-space.html
which had 80 gigawatts each. (Much higher exhaust velocity, less propellant  throughput)  You would need the power of 120,000 of them.  The Phoebus 2A engine fired in 1968 by NASA  put out 4000 megawatts. (4 gigawatts)

  The final 2A test in June 1968 ran for over 12 minutes at 4,000 MW,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_thermal_rocket#Test_firings

 You would instead need 2.4 million of those engines putting out 9600 terawatts
Roughly modeling the fuel loadings, assume 80 kilo of U-235 or U-233,  talking 192000 tons of U-235. Realistically we have plenty of weight to play with and luxurious margins and plenty of cryogenic coolant available. My feeling is a Phoebus clone engine putting out 80,000 MW is doable, using 80 kilo of U-235.  to keep the ship loading down to 20 tons of U-235. But if not it under 200 tons is comparable to many reactor loadings today (albeit with far more 235)

Fuel

MeV/fission

TJ/kg

1000 MW burn

235U

202.5 MeV

83.14 TJ/kg

0.01208 gram/sec

233U

197.9 MeV

81.95 TJ/kg

0.01220 gram/sec

239Pu

207.1 MeV

83.61 TJ/kg

0.01196 gram/sec

Regarding active thrusting time– assuming 10 minutes will do it, implying fuel throughflow of a million tons a second of propellant methane. Wow.  Also implying

Once  achieving Titan orbit– A second tug tows the bags to a depot where it waits for a Earth transfer opportunity.
   Interplanetary transfer can be by Hohmann boost with a string of pearls, each kilometer sized bag (now in a chilled micrometeor proof shield) is pushed during the once a Earth year transfer season, arriving 6 years later at Earth (time value of money ticking all the way but not undoable).

 Possibly an Orion type tug might push, a Medusa might pull or a wide variety of other tether systems tricks including rotary spin and release (but there is only one launch opportunity for a Hohmann transfer per Earth year at minimum delta v so that’s why the nuclear option, to push the most cargo throughput).  The economics feel reasonable for a far future economy at $100 a ton a cubic kilometer of LNG would then be 45.6 billion dollars but as we’ll see below there is a catch.

Readers new to Next Big Future might ask, why methane from Titan?
2000 plus known  cubic miles of LNG liquid methane and ethane
Youve heard of a cubic mile of oil? (of which in proven reserves there are around 50)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil
= 1,300 billion barrels (210×109 m3).
 This corresponds to roughly 43 cubic miles, or 43 CMO.
Natural gas reserves total 42 CMOs (69 years at current consumption)
Coal reserves total 121 CMOs (150 years at current consumption)

CMO, meet CMLNG —Cubic Mile of Oil–Meet a cubic mile of LNG.  We use about 1.25 CMLNGs.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquefied_natural_gas

World total production


Year Capacity (Mtpa)
1990 50
2014 246


LNG achieves a higher reduction in volume than compressed natural gas (CNG) so that the (volumetric) energy density of LNG is 2.4 times greater than that of CNG or 60 percent that of diesel fuel…
The range of heating value can span +/- 10 to 15 percent. A typical value of the higher heating value of LNG is approximately 50 MJ/kg or 21,500 Btu/lb A typical value of the lower heating value of LNG is 45 MJ/kg or 19,350 BTU/lb.


For the purpose of comparison of different fuels the heating value may be expressed in terms of energy per volume which is known as the energy density expressed in MJ/liter. The density of LNG is roughly 0.41 kg/liter to 0.5 kg/liter, depending on temperature, pressure, and composition compared to water at 1.0 kg/liter. Using the median value of 0.45 kg/liter, the typical energy density values are 22.5 MJ/liter (based on higher heating value) or 20.3 MJ/liter (based on lower heating value).


The (volume-based) energy density of LNG is approximately 2.4 times greater than that of CNG which makes it economical to transport natural gas by ship in the form of LNG. The energy density of LNG is comparable to propane and ethanol but is only 60 percent that of diesel and 70 percent that of gasoline


1 billion meters cubic of natural gas is 35.315 billion cubic feet of natural gas or 760 
kilotons of of LNG or 38.847 trillion BTU


Source: DOE Office of Fossil Energy * Based on a volume conversion of 600:1, LNG density of 456 kg per cubic meter of LNG, and 1,100 gross dry Btu per cubic feet of gas.
Liquefied Natural Gas – U.S. Department of Energy

energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/04/f0/LNG_primerupd.pdf


So playing with those numbers, a cubic kilometer of LNG is 456 megatons which is the equivalent of  600 cubic kilometers (600 billion cubic meters) of natural gas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billion_cubic_metres_of_natural_gas
 BP uses standard which is equivalent to 41.87 petajoules (1.163×10e10 kWh) per billion cubic metres


And remember Titan has visible surface lakes of 9000 cubic kilometers which is the equivalent of 456 megatons of LNG x 9000 or  4 104 000 megatons of  LNG like liquids. In other words 4.104 teratons or more than the volume of Phobos
5783.61 km3; 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobos_(moon)
and nearly 3 times the mass of Deimos
1.4762×10e12 tons



Current market price LNG per ton around $400 in Japan  383 at 7.90 million btus
USA natural gas prices around a quarter of that or $100 a ton. A cubic kilometer of LNG would then be 45.6 billion dollars. Times 9000 that is 410400 billion dollars. $410 trillion.  

 According to the World Bank, the 2013 nominal  gross world product was ~US$75.59 trillion.

So get your Texas petroleum hydrocarbons hat on under your bubble helmet and let’s ride out to the Titan Lake Country mining boom.

New Views of Titan’s Lake Country
Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams –
Titan has about 9000 cubic kilometers of liquid hydrocarbon, some forty times more than in all the proven oil reservoirs on Eart
hhttp://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=29692

by Paul Gilster on December 17, 2013








NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS
Titan has about 9000 cubic kilometers of liquid hydrocarbon, some forty times more than in all the proven oil reservoirs on Earth. That’s just one of the findings of scientists working over the data from recent Cassini flybys of the Saturnian moon. …That’s part of Titan’s fascination, of course, because it’s similar to the Earth in terms of basic interactions between liquids, solids and gases but completely alien in terms of temperatures.

Just how extensive are those seas and lakes we’ve found in Titan’s northern hemisphere?…. Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest sea, and Ligeia Mare, the second largest, appear along with nearby lakes. We learn not only that Kraken Mare is more extensive than first thought, but that almost all the lakes on Titan are in an area some 900 kilometers by 1800 kilometers. A mere three percent of the liquid on Titan is found outside this region. Cassini radar team member Randolph Kirk explains:


    “Scientists have been wondering why Titan’s lakes are where they are. These images show us that the bedrock and geology must be creating a particularly inviting environment for lakes in this box. We think it may be something like the formation of the prehistoric lake called Lake Lahontan near Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California, where deformation of the crust created fissures that could be filled up with liquid…
.  Because the liquid methane of Ligeia Mare is very pure, Cassini’s radar signal passes through it easily and can detect a signal from the sea floor. The lake turns out to be about 170 meters deep, and in at least one place is deeper than the average depth of Lake Michigan…”

Incidentially I used to live not far from Lake Michigan and  am a little puzzled by that last comment since the average depth is  85 m). Maybe they meant greatest depth? Which is 281 m.  Perfect depth to land dry and then fill the tanker up. In any case since Lake Michigan contains a volume of 1,180 cubic miles (4,918 km³) of water. We are talking about 2 lake Michigans  volume of liquid natural gas.  And my take on the evidence is that this is a drainage sump, a low place on Titan’s surface where the ‘water table’ is poking up. I would not exclude millions of cubic kilometers of the stuff lying deep, though as we see later it hardly matter if your goal is to burn it on Earth.

https://youtu.be/RrGPtCdItBw
The importance of Titan’s methane is that is basically proves that abiotic methane is not only possible in the Cosmos but probable.
Unless you believe in Titanian dinosaurs in which case do I have a kid’s TV show pitch for you.

From say 1744 and early studies of oil 
https://books.google.co.il/books?id=eckUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA34


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_geology 

Until 1944 when Gerard Kuiper detected an atmosphere around Titan containing methane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_Kuiper#Discoveries  the biological origin of methane was a reasonable hypothesis but frankly since then pathetic to watch purely biotic origin being pushed as the ONLY source of natural gas.
Methane-CH4– is the most stable hydrocarbon IIRC, it is generated by breakdown of more complex ones.  And built up from simpler ones in an abundance of available hydrogen. That alone is a powerful argument for chemistry, not biology being the origin of most of it.

 It may be that geology and astrophysics don’t talk together as often as they should; it could be in my view a historical paradigm that is very hard to get out of because early advocates of evolution really liked the idea of fossil fuel as opposed to abiotic chemistry dominating things in the depths of the earth. It was part of the mental wardrobe they were fashioning to redress the past and although you can understand why they were forceful advocates for their ideas about petroleum and NG geology–really–science is about accepting evidence when it becomes overwhelming.
Is Petroleum abiotic? Dunno, not the discussion here. 

Is methane? Provably.  Titan, dude. Kraken Mare alone is comparable to the Caspian Sea. Of LNG.

The one killer objection to importing the known vast reserves of Titanian methane is not the abundance of methane there but the shortage of oxygen here?
Shortage? Oxygen? Earth? Get real!
But as a cycle its infinite. Once in once out; not so much. When you burn lunar silicon (link below) that’s what happens.
As I point out in https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/03/lunar-silicon-vs-helium-3.html 
the atmosphere of the Earth masses around 5 milion gigatons. 21% oxygen is around a million gigatons of oxygen.  
So since methane has 1 carbon  (12 gigatons uses up 32 gigatons of oxygen and makes 44 gigatons of CO2) and 4 hydrogens (4 gigatons H uses up 32 gigatons of oxygen and makes 36 gigatons of H2O )

 So 16 gigatons of methane uses up 64 gigatons of oxygen to make 80 gigatons of products: 44 gigatons of CO2 + 36 gigatons of H2O.

Since 64 gigatons of oxygen  is used up if there is no recycling (you send CO2 through the wormhole to Titan for disposal or up the rotovator
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momentum_exchange_tether
 that exchanges momentum from space to earth transport  in one scenario (if you can mine the incoming from Saturn momentum that is many times the power of the combustion of the LNG) then burning LNG can’t go on for long. 

If you keep the reaction products on Earth of course you have a 36000 new cubic kilometers of water (negligable against the 1.37 billion or so in the ocean)  and a CO2 disposal problem.

But let’s assume it’s once in once out. 1 million gt oxygen / 4,104 such gigatons in the known 9000 km3 of Titanian LNG is 1 part in 243 or so of oxygen burned or .41 percent.  of the 21 percent.  Hm. Looks like a rounding error And I could use a spare $410 trillion for pocket change…


Well you can see where that dynamic leads.  And then of course the full millions of cubic kilometers of LNG is confirmed on Titan…If the biosphere is allowed to recycle the carbon by definition we are headed for a new level of carbon sequestration.


But wait.   There are other uses for methane gas. Suppose we just import it but don’t burn it?  First of all the energy coming in at minimum escape velocity is on the order of 63 mj kg
1562atmosphere earth 5 million gt so 1million gt oxygen so 10000 gt lunar silicon uses up 1% 30 gt for how many years 333
Atmosphere of Earth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

all 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide now scheduled for release into the atmosphere would likely warm the Earth to an astonishing 11 degrees Celsius.rtf
Liquid CO2 has a density of1.1470km3.rtf
km ab mtns 400k km3 plus 45-900tw freeze ice.rtf

For the whole Earth, with a cross section of 127,400,000 km2, the total energy rate is 174 petawatts (1.740×1017 W), plus or minus 3.5%. This value is the total rate of solar energy received by the planet; about half, 89 PW, reaches the Earth’s surface.[citation needed]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumptionPrimary energyWorld energy and power supply (TWh)[15]
Energy Power
1990 102 569 11 821
2000 117 687 15 395
2005 133 602 18 258
2008 143 851 20 181  2.28 tw full time mine
Source: IEA/OECD

Other RE* 15 284 10.6%
Others 241 0.2%
Total 143 851 100%
Source: IEA *`=solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels

Another use for massive areas of film– aerostat construction! (Giant balloons to support huge masses in the atmosphere like mile wide artificial clouds—notice the small size of huge airliners next to fluffy cumulus masses)

Keith Henson’s estimates (simplifying greatly) show that 120 mw of constant electric power for the hydrogen and 2 mw constant power for the CO2 capture can produce the materials needed from air and water for 1000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.(Synthetic oil through a gas shift reaction using 1/3 of the H to reduce the CO2 to CO, then using the mixture of CO and the remaining H to make the hydrocarbon liquids. So a gigawatt of constant power can synthesize 8000 barrels of oil a day, and in a year that is equivalent to about 2.9 million barrels of oil a year. A terawatt of constant electric power would give 2.9 billion barrels a year. The cost at 10c a kilowatt-hour (today) would be, per barrel, around $240-300 (insurance against absolute civilization-breaking price increases if we used thorium molten-salt reactors or space solar power at that 10c a kilowatt-hour price because those are scalable to more than the entire needs of all the world (15 TW today) or even at USA levels of consumption–(say 75 TW for an all USA standard world. Many other power sources like conventional hydro top out at a terawatt or two real potential—24/7 output.) For that 75 terawatt world, of course I am thinking in terms of a USA standard world of huge cars like a vintage Chrysler Imperial of 1961 or 1970, or the full sized finned Cadillac of 1959 or 1967 but there is no reason to be intentionally wasteful! Even with limitless wealth, all places (think Tokyo) do not have limitless room.

Slides by Keith Henson

The prospect of $300 a barrel oil would basically end business as usual. Carpooling would be an economic neccessity, deliveries might be limited to full truckloads– but there would be unlimited availability at that price, and we would not go back to a horse and buggy economy (locally, quite possible at those prices) or lose the ability to fight wars, travel by air, etc.

There is however, every prospect of nearly unlimited 2c per kilowatt-hour power, or even 1c per kilowatt-hour power or even less from those two sources, Thorium and space solar. At that price, nearly unlimited oil and plastics at $30 a barrel (directly drawing down the greenhouse gas surplus WITHOUT the cap and trade Big Brother nightmare) become profitable and so we may eventually hear whining about Peak Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide instead!

What is interesting is that with such a capability to generate massive amounts of hydrogen, and say hydrogen-rich linings of pressure vessels (balloon-shaped) to enable massive lift, we may be able to build massive aerostats using synthetic methane, ammonia, hydrogen, or even (insulated steam) water vapor—(after all, clouds visibly float). By massive I mean cubic kilometer-scale. Considering that a cubic kilometer of air at STP weighs 1.29 million tons, and a cubic kilometer of hydrogen at STP weighs around 90,000 tons, you can see that with a 200,000 ton envelope we could support a million tons of weight– with 5 tons of cabin per inhabitant, and 5 tons of machinery/support stuff, we could trail a hose (really a plastic film kilometer-wide perimeter) like a jellyfish to suck up moist lower air and supply the water needs of the floating 100,000 person city! 

The walls of the gas envelope –even if say quartz cloth from the asteroids–might be lined with hydrogen containing plastics to avoid hydrogen embrittlement in metal components http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_embrittlement

To generate by electrical means starting with water 90,000 tons of hydrogen (at 48kwh/kg, 48mwh/ton, 48gwhr/kiloton) will take 4320 gigawatt-hours– over half a gigawatt year. At a single penny a kilowatt-hour it would cost $10,000 a gigawatt hour or $43.2 million. That is for just a single 90 kilotons of hydrogen aerostat. But barring leaks (and hydrogen WANTS to escape-) this would be a capital cost. Imagine a 30 terawatt world, with 3 terawatts dedicated solely to hydrogen production for hydrogen aerostats. 

That is 6083 cubic kilometer capacity aerostats filled (1.4 kilometers diameter). At 100,000 people each in a decade 6 billion people could be living in aerial cities. It would certainly cut urban sprawl. One imagines it would cut transportation costs as well—since in principal at 12 miles an hour net groundspeed no location on Earth would be more than a month away.

On board gardens could produce fresh vegetables embedded in Styrofoam, and of course imports of food or other goods from ship is only a cable raise away from a ship or a transportation terminal or even jungle site just the way our current cities are supported. In fact one of the great advantages of this would be the ability of literally moving your float city within view of a great
sight– say Angel Falls http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Falls or the Himalayas or Manhattan. (Obviously they could see you too, but a big floating city cluster might, like a balloon festival, be a wonderful multicolored sight—a feature, not a bug)

If they are going to be fixed, however, having them in a straight line would enable very rapid transportation (vacuum levitation tube) literally world wide at near-orbital speeds (At 100,000 people within 1 kilometer of the station, the density is certainly there to support a one-city effect). And there are other transport modes possible—If 10 kilometers apart, and artfully arranged, the levitated cities and pipelines would enable the kind of Cape of Good Horn to Bering Strait to South Africa rapid transit that has long been a dream of vacuum subway advocates. However, an aerial version may actually be more practical than undersea and underground tubes because of lack of continental drift and earthquakes (and sea bottom quakes) Having such vacuum subways available in the high stratosphere (30 km up at a 99% lift penalty ie 10,000 tons lifted instead of a million with hydrogen) would enable a switching track to orbit, where the exiting vacuum levitation vehicle would punch through the Martian thickness atmosphere at that altitude and be in space within seconds (going for example at escape velocity already)

One interesting application for aerostat cities would be supporting yet another huge user of asteroidal industry produced films and fabrics– the ‘atmospheric skyway industry’ (as yet nonexistent!) Consider a chain of aerostat cities over the Atlantic on a straight line or great circle route. Now imagine each supporting its’ section of a ‘pipeline’ or ‘skyway’ with a hydrogen atmosphere inside.

Assuming a design could be found that could resist the sonic boom, it would be a great way to get hypersonic travel with unique advantages. First of all, a ramjet like craft could fly in it (ramjets top out at about 2 kilometers per second = 4 473.87258 miles per hour) but scramjets could take over above that. (Ramjets would need accelerated start up at the start of the tunnel.) Getting up to speed, it enters the hydrogen skyway and burns—oxygen, liquid oxygen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_oxygen from tanks inside http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/Liquid_Oxygen.gif (Typically in a 8:1 ratio (the real-life 6:1 ratio in some hydrogen-oxygen rocket engines is to make sure no precious hydrogen goes unburned– but here oxygen is scarce and hydrogen is plentiful). Although massively disadvantaged by burn ratio, the oxygen is much easier to store on board, very compactly and at high density (liquid hydrogen has a density of .07, (67.8 kg·m-3 ) liquid oxygen 1.14) So although the oxygen weighs 8 times more than the hydrogen, the tank holding it (which can be much less insulated) can be 16 times smaller. 

From Wikipedia SSTO article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSTO
While kerosene tanks can be 1% of the weight of their contents, hydrogen tanks often must weigh 10% of their contents. This is because of both the low density and the additional insulation required to minimize boiloff (a problem which does not occur with kerosene and many other fuels). The low density of hydrogen further affects the design of the rest of the vehicle — pumps and pipework need to be much larger in order to pump the fuel to the engine. The end result is the thrust/weight ratio of hydrogen-fueled engines is 30–50% lower than comparable engines using denser fuels.

Hydrogen has nearly 30% higher specific impulse (about 450 seconds vs. 350 seconds) than most dense fuels.

This tankage weight problem would be greatly reduced with just having to carry LOX tanks and scooping hydrogen from the skyway tunnel..

Assuming free hydrogen to burn, a surprisingly small (read normal) sized craft can carry a surprisingly large (read normal) size payload to near-orbital speeds. There are also other huge advantages– the atmosphere is reducing, not oxidizing, so little char will occur to heat shielding– hydrogen conducts heat well, and the speed of sound is far higher in hydrogen than in air (at 27 °C 1310 meters per second against dry air at 20 °C (68 °F), the speed of sound rate of 343.2 meters per second)

Mach 7 in air would then be equivalent to Mach 25 in hydrogen. This suggests a certain reduction in stresses (and increase in re-usability) in a craft making its speed run in a hydrogen atmosphere.

A possible advantage would be confining the sonic boom to the tunnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_City_sonic_boom_tests This has kept supersonic travel from being welcomed world wide (and basically killed the Concorde’s overland markets) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde that and the fuel consumption)
Even if only enabling 4500 mile per hour transoceanic travel (1 hour St. Louis to Paris, 3 hours, London to Australia or anywhere to its antipode if a skyway existed) this would be very interesting in terms of a smaller world effect but higher speeds probably are possible as well (not to mention a Single Stage To Orbit reusable craft being practical if it rode on the back of one of them (I am personally skeptical of launches off the back of other craft; accidents have happened that way–

SR71 Sistership, The MD21 Blackbird Accident
4 min – 14 Nov 2007
Uploaded by Blackbird101
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMyC2urCl_4

a better strategy might be rearward ejection from the mother craft as was done with bomb ejection from the A-5A Vigilante, or in the T-Space air launch tests. Or as was actually done with a Minuteman I air launched after drop from the rear of a C-5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It7SQ546xRk

At subsonic C-5 like speeds, the delta V savings are not much.

The t/Space version of air launch provided only modest performance gains compared to a ground launch (savings of 335 m/s to 550 m/s in booster delta-V …
www.astronautix.com/craft/cxv.htm From Mark Wade’s Astronautix site

But we can imagine the equivalent of a pop up vehicle– it goes on a ballistic track out of the tunnel, and in space discharges a vacuum-optimized space booster (that need not be streamlined– like a version of the LM Ascent Module that is (neglecting the ramjet/scramjet) A single-stage to orbit vehicle, one engine, already lit before release, very few failure modes.

Discussion of optimum staging velocity– remember ramjets peak at 2 km/sec, scramjets can easily reach 5-6 km sec. A small amount of rocket power would be necessary for reaction control.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSTO

Analysis shows the optimum staging velocity (the speed at which the first stage is dropped) is very high — possibly 3.65 km/s (12,000 feet per second). This means after separation, the large first stage is at high altitude and headed downrange very fast, which makes it difficult to turn around and get back to the launch point

A scramjet that wished to actually fly to orbit could reach the needed staging velocity and more, and could actually approach close enough to orbital velocity that the last bit could be by rocket.

As actual orbital speed (Mach 25 in air) is approached the thing will pull upward, so the actual ballistic path of the tunnel would be constrained as would top speed– but one can imagine a ‘switching track’ where space-bound craft go sharply upward before using a final kilometer or two a second of rocket delta V from on-board fuel before assuming orbit. As several hydrogen oxygen craft (Saturn 5 second and third stages and Space Shuttle engines pod (not whole Orbiter) with external tank) are theoretically capable of reaching orbit single stage with reduced payloads, and as neither the hydrogen nor the tankage for it need be carried in a hydrogen skyway, that may be a possibility here too.

One can also imagine a nuclear ramjet/scramjet reaching orbit in the tunnel without burning liquid oxygen at all … 3000 degrees Kelvin hydrogen exhausts at 9.8 km/sec and theoretically one could reach orbital speed in the tunnel itself (which presumably would make for interesting stresses on the tunnel walls!–Not to mention the bad 5 seconds when it leaves the tunnel and punches its way through the remaining atmosphere—) The mass ratio would be basically like an ordinary plane. However the nuclear fuel could have no contact with the hydrogen– we don’t want ablating flakes of it cast throughout the long tunnel…

Uses of methane
carbon fiber future process
foam carbon
diamondoidHall achieved the first commercially successful synthesis of diamond on December 16, 1954, and this was announced on February 15, 1955. His breakthrough was using a “belt” press, which was capable of producing pressures above 10 GPa and temperatures above 2000 °C.[18] The “belt” press (see below) used a pyrophyllite container in which graphite was dissolved within molten nickel, cobalt or iron. Those metals acted as a “solvent-catalyst”, which both dissolved carbon and accelerated its conversion into diamond. The largest diamond he produced was 0.15 mm across; it was too small and visually imperfect for jewelry, but usable in industrial abrasives. Hall’s co-workers were able to replicate his work, and the discovery was published in the major journal Nature.[19][20] He was the first person to grow a synthetic diamond with a reproducible, verifiable and well-documented process. He left GE in 1955, and three years later developed a new apparatus for the synthesis of diamond—a tetrahedral press with four anvils—to avoid violating a U.S. Department of Commerce secrecy order on the GE patent applications.[17][21] Hall received the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention for his work in diamond synthesis.[22]

——


Appendix 1– statistics on Earth’s fossil fuel reserves
more data on Earth fuel proven reserves in km3 form (~4 km3 per cubic mile)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel#Reserves
Levels (proved reserves) during 2005–2006

Coal: 997,748 million short tonnes (905 billion metric tonnes), 4,416 billion barrels (702.1 km3) of oil equivalent
Oil: 1,119 billion barrels (177.9 km3) to 1,317 billion barrels (209.4 km3)
Natural gas: 6,183–6,381 trillion cubic feet (175–181 trillion cubic metres),[18] 1,161 billion barrels (184.6×109 m3) of oil equivalent


Flows (daily production) during 2006
Coal: 18,476,127 short tonnes (16,761,260 metric tonnes),[19] 52,000,000 barrels (8,300,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day
Oil: 84,000,000 barrels per day (13,400,000 m3/d)
Natural gas: 104,435 billion cubic feet (2,963 billion cubic metres),[21] 19,000,000 barrels (3,000,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day

tons of natural gas produced yearly in 2004
in 2004, natural gas produced about 5.3 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced 10.6 and 10.2 billion tons respectively
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas

Natural gas extraction by countries in cubic meters per year. …..in 2004, natural gas produced about 5.3 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced 10.6 and 10.2 billion tons respectively Total global emissions for 2004 were estimated at over 27,200 million tons CO2 

That above statistic implies actual natural gas consumption in 2004 was a mere 1.44 gigatons of carbon with the hydrogen about 2 gigatons of methane, about 5 cubic kilometers of LNG.

Thomas Gold’s deep hot biosphere paper http://www.pnas.org/content/89/13/6045.full.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gold#Origins_of_petroleum
Independently Russian geologists– their own little world of science since essentially the First World War– came up with the same idea
 After first publishing his views on abiogenic petroleum in 1979, Gold began finding the papers on the subject by Soviet geologists and had them translated. He was both disappointed (that his ideas were not original) and delighted (because such independent formulation of these ideas added weight to the hypothesis). He always credited the Soviet work once he knew about it.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4653767/Abiotic-Oil-J-F-Kenney
Experiments to demonstrate the high-pressure genesis of petroleum… at pressures greater than 30 kbar, excepting only the lightest, methane. The pressure of 30 kbar corresponds to depths of 100 km.(1 kbar 100 MPa). ….Because the H–C system typical of petroleum is generated at high pressures and exists only as a metastable melange at ´ laboratory pressures, special high-pressure apparatus has been designed that permits investigations at pressures to 50 kbar and temperatures to 1,500°C, and which also allows rapid cooling while maintaining high pressures  The importance of this latter ability cannot be overstated; for to examine the spontaneous reaction products, the system must be quenched rapidly to ‘‘freeze in’’ their high-pressure, high-temperature distribution. Such a mechanism is analogous to that which occurs during eruptive transport processes responsible for kimberlite ejecta and for the stability and occurrence of diamonds in the crust of the Earth.


New nuclear power proposition requires public debate

The prospect of thorium being presented into Australia’s energy plans need to be subjected to considerable analysis, writes Helen Caldicott.

AS AUSTRALIA is grappling with the idea of presenting nuclear power into the nation, it appears necessary the basic public comprehend the complexities of these innovations so they can make informed choices. Thorium reactors are among those being recommended at this time.

The U.S. attempted for 50 years to produce thorium reactors, without success. 4 commercial thorium reactors were built, all of which failed. And due to the fact that of the complexity of problems listed below, thorium reactors are far more costly than uranium fueled reactors.

The longstanding effort to produce these reactors cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, while billions more dollars are still needed to dispose of the highly hazardous waste emanating from these stopped working trials.

The fact is, thorium is not a naturally fissionable product. It is for that reason necessary to mix thorium with either enriched uranium 235 (up to 20% enrichment) or with plutonium – both of which are innately fissionable – to get the process going.

While uranium enrichment is really pricey, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from uranium powered reactors is tremendously expensive and really dangerous to the employees who are exposed to harmful radioactive isotopes throughout the process. Reprocessing invested fuel needs slicing up radioactive fuel rods by remote control, liquifying them in focused nitric acid from which plutonium is precipitated out by complex chemical means.

Vast amounts of highly acidic, extremely radioactive liquid waste then stay to be disposed of. (Only is 6 kilograms of plutonium 239 can fuel a nuclear weapon, while each reactor makes 250 kilos of plutonium per year. One millionth of a gram of plutonium if breathed in is carcinogenic.)

So there is an extremely complex, harmful and pricey preliminary process to kick-start a fission procedure in a thorium reactor.

When non-fissionable thorium is mixed with either fissionable plutonium or uranium 235, it captures a neutron and transforms to uranium 233, which itself is fissionable. Naturally it takes some time for enough uranium 233 to accumulate to make this specific fission procedure spontaneously ongoing.

Later, the radioactive fuel would be removed from the reactor and reprocessed to separate out the uranium 233 from the polluting fission items, and the uranium 233 then will then be combined with more thorium to be put in another thorium reactor.

But uranium 233 is likewise extremely effective fuel for nuclear weapons. It takes about the very same amount of uranium 233 as plutonium 239 – six kilos – to fuel a nuclear weapon. The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) has currently, to its disgrace, ‘lost track’ of 96 kgs of uranium 233.

A overall of two tons of uranium 233 were produced in the United States. This material naturally needs comparable rigid security steps utilized for plutonium storage for apparent reasons. It is estimated that it will take over one million dollars per kilogram to get rid of of the seriously deadly product.

An Energy Department safety examination just recently found a nationwide repository for uranium 233 in a building constructed in 1943 at the Oak Ridge National Lab.

It was in poor condition. Investigators reported an ecological release from lots of of the 1,100 containers might

‘ … be anticipated to take place within the next 5 years because some of the bundles are approaching 30 years of age and have not been routinely inspected.’

The DOE figured out that this building had:

Deteriorated beyond cost-effective repair and significant yearly costs would be sustained to please both existing DOE storage standards, and to supply continued defense versus capacity nuclear urgency mishaps or theft of the material.

The DOE O ffice of Environmental Management now thinks about the disposal of this uranium 233 to be ‘an unfunded mandate’.

Thorium reactors likewise produce uranium 232, which decomposes to an extremely potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate through one metre of concrete, making the handling of this invested nuclear fuel extremely hazardous.

Although thorium advocates state that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, they simply produce a various spectrum of waste to those from uranium-235. This still includes numerous dangerous alpha and beta emitters, and isotopes with incredibly long half-lives, consisting of iodine 129 (half-life of 15.7 million years).

No wonder the U. S. nuclear industry offered up on thorium reactors in the 1980 s. It was an unmitigated catastrophe, as are many other nuclear enterprises carried out by the nuclear priesthood and the U.S. government.

You can follow Dr Caldicott on Twitter @DrHCaldicott

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

 


.

Andrew Yang Wants Thorium Nuclear Power. Here’s What That Way.

Photo  credit:  Joe  Raedle -  Getty  Images

Photo credit: Joe Raedle – Getty Images

From Popular Mechanics

  • Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and Democratic candidate for president, revealed his environment strategy this week.

  • Unlike other presidential candidates, Yang honestly endorses a nuclear power known as thorium.

  • Yang says he would greatly promote thorium research in America, promising that part of “$50 billion in research study and advancement” would go towards thorium-based molten salt reactors.

On Monday, Democratic prospect for president Andrew Yang revealed his environment plan. Like the plans of fellow nominees Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the plan is enthusiastic. However Yang’s sticks out from the others since he freely backs a type of nuclear power known as thorium.

Nuclear power has divided the Democratic candidates, with a couple of, like Sanders and Marianne Williamson, straight-out opposing its extended usage into the future. On the other hand, contenders like Yang, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar actively assistance it. Yang’s plan declares that the public’s conception of nuclear security “has been manipulated by TV reveals like Chernobyl and The Simpsons.”

It’s worth noting that while nuclear plants in America today are very different than the Soviet plants of the late 1980 s, the show Chernobyl gripped Americans partly because it was based on a real occasion. Occurrences like Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and several Broken Arrows still loom big for Americans. Ballot from Gallup earlier this year revealed a country split down the middle, with 49 percent of Americans in favor of the technology and another 49 percent opposing it.

But a thorium plant would be various than the plants with which Americans are familiar.

Photo  credit:  Pallava  Bagla -  Getty  Images

Photo credit: Pallava Bagla – Getty Images

So, what is it? According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA):

Thorium is a naturally-occurring, slightly radioactive metal discovered in 1828 by the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius, who named it after Thor, the Norse god of thunder. It is discovered in small quantities in most rocks and soils, where it is about 3 times more plentiful than uranium. Soil consists of an average of around 6 parts per million (ppm) of thorium. Thorium is extremely insoluble, which is why it is numerous in sands however not in seawater, in contrast to uranium …

… Thorium (Th-232) is not itself fissile and so is not directly functional in a thermal neutron reactor. However, it is ‘fertile’ and upon absorbing a neutron will transmute to uranium-233 (U-233), which is an excellent fissile fuel material. In this regard it is comparable to uranium-238 (which transmutes to plutonium-239)

One of the most promoted pluses with using thorium rather of uranium-238 is that it’s over three times more naturally occurring than the latter. However, just because it’s naturally taking place, that doesn’t mean people can access it.

The reserves of economically extractable thorium are about equal with uranium, and the WNA says that “extracting its latent energy value in a cost-effective way stays a challenge, and will need substantial R&D investment.”

Not requiring to irradiate U-238 might likewise be thought about a plus. That means it won’t provide off transuranic atoms like plutonium, americum, and other nasty byproducts of nuclear energy that find themselves in waste.

However, thorium comes with its own obstacles. “Thorium dioxide melts at 550 degrees higher temperature levels than conventional uranium dioxide, so very high temperatures are needed to produce premium strong fuel,” says a report from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), a Department of Energy institute. And while thorium might prevent some of the long-term obstacles in waste management, combining it with uranium-233 in the brief term would in fact be more radioactive than present plants.

India is possibly the world’s most significant scientist of thorium, with China behind it in second location. Yang recommends in his strategy that he would greatly promote thorium research study in America, appealing that part of “$50 billion in research and advancement” would go toward thorium-based molten salt reactors, and on top of that, he would engage in a public relations project to upgrade the track record of nuclear reactors.

You May Also Like


.

The Odd Case of the Radioactive Kid Scout

We all have pastimes and pastimes, something we like to do to loosen up and better ourselves. When you have complimentary time, what do you do? Go out for a walk, possibly read a book, play sports, paint, or listen to music? Perhaps you spend your time building a nuclear reactor in your backyard? No? Well, in the 1990 s this was what one young high school kid took to doing in his spare time, and it is a case every bit as unusual as you might expect. This is the weird story of the Radioactive Kid Scout.

Building a nuclear reactor is a unusual option of pastime. Yet this is exactly what took place with 17- year-old David Hahn, who in 1994 was an Eagle Scout with the Young boy Scouts of America in Clinton Municipality, Michigan. He was for the most part primarily just a typical high school trainee, nothing especially special or extraordinary about him, but he was extremely active with the Kid Scouts, had an extreme interest in science and chemistry, performing experiments in his mom’s basement. At the time, he was looking to get his next huge benefit badge. In this case the merit badge was the Atomic Energy Benefit Badge, which yes, is really a thing. Well, Hahn desired that merit badge, and he went about getting it in magnificent fashion.

The first thing he had to do to start his misguided job to develop an actual working freaking nuclear reactor in his yard was to collect radioactive product. How does one go about this, you ask? Do they raid a nuclear storage site, make contact with Russian spies, what? Well, really, just take apart a entire lot of smoke detectors, camping lanterns, glow-in-the-dark enjoys, and other random home items, it would appear. Many smoke detectors include americium, outdoor camping lanterns include thorium- 232, glow-in-the-dark enjoys have trace quantities of radium-226 in them, and other products can be got from various common family items. For the layperson, these are in really little, harmless amounts in these products, however they are indeed radioactive as all get out, and when you amass thousands and thousands of them, as Hahn did from Army surplus shops and other sources, you have your standard components for developing a nuclear reactor. He likewise collected a huge number of gun sights, which include tritium, lithium from countless batteries, uranium (!) that he seems to have just ordered online from Czechoslovakia (wait, what?), and other expert grade laboratory products that he obtained, along with vital details on how to construct his task, by positioning as a scientist and physics instructor in letters to different scholastic organizations and even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who seemed to have actually been more than happy to walk him through the finer points of the process.

David Hahn

When he had collected what he required, Hahn went about trying to use low-level isotopes to change samples of thorium and uranium into fissionable isotopes in his mother’s yard in Commerce Municipality, Michigan. In the end, all held together with duct tape and not regulated in any method, he had his homemade reactor. Well, almost. It was expected to be what is called a “breeder reactor,” however was in the end more properly what is called a “neutron source,” as none of it was ever really fissile. What is was, however, was highly radioactive. Hahn quickly understood this with a Geiger counter he had procured, and he quickly found that this radiation was spreading throughout the block. Worried, he concealed the “reactor” in his vehicle’s trunk while he attempted to figure out what to do. Unfortunately, he was stopped by police on an unrelated event, and when they attempted to search his cars and truck he calmly told him that they need to be careful about the trunk because there was a nuclear reactor in there. Not a typical traffic stop, then.

The discovery immediately put into impact the Federal Radiological Emergency Situation Reaction Plan, and not just was the entire area left, however it was cleaned up up by the Ecological Defense Agency (EPA) as a Superfund clean-up site, costing the state around $60,000. Hahn’s laboratory was took apart, and the reactor itself was carefully taken to the Great Salt Lake Desert and buried far from civilization. Hahn, who in the media had got the nickname “The Radioactive Young Boy Scout,” got the benefit badge though, so it wasn’t a overall loss. He likewise had all criminal charges dropped. In the end, Hahn learned his lesson and it was all sort of brushed off as the goofy shenanigans of a kid, ideal? Well, not exactly.

Some of Hahn’s materials for his reactor

Hahn went on to sign up with the Navy and pursue a profession as a nuclear specialist, but this never did pan out, and he was required to go back to trying to do it himself. In April of 2007 he was examined by the FBI under suspicion that he had made a reactor that he kept in his kitchen area freezer. It came to light that Hahn had turned to drugs and had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and although no evidence was found at the time of an actual reactor, some witnesses claimed he was most definitely making one. The FBI kept eyes on Hahn, and in August of 2007 he was detained for larceny after getting caught attempting to take smoke detectors from his apartment or condo building in order to amass materials for his task. When he was brought in, Hahn was discovered to have a face covered with leaking sores, thought to have been from radiation direct exposure during his experiments. He would be sentenced to 90 days in prison and go through medical treatment for his condition. In 2016, David Hahn would die at the age of 39, after taking a mixed drink of alcohol, diphenhydramine, and fentanyl, which was considered an mishap.

It is a awful end to a young man who was either a genius, a madman, or both. It is really amazing that this kid managed to attain what he did. How is it that he was able to pull this off, and if he could do it, how many others might as well? Do you have a nuclear reactor sitting in your backyard or freezer? I know I put on’t, however I sure would like to understand who does. It is a rather shocking case that was unusually not very well reported on at the time, either by slipping through the fractures or by design, depending on who you ask. Why is it that this case was kind of brushed off? How is it that this young kid might handle to come so far along as to cause a bona fide nuclear emergency situation? It is all so troubling, but at least we can rest easy in understanding that the Boy Scout Atomic Energy Benefit Badge has because been ceased.


.

Transcript: Josh Wolfe

 

 

The transcript from this week’s MIB: Josh Wolfe, Lux Capital, is below.

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Bloomberg, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Overcast, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

~~~

 

MALE VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST, MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra issue special guest, his name is Josh Wolfe and this week is a tour de force discussion on venture capital and technology and behavioral psychology in the world of deploying risk capital in the sciences. It’s absolutely fascinating.

If you are at all interested in the way venture capitalists think, how new technologies are found and developed and exploited and how they are adapted and eventually just become part of the everyday usage and what the future might look like 10, 40, a hundred years off, then you’re going to find this to be an absolutely fascinating conversation.

So, with no further ado, my interview with Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital.

MALE VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

RITHOLTZ: My special guest today is Josh Wolfe. He is the co-founder and managing partner of Lux Capital, a venture capital firm that supports basic science and scientists and entrepreneurs who are pursuing counter conventional solutions to some of the world’s most vexing problems.

He is a founding investor and board member with Bill Gates in Kymeta. He is a co-investor with folks such as Marc Andreesen and Peter Thiel and he’s a director at firms such as Shapeways, Strateos, Kallyope, CTRL-Labs and Variant. Josh Wolfe, welcome to Bloomberg.

JOSH WOLFE, CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING PARTNER, LUX CAPITAL: Very great to be with you.

RITHOLTZ: So, you have an unusual background. You’re like a molecular biologist coming out of Cornell and your early work is on AIDS immunopathology research. How does that translate to finance and then venture capital?

WOLFE: Well, venture capital is investing in people who are inventing the future and the people that are inventing the future tend to be technologists and engineers and scientists and so you have to speak their language. But when I was growing up, I was going to be a doctor. I was going to go and get an M.D. and then M.D. PhD and then I met people who are actually making money and I got way more enamored with capital markets.

And I remember doing my internship on Wall Street and then I was at the summers doing scientific research. And my mentor was actually trading futures and options in the science lab and I got so excited. I said, what are you doing, and he explained.

And so, I got way more enamored with capital markets than science itself. But venture capital was the perfect hybrid because you get to bet on scientists who are inventing the future but you just got to understand what they’re doing.

RITHOLTZ: So, how much of this being enamored on finance comes from your background? You grow up in the hood, in Brooklyn in Coney Island.

WOLFE: Coney Island, Brooklyn.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: I have a buddy who grew up in Sea Gate. I know that area really well. Did that affect the way you look at the world of money and capital or was it just your upbringing?

WOLFE: Well, first of all, if you don’t you grow up with money, you want it. So, that’s always a virtuous thing. And I actually think that the best entrepreneurs are the kind of people that we back and we look for. If you can find the people that have the chip on their shoulder that they came from some sort of messed-up background, it’s almost always predictive that they’re going to be very ambitious.

RITHOLTZ: Hungry and ambitious. Sure.

WOLFE: Now, you want them to be ethical and ambitious because you also get a lot of hustlers and hucksters. Now, you grow up on Coney Island right by the seaside carnival and you are filled with hucksters.

So, I would say if anything, growing up in Coney Island made me super skeptical and cynical of human nature. I’m always fond of the Shakespearean quote that there is daggers in men’s smiles and you grow up with this distrusting, slightly squinty eyed, what this guy’s angle, what’s the agenda that he’s got.

RITHOLTZ: The boardwalk did that to you.

WOLFE: Yes. You’ve got — New York City, people talk about it’s diverse. But the reality is you’ve got Brennan Beach with Russians and you’ve got Coney Island that’s primarily African-American Latino and you’ve got Korean on clubs. But you go to Coney Island on the boardwalk and it is just the absolute melting pot of New York.

RITHOLTZ: That’s quite fascinating. So, you end up in finance, you worked your way through a couple of well-known firms. How did you end up pivoting to use the VC word into venture capital?

WOLFE: It’s funny because the word pivoting is totally banned at Lux. We only pirouette. We don’t pivot, we pirouette. I got very lucky and everything in my life I would describe as randomness and optionality and ex post facto. I can explain everything as just perfectly (in your chain, a priority) you never know. One that I …

RITHOLTZ: At least you recognize that. Most people are similarly situated but are somewhat oblivious to that fact.

WOLFE: Well, but, again, if you’re going to be skeptical about other people, then you have to be a little bit skeptical of yourself, too.

RITHOLTZ: One with them.

WOLFE: So, intellectual honesty I think is a good virtue but it’s hard. So, I got lucky and I met a guy named Bill Conway and Bill was one of three founders …

RITHOLTZ: Private equity?

WOLFE: Yes. Exactly. Carlyle Group founder. David Rubenstein, famous one, he raises the money. Bill, less famous by design and invests and he’s just an incredible human. He decided, and again, I don’t know the circumstances of the day or the 24 hours that preceded our meeting, but he was in a good mood.

And we pitched to him and I said, we want to build this great firm, and he said, I hope you make a billion, and he invested with us. Luckiest day in my life.

RITHOLTZ: Just like that.

WOLFE: There’s nothing that I could have pointed to in the path dependence of this internship or this job or going to Cornell or this class I took that would ever lead to that meeting. And so, I’m humbled by what I call randomness and optionality.

RITHOLTZ: That is truly, truly random, isn’t it? So, you and I met at a dinner not too long ago hosted by Annie Duke on an educational project that she’s working on. But I always kind of scanned the people who are going to be at these dinners and there was something in your bio that really makes me laugh and you described your venture background as having an interest in science fiction like technology. I love that descriptor but you’re going to have to explain what you mean by that.

WOLFE: OK. So, everything that is around us today was invented by somebody. Somebody came up with the idea and that idea started quite literally as a fiction. It did not exist. It was in somebody’s imagination.

Now, if you accept the premise that a lot of the inspiration for technology comes from other people who are inspired but didn’t invent it, they were the people who literally wrote the science fiction books.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: They were the graphic novels. They were the comic books. They made the movie. They did the special effects and they imagine what could be. And it turns out, you fast forward and you look at the Lux portfolio today, a huge number of the companies that we’ve invested in, the ideas behind them, the technologies, the design even was modeled on things that happened 20, 30, 40 years ago in a science fiction.

And I’ve actually kept an archive of some of the sci-fi archives. So, if we went through this quickly, you’ve got the Motorola probably …

RITHOLTZ: The flip phone …

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: … from “Star Trek.”

WOLFE: Exactly. Now, it was called the StarTAC phone.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: That was one of the first things, right?

RITHOLTZ: Which is as close as you can get to seeing the word Star Trek and not invite a trademark dispute.

WOLFE: Exactly. OK. Now, you’ve got — today, you’ve got Siri and you look at the image and the thing for Siri, it’s just the silver version of HAL …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … from “Space Odyssey.” You’ve got Michael Douglas disclosure, he goes into this room and he 3D scanned himself and he enters this virtual reality world. This is around the same time as like “Lawnmower Man” if you remember that.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: OK. Not a fan favorite but one of mine. And that sort of presage the virtual-reality landscape. You’ve got podracing from “Star Wars.” Today, that’s drone racing league.

You’ve got robotic surgery when Luke Skywalker’s hand is severed by Vader that begot both intuitive surgical and then Auris, which is one of our companies that we sold to Johnson & Johnson earlier this year for $6 billion plus.

RITHOLTZ: Not too bad.

WOLFE: Not too bad. And all of these things were born in somebody’s imagination. And if you think about really what venture capital is, it is believing before other people understand and what do you believe when you’re believing in somebody’s vision.

Now, the difference is you have to make sure that they’re not full of it …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … so that you don’t get a Theranos and you have to have …

RITHOLTZ: Literally just wrote down the word Theranos.

WOLFE: And that is it, right?

RITHOLTZ: That’s my next question.

WOLFE: Now, here’s the intellectually honest thing, you do not know at the moment of inception or conception of a company whether the person is malicious or delusional, whether they are intellectually honest or not.

And so, you put up a little money, it’s like an ante in a poker game. You’re trying to figure out, is this person for real, and you try to define what are the technological milestones that will tell me that this is for real and not BS.

And the biggest thing, if you walk into my firm and you sit in our Monday partners meeting, if you ask any of the partners, what is Josh going to ask about the technology or what is he thinking the second that somebody is pitching it, I’m thinking whether I say it publicly or I’m thinking it privately, is this a fraud.

RITHOLTZ: So, you raise Theranos. It’s such an interesting question because my read of that entire situation from the get-go is that it was both delusional and a fraud simultaneously.

She had zero medical background. She had — and it’s amazing how all the healthcare and medical device VCs past and everybody else who came in didn’t know better. But it appeared that she believed she could legitimately do this but with no basis in fact. So, at what point does delusion become fraud?

WOLFE: Well, when a technology doesn’t work. I had a friend who is at a very large deca billion investment fund that was doing crossover investments. They’re public market portfolio. They have $40 billion. They were making private investments. They were going to visit Theranos and they said, what’s the number one question that you would ask if you are us doing diligence, and I said, does it work.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: And you’d be surprised how many people just want to believe the narrative, the story …

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: … going back to science fiction and not verifying if it’s science fact. Now, you had all these other telltale signs with her. The octogenarian boards which is …

RITHOLTZ: For sure.

WOLFE: … all signaling value. People that had great military or geopolitical and …

RITHOLTZ: George Shultz and …

WOLFE: Kissinger.

RITHOLTZ: … Henry Kissinger and just a wholly inappropriate for medical technology.

WOLFE: But to your point, there was nobody there that really had any sophisticated biology or pharma (ph) experience.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Now, the truth is liquid biopsy, the ability to detect from a small drop of blood, analytes that are indicative of cancer or something else, will eventually, from someone, see the light of day. But you think about the scar that it has put on the industry, in the sector and how hard it is for a legitimate entrepreneur that’s developing legitimate technology today, they’ve raised the slope significantly.

RITHOLTZ: So, it’s not just that she was a fraud and her partners were frauds, they’ve literally set medical technology back because now everyone is going to be skeptical even of legitimate breakthroughs.

WOLFE: Yes. And realistically, just to set back, one year, two years or three years, has it raised the cost of capital for the firm …

RITHOLTZ: How many people will die over the course of that setback? So, you can argue that there is blood on our hands literally.

WOLFE: Well, yes. OK.

RITHOLTZ: I’m not a fan in case you can’t tell.

WOLFE: I’m with you and, look, it’s easy for all of us to say back then and I believe by the way because I know that you are a fellow skeptic that was a fraud. It’s harder today both socially to come out and say, I think that another company is specific fraud.

Now, there’s an entire realm of quantum computing today that I think is going to be wrought with frauds. It has all of the criteria for a fraught. People don’t understand it. They have FOMO, fear of missing out. They think that it’s going to be something really big.

They don’t want to feel stupid because they don’t understand it. And so, people are parting with money and I think that you’re going to see at least one and maybe as many as five public frauds related to quantum computing.

RITHOLTZ: The tragedy of the comments finds its way even to venture capital. Tell us a little bit about your team at Lux. Who are your partners and what does everybody do?

WOLFE: Let’s start with my founder — my co-founder who’s Peter Hebert. Peter is my dispositional opposite, which I think if you’re going to have a firm, it’s a critical thing.

Now, it’s interesting because in hedge funds, you typically have one PM and they make all the decisions. In private equity, you tend to have teams. So, Peter and I are the cofounders and the reason that it’s important is he is the optimist, I am the pessimist.

I’m sitting before you and I’m wearing all dark. I wear all black and it’s just my disposition. I expect the worst. It helps …

RITHOLTZ: And yet the shoes are not pessimistic but for the skulls all over them.

WOLFE: Correct. Pete, you will catch him in Nantucket Reds, in pastel colors.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: He is much more like my wife who happens to be an activist hedge fund manager. She’s more perma-smile.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Me as they say, I’ve got RBF, resting B face. So, I expect the worst, he expects the best. And if you had an entire firm that was like me, we would be a bunch of cynical short-sellers …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … just trying to spot the frauds and doubting everybody.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: If you had a firm entirely like him, we would be limning growth investors just paying any price and going off the cliff.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: The balance that we’ve had as friends for 25 years and as partners for 20 has made culturally the firm what it is. Now, from us it flows everybody else. And, so, you’ve got 10 other investment professionals and everybody is intellectually and ethnically a gender diverse,

Now, what does that mean for me? We’ve got people that are Kashmiri, Pakistani, Iranian, Brazilian, Australian. You’ve got a bunch of white New York Jews.

But the intellectual mix of people is so different. You’ve got electrical engineer PhDs. You’ve got people that have stem cell PhDs. People with material science PhDs. People that have no technical background and are excellent at capital raising and marketing.

And when we descend upon a company, the entire — and it’s funny because I use this analogy the other day and people had no idea what Voltron was and I feel like I’m a young guy but geez it dated me. But it’s like Voltron coming together. You get all the robots come together into this Megatron.

And it’s just a diverse group of people that all think differently. I would say that I have two people think the same, one of them is unnecessary.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: And it’s a lot of fun.

RITHOLTZ: So, you’re concern that your cultural references are out of date and you’re like what, almost 40?

WOLFE: Forty-one.

RITHOLTZ: OK. Wait until in your 50s and you’ll drop a Monty Python or a “Caddyshack” reference and the whole table of millennials look at you like …

WOLFE: What’s “Caddyshack”?

RITHOLTZ: There you go. Perfect. So, you focus a lot on basic science to some degrees. Tell us the sort of companies Lux invests in.

WOLFE: So, it really is something that’s in the cutting edge of an area that we think that other people haven’t found. Now, the reason we do that is we want really high scientific and technical complexity not because we want to tackle things that are really hard, it’s because we don’t want competition.

It is way easier in venture capital to go find the next company that is developing an app for the smart phone or some social media software or something that is relatively easy. But the problem with funding easy things is you get hundreds of competitors.

RITHOLTZ: Talk about random outcomes. Of those hundred, who really is good to know which is the next Snapchat or Instagram or whatever practically in random.

WOLFE: Now, I know that you’re a student of skill versus luck and a great question always I think in this domain is can you fail on purpose. So, there Michael Mauboussin has …

RITHOLTZ: That’s right.

WOLFE: And in picking amongst a field of 500 competitors in software, you’ve got let’s say equal probability one in 500 chance. If you can find something where there’s only three or four or five competitors, you can look a lot smarter because now maybe you have a 20 percent chance, assuming all things equal, of picking the winner.

RITHOLTZ: Can you invest in all five or two out of the five or anything like that?

WOLFE: You’re typically conflicted but sometimes depending on the state of things, you might invest in one and then later on when something else comes along and you might invest in it.

But because you know that it should really be part of the first thing that you invest in and by being able to influence that outcome and say, you know what, don’t split the baby, don’t try to split and recruit competing talent, don’t try to go to customers and confuse them. Be part of one enterprise and it’s better to own something smaller of something much bigger than to try to compete head to head.

So, sometimes, we will influence those outcomes. But by and large, the stuff that we’re investing is at the cutting edge of science and technology. It’s hard. There’s barriers to entry. There’s intellectual property that imposes a negative right on people so that you have a moat. Again, all things that — and I’m psychotic about competitive advantage, give the company that you’re investing in a better chance than just pure luck.

RITHOLTZ: Makes a lot of sense. When I think about batting averages for the typical VC funds, usually, and I’m going back to the John Doerrs of the world, the ’80s and ’90s VCs, they tend to spread a lot of money around, most of which did not generate a positive yield, and then there’s a handful of not just winners but giant outsize winners, hundred X. Think about eBay and Apple and Amazon going down the list.

Given this area and the more basic science that you’re focusing on, is it a similar distribution or how does the number shakeout? You’re looking for one homerun to subsidize the next 50 or is it the distribution difference?

WOLFE: So, let’s look at the macro on venture. You’ve got two extremes. One of which we say is spray and pray. Exactly what you’re …

RITHOLTZ: Spray and pray.

WOLFE: Exactly what you’re describing. Just bet a lot of lottery tickets. You have intellectual honesty or total naïveté. You don’t know what’s going to work.

RITHOLTZ: And it rhymed so you know it’s true.

WOLFE: Exactly. The other extreme, stick with rhyming, wait and pay, OK? So, you wait until a winner emerges, you pay a very high price for the higher chance of being correct but obviously the higher the price you pay, the lower your expected return.

So, in one case, you’re saying, well, let’s bet in 50 or 100 or 200 companies and make small investment in buying lottery tickets and the other you say, we’re going to load up into the ones that are winners but we’re going to do it at such a high price and maybe we’re only going to get it at double.

Now, for successful venture fund, you’re looking for 3X or 4X cash on cash …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … over the ten-year period that you’ve got locked up money. Now, I would say the great advantage that we have as venture capitalist let’s say over peers in other alternatives like hedge funds, hedge funds might have quarterly, monthly, maybe annual liquidity redemptions and that’s a hard thing because it creates an institutional imperative where the managers focused on the short term.

We get to focus on five, six, seven years because our investors’ capital is patiently locked up for a decade. OK. If everything goes well, you might get three to 4X cash-on-cash. Now, some funds, you might have a 10X fund and some you might have a two.

But on average, that’s what you’re aiming for. There’s two ways to cut it. First is you assume that one or two of your companies return the entire fund, all the capital that you’ve raised, one time over. Our newest fund $500 million, we got to pair them, it’s recently close to billion dollars. But the $500 million, you might have one company where you own 10 percent of it and it sells for $5 billion, you got $500 million back in gross proceeds, just return the fund one time over.

Your next five companies in aggregate proceeds return the fund another time over. And in our case where you build the portfolio of about 25 companies, then the ensuing 15 or 20 companies will turn it another time and you end up with that 3X cash-on-cash.

The other way to think about it and, again, simple math, a third of your companies are total zeros. You lose everything.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: A third, you make back give or take a dollar and the third you make 10X and you end up with a 3X cash-on-cash. The problem is you don’t know which companies when you invest are going to be.

RITHOLTZ: If you did, you can only invest in the 3X. I’m only going to put the money in the 10X.

WOLFE: Correct. Now, of course, what we do, wherever your confidence and your conviction is high, you upsize portfolio allocation, you put more money in the things that you think are going to be great, you try to put less money in — but so much of this is reputational.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: And so, you mentioned John Doerr before and some of the great venture capitalists of the past and it was their reputation in backing a winner that begot them the next deal. It’s very much like when you said in the movie theater and they say from the director that brought you or from the producers of and it’s that signal, it’s the same signal of why elite universities attract elite performers and you get this path positive feedback effect.

RITHOLTZ: Right. Right.

WOLFE: But so much of our business if you’re intellectually honest is luck.

RITHOLTZ: There can be no doubt about that.

WOLFE: Although if you go with this, can you fail on purpose? I can guarantee you that I can fail on purpose. I can pick the absolute worst entrepreneurs that cannot raise money. I can absolutely pick fraudulent companies and I can absolutely pick teams that can never deliver and I could fail on purpose.

RITHOLTZ: Well, but that just says that there is a skill component that doesn’t by itself eliminate the luck component.

WOLFE: Hundred percent.

RITHOLTZ: So, the threshold for having a half decent venture fund is, hey, if you can eliminate a lot of that fraud, that’s how you end up with the three or 4X as opposed to one and a half or a 2X.

WOLFE: Well, and really the best is can you develop the reputation and can you actually be able to help companies so that you get the best entrepreneurs. Because the truth is what we do in the end of the day is a security selection and a little bit of competitive intelligence gathering and some smart capital allocation.

But the most important thing that we can do is attract the best founders because they are the people who do everything. At the end of the day, limited partners give us money and they allocate to us and we in turn give it to the entrepreneur and the entrepreneur in turn decides who they’re going to hire and who they’re going to fire and what technologies they’re going to prioritize and how they’re going to sell.

And the single best trait of an entrepreneur is somebody that can tell a story. Somebody that has that narrative power going back to science fiction and just being able to back those individuals. They are the people that recruit talent. They are the people that raise money. They are the people that garner attention and win deals and that is what makes the venture capital business.

RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. Earlier, we were talking about science fiction and how that led to your interest in venture capital but you’ve developed a philosophy that I think is somewhat atypical from some of those other VCs and businesspeople I’ve mentioned.

One of the things in your bio stood out to me, E.O. Wilson. You said he might be the person that had the single greatest impact on humanity. Explain that.

WOLFE: Well, totally biased view but he had the biggest impact on me. Intellectually, this was modern Renaissance thinking. The book “Consilience” which I probably read in ’98, ’99, 2000 thereabout, so, over 20 years ago, was this idea in science that turned me on in turn to Charlie Munger.

These two people are compatriots. Charlie’s view of Renaissance thinking and worldly mental models and E.O. Wilson’s view of the unity of the hard sciences and the soft sciences between psychology and physics, between economics and geology and finding patterns lets you identify some universal truths.

And so, if you can continue to find those first principle universal truths, I think it sets you on a good path for making good decisions.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. I assume you’ve worked your way through “Poor Charlie’s Almanack” already.

WOLFE: I’ve given so many copies of that away. I’ve created more doorstops and coffee-table book gifts and …

RITHOLTZ: He’s one of my — well, if you can get around to introducing us, I would love to set things (ph).

WOLFE: You know what, I have a funny story. My wife and I went, years ago, to Berkshire annual meeting and we were at the — I forget if it was the Days or the Marriott, whatever the hotel was, and before I actually had invested with Bill Gates, there was a dinner and it was Bill Gates, it was Buffett and it was Munger.

I picked my wife up from the airport because I arrived earlier and we go out to grab her bag and the car was broken in two.

RITHOLTZ: Your car.

WOLFE: Our car was broken in two and everything was stolen, the laptop and everything was gone in Omaha. We go to the front desk and while we’re going to front desk, who was settling the bill for their private dinner restaurant, Charlie Munger.

And here I am, my wife is really upset, our stuff was just stolen from the car and there’s Charlie Munger at the front and she looks at me and she’s like, go ahead. She knew that Charlie was going to Trump.

RITHOLTZ: Right. And you had a conversation.

WOLFE: I did.

RITHOLTZ: And it’s a highlight that you have great memories of.

WOLFE: Well, he’s not a very loquacious person.

RITHOLTZ: No.

WOLFE: Nothing to add. But I think that his rigor in being — I remember there was a story that somebody asked him what is the single thing that you would attribute your success to and he said being rational.

RITHOLTZ: Fair enough. Right.

WOLFE: And that’s it. If you can try to be as rational as possible, which means identifying all the points where you are irrational, and mindful, we were at dinner together with Annie Duke and Danny Kahneman.

RITHOLTZ: Right. And Kahneman’s partner’s wife, famous Tversky’s wife Barbara.

WOLFE: Correct, who also just wrote an amazing book. And it’s really interesting because Danny has identified all of the mental biases, the cognitive biases that we have and it doesn’t matter because even being aware of them, you still — he will still fall victim to them.

RITHOLTZ: It’s called the bias bias that even knowing your own awareness of these cognitive issues, it’s not sufficient to defeat them.

WOLFE: Looking at an illusion, even knowing it is an illusion, it still works on you.

RITHOLTZ: It’s how you wired.

WOLFE: Correct.

RITHOLTZ: We were very well designed to adapt to the savanna. But these more complex capital risking ventures where risk is out there but the dangle of reward, our brains just go on the fritz when that’s presented to us. At least our instinctual brains getting past that, you have some shot but it’s not easy.

WOLFE: It is interesting because we respond to the bustle in the hedgerow, right? The little sound is there and is that a tiger or it’s just a wind? In my world, I have to respond to that with heightened sensitivity, is that a little signal over there, is that entrepreneur into something big?

And so, we’re constantly overacting in part because it is so zero-sum. I do not have the opportunity to invest in the public markets where I can say, you know what I really like that is up 10 percent or is down 10 percent, there is a zero-sum nature where I am racing to beat everybody else to the big scientific technological breakthrough and own it before everybody else can.

RITHOLTZ: I like that answer and kudos on the Zeppelin reference. I appreciate that. There’s another part of you that I like, you refer to things as minnows and megas. Explain what that means.

WOLFE: This is a phenomenon right now, the minnows and the megas in venture capital. Historically, you had lots of firms that existed and maybe they were $200, $400, $500 million firms.

What you’ve had in the past few years is a phenomenon that has created a barbell of capital allocation to very small funds and many of them what I call them minnows. These are people who have raised 10 or 20 or 50 or hundred million dollars. They are a single or, in some cases, a duo GP, general partner …

RITHOLTZ: And this is a spray and pray approach to VC?

WOLFE: In some cases, they are but more importantly they’re very — it’s like the institutionalization of angel investing.

RITHOLTZ: OK. That’s fair.

WOLFE: Now, why is this happening? In part because there is a junior person at a major fund who found the hot deal that made the fund a lot of money. But the problem is that person is not part of the succession of the partnership. They don’t have economics. They’re not going to get paid.

So, the limited partners recognize, you know what, Jane Smith or Joe Smith, they were really the dealmaker here. Let’s put them in business because they are the future venture capital and the LPs are thinking how do I get a big allocation in the next Kleiner Perkins or Sequoia and how do I get that early.

So, that has created what is intelligent to do on a small basis with a handful of these people but again a priority you don’t know which ones are going to be really successful.

RITHOLTZ: Right. Right.

WOLFE: Hundreds and hundreds of minnows. Now, the way that we look at that as a firm is these people are our friends. They’re source of deal flow. We can be a source of capital to them. Some of them are going to turn into great franchises. Nearly impossible to predict which ones.

At the other extreme, you have the megas. The megas are the people that are raising billions of dollars. Now, the 800-pound gorilla or Godzilla, depending on your view, is SoftBank.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: SoftBank is coming …

RITHOLTZ: Sufficient fund is just — it’s $100 billion gorilla.

WOLFE: Well, it is a complex beast and I would call it Godzilla and it has completely changed the undulating landscape. Why? Because, again, in public markets, you have relative efficiency at times.

Of course, you have massive inefficiencies at times but there is no market more inefficient than venture capital. Where in the private markets, a single price setter can come and just decide what the price of something is. They create the market clearing price.

There is no short-selling. There is no counteroffers. There is very little liquidity. So, SoftBank has come and created all of these unicorns and decacorns.

And what’s crazy is the money that they’re putting to work in some cases, they are pricing up their own investments. Now, put on the tinfoil hat for a moment, I have a more slightly nefarious view that a reason that Softbank is doing this, understanding the motive is that they are doing this to be able to create paper assets and increases in paper valuations that can serve as collateral against indebtedness that is north of 140, $150 billion.

So, by being able to invest in, we work at $10 billion and then pricing it up to 20. You just showed that you had 100 percent gain in your billion dollar or two billion-dollar investment. And if you look at their earnings over the past one or two or three quarters, a significant portion of the profits that are reported is from these paper gains, illiquid.

And then when one of this companies actually exits and you have liquidity like in Uber or (Garden), they take those proceeds and instead of distributing to the investors, they say, you know what, we’re going to borrow against this, we’re going to issue debt and sell it to retail.

So, I think the entire complex, which is really run by a bunch of Deutsche Bank X credit structure credit guys …

RITHOLTZ: And Deutsche Bank is the most straight-up bank there is.

WOLFE: Of course. I mean, there’s no risk there that you have total collapse. And so, I think that this is, for venture-capital, systemic risk and one of the poster children of illiquidity. I think that the narrative about singularity and the future, all of that is great for society because it funds all kinds of experiments. But for the SoftBank and SoftBank investors, I would be very, very nervous.

RITHOLTZ: So, SoftBank is a “Ponzi scheme” quote-unquote, says Josh Wolfe. I’m going to put that down and put those words in your mouth. The minnow and mega model by the way very much reminds me of one of the smartest things that one of the smartest banks does which is Goldman Sachs.

Are you familiar — when Goldman Sachs has a hot trader or they have a manager who’s killing it, rather than have that person slip out and launch their own, they’ll tap and say, hey, have you ever thought of starting a hedge fund? We’ll help fund you. We’ll give you first billion dollars. We’ll help you raise capital owned by the way with your prime broker and we’re going to have a piece of the GP.

But go out and a thousand minnows have spawned and that’s how you end up with, where were we, 12,000 hedge funds these days? Most of which barely earn their keep, including fees, beyond fees. It’s not necessarily a moneymaker. But that description of VC funding minnows is what Goldman has been doing for, I don’t know, 20 years?

WOLFE: It’s actually very interesting because on the hedge fund side between Citadel and Millennium and Balyasny and SCC, you’ve seen that phenomenon, right, where they say, OK, we’re going to do risk management at the top, we’re going to have a lot of people, we’ll blow them out if they lose 10 percent or whatever the …

RITHOLTZ: Sachs was notorious for that.

WOLFE: In venture capital, first of all, the timeframe to know if somebody has made money …

RITHOLTZ: So long.

WOLFE: … is so long.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: But you haven’t had that kind of institutional complex because the time that it takes to find out if somebody is right or wrong, the payee schemes, all this, it’s just — it’s very complicated.

But you do have this bifurcation in many, many investors that are making small bets and that is good for the angel investor, the person that’s starting up. It is easier than ever if you want to start a business to find capital. And that has an important footnote.

RITHOLTZ: Which is?

WOLFE: The beneficiary of that over the past few years has been WeWork because every …

RITHOLTZ: I see. I thought you’re going to say the public. Why we — because the public gets subsidized Uber rides.

WOLFE: The public is always the beneficiary in the end even during bubbles, right?

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: I mean, of course, pensioners and retirees lose money. But the reality is we continue progress, right, and James Surowiecki had a great quote many years ago in the New York where he said, in greed and avarice lies the hope of progress.

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: And it’s true because that’s what happens, right? Everybody funds something. They overdue in the short term. They underestimated the long term. But in that greed and avarice, lots of stuff gets laid out.

RITHOLTZ: The book that best sums up that Surowiecki quote is “PopRITHOLTZ:: Why Bubbles Are Great For The Economy” …

WOLFE: Yes. That was a great one.

RITHOLTZ: … by Daniel Gross.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: So, you look at railroads and televisions and cars and computers and fiber optics, every — with the exception of financial bubbles like the great financial crisis just leaves behind debt but every other bubble — so you probably remember Global Crossing and Metromedia fiber and all the fiber-optic companies that were laying unlit cable at something like $2,000 a mile and it end — they’ll all go bankrupt and it gets bought the next generation for pennies a mile and that’s what makes YouTube and Facebook and Netflix and all these other bandwidth-intensive applications viable because some losing investment basically made the broadband available …

WOLFE: For free. So, you hit it on. I think two really important things and hundred percent right, right? Late ’90s, you had a narrative promulgated by George Gilder who happens to be a friend …

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: Yes. But George …

RITHOLTZ: God, Gilder used to literally say, I worked with a guy who use to get the Gilder telecast newsletter.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: And I would read and I would always come away with, what is this I don’t do price nonsense, price is what matters …

WOLFE: Right.

RITHOLTZ: … in the public markets. How can you not do price?

WOLFE: George was directionally right about technology, OK, and there’s certain direct …

RITHOLTZ: That’s a tough call to make. Hey, the default position of human technological advancement is up. I could save you $2,000 a year in a newsletter, right …

WOLFE: There you go.

RITHOLTZ: … and you got one line.

WOLFE: Now, but you have that Gilder affect, right, where he would come out and because everybody else was looking at it, it was big bold letter, whatever the public company, the thing would be up 50, 80 percent …

RITHOLTZ: I remember Nortel he got behind, it exploded and go down the list of all of the …

WOLFE: JDS Uniphase, all of these guys. OK. But you’re right, Gary Winnick and Global Crossing.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Now, hype got high, cost of capital got low, like you said, hundreds of miles of dark fiber optic outlaid and the winner from all of that was the third world who got connected to the Internet for free.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: The losers were the growth investors, the public growth investors. The winners were the distressed equity guys who came and picked up all the asset’s percent on the dollar.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Now, you go back almost a decade in venture capital. The same thing was happening with solar and alternative energy. Everybody was funning solar and you don’t have to be a genius to predict this. You just had a little bit of history going back 10 or 15 years which was optical networking was going to be — if history doesn’t repeat its rhymes, it was going to be the same thing as solar.

And so, in solar, we said sit out the ride, don’t invest, you’re going to have massive hype, it’s going to lower the cost of capital, people are going to do uneconomic things and the winner will be the Third World that gets connected.

Now, my anticipation at that time was that the private equity guys would come and scoop up these assets for cents and the dollars and I was wrong.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: Because the people that scooped up the assets for cents and a dollar were the Chinese.

RITHOLTZ: And they now dominate the solar industry.

WOLFE: Correct.

RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. Let’s talk about some of the technologies that are out there and how they’re doing. When 3D printing first came out, what is it, almost 15 years ago, is that right?

WOLFE: Yes, 155 to 20 years. Sure.

RITHOLTZ: So, the promise was we’d all have these $200 3D printers. I need a part, you can print just about anything. We’d be printing heart valves. We’ve been reprinted all the stuff and did we get our hopes up too high? Is that still somewhere off in the future or has 3D printing really been an overhyped bust?

WOLFE: Yes, yes, and yes.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: I wasn’t expecting that.

WOLFE: It has been an overhyped bust but this is predictive. If you know your history technology which you do, you’d look at Carlota Perez and the diffusion of technology …

RITHOLTZ: OK,

WOLFE: … through history. You go through an installation phase where everybody guessed the thing and people are tinkering. For the past 20 years — and those are typically near a generational long thing, maybe it’s three quarters of a generation but between 20 and 25 years.

So, for the past 20 years, you had the installation phase where people are getting lots of different 3D printers. You have desktop ones that do cost a few thousand dollars but they really don’t do very much. They print plastics and it’s good for schools and universities and tinkerers and this kind of stuff.

But then you had the domain of prototyping and so that’s also been another early …

RITHOLTZ: That’s a big cost saving, the $2,000 or — the bigger units that you could design apart and say, let’s see what it looks like in three days.

WOLFE: Yes. But it’s still modest. It isn’t the boom that we’ve all been …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … looking for 3D printing. Now, I do think that over the past three or four years, we’ve been entering this deployment phase as you go from installation, which is just 20 years, to now deployment.

We invested in a company called Desktop Metal and when we invested, it was about three and a half years ago. The industry for spare parts and end-use parts was maybe $5 billion. Today, it’s nine.

So, rapid growth in the industry. It’s probably going to 90 over the next decade. So …

RITHOLTZ: 10X over 10 years.

WOLFE: 10X over 10 years.

RITHOLTZ: That’s big.

WOLFE: Now, why? If you look at most of the economics of manufacturing, it is spent on tooling. But the vast majority of the value are in end-use parts and the spare parts.

If you can change the economics of how you make this stuff, historically, you ship them and you ship it three ways, sea, air or land. But there’s a fourth way to ship a part.

RITHOLTZ: Digital.

WOLFE: Digital.

RITHOLTZ: And so, eventually, my mechanic is going to tell me my turbocharger needs a new fan and he’ll be able to print it and slap it in instead of waiting six weeks for it to show up from Germany.

WOLFE: And in fact, Desktop Metal is working with I think seven different automotive companies for exactly this, the small bespoke parts or water impeller …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … something as part of a motor where it does not make sense to spend the fixed cost to tool and dye a part where you’re not going to make 10,000 or 100,000 or a million of them. You just need one or two of these parts.

So, I think that that is going to be a big trend and particularly, if you look at a company like Desktop Metal, this is a Boston-based company, it has grown very significantly. You got BMW and GE and Saudi Aramco and a whole slew of strategic investors alongside us.

But the other piece of this is …

RITHOLTZ: Wait a second, you say Saudi Aramco, sorry to interrupt. So, what you’re — that you just made me think of is you have some accrue out at an offshore oil rig …

WOLFE: That needs a part.

RITHOLTZ: .., and something breaks and to get something flown out to them could take a week and they lose a week of production or they have a machine, they manufacture the part and they’re down for four hours and that’s it.

WOLFE: Correct. Now, maybe it’s not four hours, maybe it’s a day and a half but yes. Because the installation phase where you had a bunch of these printers, we’re doing plastic, there’s no way that industrial …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … company was going to be able to use that. Now, when you have a sophisticated laser sintering metal 3D printers, it’s real. It’s real pieces. It’s real technology for real applications.

So, that’s one. And you’re seeing this in jet engines, in automotive. You are seeing it. If you get a knee implant, if you get a hearing aid, it is a good chance, over 70 percent, that that is 3D printed product.

RITHOLTZ: Now, this is not a biological product. This is still some form of plastics and/or.

WOLFE: No. It could be titanium for your knee.

RITHOLTZ: What I mean by bio, it’s not an organic product.

WOLFE: Correct.

RITHOLTZ: It’s a metal or plastic.

WOLFE: Correct. Correct.

RITHOLTZ: So, how far off is the, hey, I need a new aortic heart valve and I don’t want one from a cow …

WOLFE: All of this stuff is still structural. When you start thinking about the other component which is function, you’re really far off. There’s a guy I think Wake Forest’s Tony Atala who’s doing 3D printing of organs.

RITHOLTZ: That’s the sort of vision I’m thinking.

WOLFE: Now, I think the best …

RITHOLTZ: I need a kidney, print me one.

WOLFE: They can’t do kidney. But the best that they’ve done is a bladder because it’s basically just structural, right? It’s hold liquid, hold fluid.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: So, we …

RITHOLTZ: In other words, it doesn’t have the mechanical functions. Even if you’re working with stem cells, you can’t …

WOLFE: Maybe in a lab but today like being honest as an investor, we are far, far away from being able to introduce structure into that.

RITHOLTZ: All right.

WOLFE: So, we then …

RITHOLTZ: I’ll give you hundred years to get that done.

WOLFE: Hundred years I think is possible.

RITHOLTZ: OK.

WOLFE: I would say high probability in a hundred years. I think it’s more likely rather than printing that we’re probably going to harvest them.

RITHOLTZ: We’re going to grow them instead of printing.

WOLFE: But, no, no, we’re going to grow them inside of animals. Now, there’s going to be ethics about that but today if you wanted to get …

RITHOLTZ: There are no ethics about growing kidneys inside of animals.

WOLFE: If you want it to take it from a pig.

RITHOLTZ: We eat animals.

WOLFE: Yes. But they’re …

RITHOLTZ: There’s a nicer life for a pig or — who we’re very similar biologically to humans or a chimp. It’s a nicer life for them than they becoming bacon.

WOLFE: Yes. But it’s — there’s ethical debate.

RITHOLTZ: All right. OK. Let’s take care of that ethical debate. You’re going to save millions and millions of lives and inconvenience of few chimps. How is that debate going to go much further than that?

WOLFE: I think that if you can appeal to the default morality of are you reducing suffering, then you have an entire camp of people that increasingly — this is observable, it’s not speculative that more and more people are embracing animal rights and saying, you know what, it sentient, it’s suffering.

Look, there’s nothing more I love — actually, this is not fully true, nothing more I love than bacon. The only thing I love more than bacon is peanut butter and bacon, which I know sounds disgusting but it’s delicious.

RITHOLTZ: That does sound disgusting.

WOLFE: But it is amazing. OK.

RITHOLTZ: I have a friend who’s a vegan who eats bacon and I’m like, you know this comes from a pig, right, and the answer is, but it’s so delicious.

WOLFE: It is delicious.

RITHOLTZ: And by the way, pigs are actually much smarter than dogs or horses and that hasn’t slowed down the human onslaught of pork.

WOLFE: Yes. But it doesn’t make it right.

RITHOLTZ: OK. But you can you the — we’re digressing but the ethical argument that it’s wrong, we can intellectually agree with it. But in the marketplace, that is a giant losing argument. It is my point.

WOLFE: Today, and you are seeing both as evidence, if you look back in the arc of history, I think that what we’re saying with beyond meat you will see this Tilray-like phenomenon, I think this is a company that ends up …

RITHOLTZ: That’s weed.

WOLFE: … dropped in value 80 or 90 percent.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Yes. But …

RITHOLTZ: After it ran up 5X or 10X.

WOLFE: But the market is saying something, right? Now, maybe got algos and maybe you got momentum investors, maybe you got people but there’s demand and interest in this and it’s — if you believe that markets tell you something, right, markets are there to serve you and not to tell you, but if you believe that there’s something in the ascendancy of beyond meat, a signal …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … in the same way that the ascendancy of Global Crossing and these other things going back to that part, the ascendancy of these things tells you that there’s something there and I do think that we’re going to see …

RITHOLTZ: There are rounding error in the world of food. Let’s you and I make a bet right now, when is the first year in our lifetime when the annual pork consumption short of a worldwide disease phenomenon like bovine …

WOLFE: Won’t happen around.

RITHOLTZ: All right. How about on a per capita basis? What about per capita even?

WOLFE: It won’t happen in our lifetime.

RITHOLTZ: OK. So, now that we’ve taken care of the ethical issue, which is an interesting debate with no real market thing, which brings us back to, I don’t even know how we got this question …

WOLFE: 3D printing.

RITHOLTZ: … to 3D printing. So, if it’s not the organs …

WOLFE: Yes. It’s not the organs but it is the parts inside the body, it is the parts inside the aircraft, it is the parts inside the ship or the — and it’s really interesting because the — you change the economics of manufacturing and has geopolitical implications.

If you’re just sipping a CAD file instead of having spare parts in inventory sitting in a port of which there are trillions of dollars sitting in the ports …

RITHOLTZ: Right. Right.

WOLFE: … there’s interesting implications. Same thing …

RITHOLTZ: You’re saving on storage, you’re saving on transportation, it’s a greener approach for sure. Even whatever energy consumed by the printer, it’s better than manufacturing and storing and shipping or whatever. It sounds like it’s a no-brainer if it can successfully penetrate that market.

WOLFE: I think the no-brainer is going to come when it’s economics because …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … we have another company here in New York and half of the operations are here in New York, half are in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, they have made 12 million unique parts over 1 million users and customers, 130 countries. They’ll print 2 million parts this year, unique parts, individual unique things.

If you are a small business and you have a room that’s not similar from the room that we’re sitting in, no matter, a few hundred square feet or whatever it is, that’s filled with inventory and you think about the cash conversion cycle …

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: … and how much is locked up in that, if you can free that by instead of having the inventories and just uploading that as a CAD file and printing it and shipping it on demand, it will unlock capital. Any time you unlock capital, I think you create value.

RITHOLTZ: Sure. For sure. So, let’s talk about some of the other things, some of the other areas that you focus on and I have not mentioned the company that you — one of your early investments that was in nuclear waste remediation.

Let’s talk about that and then I’ll have to ask you about thorium. Tell us about what you guys did with nuclear waste remediation at a time when everybody else was looking at green alternative energy.

WOLFE: Yes. So, if you listen to — and they were very smart guys and very successful older venture capitalists but John Doerr and Vinod Khosla, they were the legends and they were writing the op-eds and they were crying on TED stages and they were really promoting the idea with Al Gore and others that the most important thing you could find were solar, wind, biofuels, ethanol, battery, electric cars, OK?

The problem was everybody agreed with that and the number one thing that is predictive of returns is not whether there’s a hockey stick growth curve that Gartner tells you this is going to be a big industry but how much money is going into the industry. More money that floods in, the higher the price of the assets, it will be great for consumers, lower returns.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: So, we said, where is nobody looking and that’s the thing that I love to do. I love to understand where is the consensus and where is the varying perception. What’s the thing that nobody else is looking at?

Nobody was talking about nuclear. You watched Al Gore’s movie back then “Inconvenient Truth” it doesn’t even mention the word nuclear because it was taboo. It was politically taboo.

So, we look at nuclear, we spent a year and a half looking at every part of the fuel cycle. We started with the uranium miners. Maybe there’s something there. It turns out they’re all hucksters and fraudsters in New Mexico and Nevada.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: So, the Coney Island in me said, you know what, stay away.

RITHOLTZ: You and I have had the Mark Twain quote but — my favorite discussion, but the all-time greatest Mark Twain quote is “What is mine? It’s a hole in the ground with a liar standing there.”

WOLFE: Exactly. Exactly. So, that was the same thing, right? And by the way, uranium mining, if it took, uranium itself was such a small portion of the cost of operating a nuclear plan. It was relatively inconsequential whereas the marginal cost of nat gas and oil was permanently driven by the underlying material, the commodity.

So, we said no to uranium miners. Then we looked at modular reactors. This is a good idea.

RITHOLTZ: Smaller reactors that could be moved easily and …

WOLFE: And build incrementally. So, instead of building a billion-dollar gigawatt power plant for — to serve a million people, you will build an array of say 30-megawatt plant.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: So, each one maybe cost you a hundred million dollars and you build it over time. Now, the problem with that is it’s really for the domain, a very long tenure investors, may be sovereigns, billionaires, people that could wait 20, 25 years.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Not for the technology developed but because the regulatory …

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: OK. So, we said no to that. But then you look around and you say, geez, the biggest unsolved problem with nuclear is not the political, it’s what you do to waste.

RITHOLTZ: Right. It’s disposal. Absolutely.

WOLFE: And so, you’ve got this whole push for Yucca Mountain which would be a geological repository. We have spent tens of billions of dollars on Yucca Mountain. Do you know how much waste it’s gone in?

RITHOLTZ: Zero.

WOLFE: Zero. So, we look at that and said, OK, that’s sort of interesting. Now, what about the way that you store nuclear waste on site and it turns out that there are basically two companies, one that makes a vertical cask like almost like a casket to put the rods in …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … and one that makes a horizontal one. So, you can make a vertical one or you can make a horizontal one but that was basically …

RITHOLTZ: That’s some innovation right there.

WOLFE: That’s the innovation. Now, what happens is these rods inside the reactor, they go through nuclear chain reaction.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: They heat the water, the water turns turbines that save nuclear power. Then when you’re cooling them, they sit in a pool of water for five years and then they’re pulled out and they’re put into these little caskets.

RITHOLTZ: Five years just to cool down.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: No additional reaction that’s just a very low-level background.

WOLFE: Water is a natural neutron observer and — but there’s all this low-level waste that is sitting there. So, everything from worker dose radiation to parts and and there’s a big market for that.

But the bigger market, and this was the thing that really got us, if you actually sit and I promise you this is not scintillating reading but it was insightful because nobody was looking at it, if you read the DOE budget, $25 billion a year, 6 billion of it is spent on nuclear waste cleanup.

RITHOLTZ: Have you read “The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis?

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: It’s a whole — that last third of the book is all about what the people think the Department of Energy is about energy. It’s not. It’s about nuclear weapon cleanup and some nuclear energy.

WOLFE: Now, that book was written well after this. So, this is 2009, 2010, Hanford, Savannah River, Idaho National Lab …

RITHOLTZ: Savannah River is giant.

WOLFE: Huge.

RITHOLTZ: People are unaware of how much nuclear material …

WOLFE: There’s an entire city in Hanford, Washington, in the State of Washington, you fly in there, there’s an airport dedicated to this.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: There’s one bar, it’s called the 3 Eyed Fish Bar like the Simpsons …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … and the entire thing is a community and a complex dedicated to nuclear waste cleanup. Now, the people that are making all the money in it, when I tell you they make money, it’s billions of dollars a year, basically shoveling waste from one side to the other and this will be going on for decades, it’s URS, it’s CH2M Hill, its floor, it’s a big engineering primes (ph).

So, we looked at this and said, not only you have this in the U.S. but you have this in the U.K. with a site called Sellafield, you have this in France with La Hague. Is there an opportunity for high-tech solution that could win contracts by doing this faster and cheaper? We looked around. We couldn’t find anything.

RITHOLTZ: Nobody else is in that space.

WOLFE: Nobody was in the space and I got to tell you going around for a year to nuclear waste conferences, I was certainly the only person under 50 years old and I was certainly the only venture capitalist there.

So, we go and we find the best technologist that we get and we find the best people that were under the age of 60 because they weren’t that entrepreneurial in this space and to be honest, we found people that are like 58 or 59. And we end up blocking them the best technologies which were combination of material, science and chemistry and physics, materials that could grab the worst radioactive elements like cesium, strontium …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … uranium, plutonium and then we had a second technology called vitrification, which in layman’s terms is glassmaking.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Take the stuff, lock it up into a glass …

RITHOLTZ: You’re embedding it in silicon or some other …

WOLFE: Silicon is glass.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: But you’re heating it at 1700 degrees, it turns into this molten form, it can’t leak into the environment.

RITHOLTZ: So, it’s still radioactive …

WOLFE: Still radioactive.

RITHOLTZ: … it’s just not cranking out.

WOLFE: We haven’t transmutated it. That doesn’t really exist but …

RITHOLTZ: Well, if you did, you can turn it into gold and we know that that’s what we want.

WOLFE: Exactly and then we’ll start a mining company and take to public.

RITHOLTZ: Right. With a liar.

WOLFE: Exactly. So, we ended up starting company. We named in Kurion after Madame Curie and in part because …

RITHOLTZ: With a K.

WOLFE: With a K to be cute. And in part because I read the article about the Department of Energy and it said that there’s billions and billions of curies which is the measure of radiation …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … and that was the inspiration. So, we started the company and with very little money and I had — two of our LPs who are prominent hedge fund managers and us and we put a total of $3 million into it.

I put a million and a half from our fund at that time and we own 35 percent of the business. We stake these guys, they go off to work. In the first year, they did about a million in revenue. Second year, black swan, you had a negative event which was the seismic event that led to the earthquake, that led to the tsunami, that led to the Fukushima disaster.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: And lo and behold, the only company picked in the U.S. for this cleanup was this little company Kurion. So, we went from a million dollars in revenue to 40 then 80 then 120, 160 million revenue.

RITHOLTZ: Are they still working that now?

WOLFE: They still are and they actually sold to Veolia which is a French giant. We sold for $400 million, we own a third of the business. We made an excess of 40 times, our early money return in the entirety of that fund, and it was gratifying because we like to sound — say as sanctimonious as it sounds that we like to invest in matter that matters.

It was meaningful because you actually did something to reduce all the radiation from this disaster side …

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: … and we got to make our investors a lot of money.

RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking with Josh Wolfe. He is the co-founder and managing partner of Lux Capital. If you enjoy this conversation, well, be sure and come back for the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue discussing all things technology and venture related.

You can find that at iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Bloomberg wherever you’ll find our podcasts are sold. We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at [email protected] Check out my weekly column on Bloomberg.com. Sign up for my daily reading list at ritholtz.com. Follow me on Twitter @ritholtz. I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

Welcome to the podcast. Josh, thank you so much for doing this. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while since you and I sat at what was a fascinating dinner and I hope something comes out of it. Really interesting idea than any duke is working on.

You mentioned my friend Michael Mauboussin who was also there. It was really a murderous rogue of people there. Quite a gallery of intellect. I don’t know what’s going to of it but I thought it was fascinating and I thought what you discussed was really interesting.

I have no idea what it was but it led me to say I should have him come. He’s an interesting guy to sit and chat with. So, what — do you recall what your big idea was in that meeting?

WOLFE: I actually think at least one of the ideas was as they were thinking about how do you get more broad distribution about the decision-making for young people …

RITHOLTZ: Right. How to train people to make better decisions …

WOLFE: And there was …

RITHOLTZ: … while they’re in the junior high school level.

WOLFE: And the first principles approach that you would want take to this is, well, how do you reach to those people. And the old school thinking is let’s put it into the curriculum of the schools …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … and every time that you try that it’s typically failed. And so, go where these people are. So, if you got young …

RITHOLTZ: Social media.

WOLFE: Yes. If you got young kids that’s on Roblox, have gamified so that young people can be on Roblox and playing decision-making games and looking at things, maybe even starting to learn to think of probabilities or just like the older generation, it’s podcast or it’s …

RITHOLTZ: This is now old school media? I used to think this was so cutting edge. You tell me this is now old goat.

WOLFE: Look, people that are listening here know Voltron, they know “Caddyshack”. Younger people maybe not.

RITHOLTZ: That’s — I’ve had a number of MBA professors tell me they assigned various episodes of this as homework. So, there’s some …

WOLFE: Why not, right? It’s content. You have amazing access to amazing people. Why not? It’s quite insane. Talk about dumb luck.

RITHOLTZ: That will have a longer conversation about that at another time. We were just talking about a nuclear waste remediation and I have to ask you about the concept of thorium-powered reactors. I don’t know how many years ago this was.

There’s a huge article in “Wired” magazine, I don’t know if recall “Wired” about all the advantages of thorium and how productive it is and how low grade the waste is and yet nothing’s ever seem to happen with that.

WOLFE: I’ll give you a probability into timeframe. There’s a 50 percent chance that we see something in the next 50 years and a 10 percent chance that you see something in the next 10 years and if you do, over 70 percent chance it comes from China.

RITHOLTZ: Really? Wow.

WOLFE: The Motorola family has been backers of an effort on the East Coast. I think it was called thorium power. We looked at a bunch of effort. The problem is it is very long, very expensive, regulatory fraud. It’s just going to take too long.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: The virtues of thorium are great.

RITHOLTZ: It’s cheap.

WOLFE: Cheaper, lower probability.

RITHOLTZ: Cheaper than uranium or any of the other …

WOLFE: And lower — the biggest virtue of it is you have less probability of a proliferation because one of the outputs of traditional nuclear is plutonium.

RITHOLTZ: Right. No plutonium on thorium …

WOLFE: Correct.

RITHOLTZ: …. which is really interesting. And let’s talk about — there’s a few tech subjects we didn’t get to I have to ask you about. Chronobiology.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk a little bit about — and my understanding of this is, hey, we could take the RNA sequencing clip-off the ends which tells people — tells other cells when they’re supposed to die and theoretically, we have an infinite lifespan.

WOLFE: There’s many different dimensions of this idea of chronobiology and the biggest one is that different cells in your body are different ages and there are markers on those cells that can tell how old it is. So, the Purkinje cells in your brain are probably 25 years old.

RITHOLTZ: Mine are much older than that. They feel it anyway.

WOLFE: The gut and skin cells you have are maybe days, at most, weeks old. So, different parts of your body are basically regenerating and growing and dying at different times. You’re not like — there’s not one battery, right? You’re made up of lots of different things at different ages.

And so, being able to do a body clock to understand those different things is important. Second, it turns out, of course, we have circadian rhythms, right? You get tired at night. You have different levels of hormones at different times of the day. Different people might be night owls. People might be — but there’s something to that physiologically throughout the day.

The third is that there is now evidence and scientific papers are coming out showing that if you give chemo at certain times of the day to certain types of people that it might be more effective than others.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: So, there’s something in the body about when you’re being reactive. Look, you I’m sure have a time when you feel that you are your most alert. When caffeine works on you whereas you might after lunch go into your food coma at 3 o’clock or something and caffeine just doesn’t work as well as it does say at 9:30 when your hormones and metabolites are spiking at a different rate.

So, the idea of chronobiology is within the cells, between the cells and even between people is there something about the dimension of time that plays relevance for medicine in the body.

RITHOLTZ: That’s quite fascinating. What else? Autonomous driving, GPU gaming to your concept of intelligent machine goes from GPU from gaming to power artificial intelligence to machine learning. What’s next? Is this what’s going to drive fully autonomous driving, autonomous military vehicles? Where does this go and explain what GPU is.

WOLFE: So, GPU is graphic processing units. This is the ability to do large-scale multidimensional processing of polygons. So, back in the day, if you had a Nintendo 64, it was this big revolution of you playing James Bond back in the da. It was like wow like three-dimensional simulation …

RITHOLTZ: Ten commands, I remember that game.

WOLFE: Yes. And that was two-dimensional. But you can see …

RITHOLTZ: Well, there’s all three-dimensional polygons and that’s how they created a sense of depth and the illusion of space.

WOLFE: Exactly. But over time, you can see this clear progression almost like a Moore’s law of visualization. But we went from CPUs, the central processing units, which were primarily dominated by Intel to GPUs which were primarily dominated by NVIDIA.

Now, the narrative in public markets around NVIDIA was this is tightly coupled to PlayStations, PS4, and Xboxs.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: But suddenly, something happened a few years ago, about seven years ago, where they invented a language called CUDA, C-U-D-A, and put it in the hands of academics and researchers who suddenly said, wait a second, instead of using CPUs or high throughput computing, we can instead use GPUs to do this processing. And they started doing the processing for neural networks to be able to do artificial intelligence and machine learning.

And so, you saw shift where GPUs were primarily coupled to the consoles and gaming …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … to suddenly being the soul of the new machine inside of things like autonomous vehicles and drones and simulations. This is an area when you say like what’s next in terms of autonomous vehicles.

Increasingly, the technology stack is maturing. You have LIDAR. You have solid-state LIDAR. But the really valuable thing is the simulation and this is a fascinating phenomenon because it is affecting many different industries, the gap between reality and that which is simulated.

So, the ability to render reality in physics engines is leading everything from you can place simulator on something like drone racing league and you can actually fly a drone and it’s indistinguishable. You can actually simulate something inside the human body using a CT scan of the body and have a GPS-guided experience using a surgical robot.

You can actually have a simulation of a street and then have an autonomous vehicle that is learning on the simulation as opposed to actually learning driving in the road and it’s increasingly indistinguishable.

RITHOLTZ: So, typically, that takes place on a screen. I know you’re a sci-fi guy. When do we get the “Star Trek” hologram room, the holodeck?

WOLFE: Well, you’ve got — we have a company called Looking Glass that’s doing volumetric display. But we’re not …

RITHOLTZ: Meaning three dimensional without a screen.

WOLFE: Three dimensional, you have screen but you have no VRRA or glasses.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: So, it’s an optical trick like holograms are. But the future there is that you’ll be looking at something akin to a pitch on a soccer field and it’s in three-dimensional like a fish tank and you’re watching the game right there.

RITHOLTZ: So, one last “Star Trek” thing I have to ask you about. You’ve talked about transporter technology, right, and we’re not talking about spooky connections at a distance or anything on a subatomic level, you’re literally talking about the ability to send the matter from here to there. Explain that.

WOLFE: Well, I don’t think you can do — I mean, that is science fiction. What you can do is I can take a picture, I’m looking at a coffee cup on our desk here, I can 3D capture a simulacrum of that cup, I can now work on its CAD design.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: I can turn the atoms into a representation in bits and I can send those bits as a CAD file digitally to a 3D printer and I can print a version of that. But I am not actually transporting the individual atoms …

RITHOLTZ: Which is …

WOLFE: … I’ve copied it.

RITHOLTZ: Which is why I will never step foot on a transporter because people don’t realize the transporter kills you and create an exact duplicate of you wherever it goes. And I was always surprised at “Star Trek” how that never came up other than the doc not wanting to do it but every time you step on the transporter, if you want to make a device to execute people …

WOLFE: And this would be it.

RITHOLTZ: Right. You basically take people and disassemble them on a molecule and atom and by atom basis. Now, the fact that you have the ability to reassemble them elsewhere, that doesn’t mean they’re not dead. This is just an exact duplicate. But I just thought that was uninteresting.

WOLFE: But …

RITHOLTZ: So, you’re talking about …

WOLFE: Teleporters are not an investable thing. It’s philosophical idea.

RITHOLTZ: You’re talking about basically the variation of 3D printing using — at a distance using a full 3D …

WOLFE: Scanner.

RITHOLTZ: … scanning.

WOLFE: And 3D scanning, the resolution has increased exponentially over the past few years and so that’s going to continue. And I think that you can capture very discrete elements.

This is another area where actually I’m very excited about biology which is the imaging and microscopy tools that are coming out to be able to capture things in real time at a near atomic scale inside of cells. But the idea of teleportation is today’s science fiction, 3D scanners coupled with 3D printers will closely approximated but it’s still a trick.

RITHOLTZ: And at a molecular level, let’s — we must really talk a little bit about CRISPR in genome editing. Are you describing building these things from scratch or are you talking about growing these things? Designing — redesigning the genes and growing them or doing a scan and reproducing them?

WOLFE: Well, there — no, no. So, in biology, there are people that have gene libraries. They are trying to assemble nucleotides. There people who are editing them, using the technique of CRISPR.

CRISPR is really — I don’t want to say an overhyped technique but it is a very hyped technique that was a fundamental breakthrough and the fundamental breakthrough was effectively control C, control V in computing. It was copy and paste.

You can actually use this technique to be able to transpose codons or nucleotides from one part to another. And so, that allows you to literally edit like a Microsoft Word with precision.

But we are still so far way from being able to deliver. There’s been no CRISPR in a human. There’s been no technique where you’d say, gees, Barry has got a genetic defect here and let’s edit that out. It’s just — it’s so far away from practical reality. That is still a lot of hype.

RITHOLTZ: But when you say so far away, a thousand years?

WOLFE: No way. I mean …

RITHOLTZ: A hundred years, 10 years?

WOLFE: Impossible to predict because you could have a breakthrough. And so, intellectual …

RITHOLTZ: But realistically, 50 years from now, you will be able to edit — not you but …

WOLFE: You can today edit embryos. You can — and China is doing this. China — and this is something I would say that China lacked something that we have and because they lack it, they will be ascendant. And the thing that they lack is the ethics and regulatory apparatus that slows things down here in the U.S.

RITHOLTZ: Well, the way to — let me rephrase what you just said. China prioritizes the group over the individual. In America, our priorities are the individual over the group and that’s the difference between individual rights or a society that’s lasted 5,000 years.

WOLFE: Totally. And the result of that I think is that many of the advances in biotech will actually, in the near future, occur in China particularly around CNS disorders, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

RITHOLTZ: CNS meaning neural …

WOLFE: Central nervous system.

RITHOLTZ: OK.

WOLFE: And the reason I say that is, first of all, with the growing demographic population we have that are going to get older here in the U.S. and suffer from things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and neurodegenerative diseases …

RITHOLTZ: An inevitability statistically.

WOLFE: … that is a huge market. We have shifted much of our primate research outside the U.S. because of ethics reasons. China does not have any such.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: Ethics reasons (ph).

RITHOLTZ: They do work on prisoners that even Americans would be aghast at.

WOLFE: That may be so but they are definitively doing work on primates and I think what’s going to end up happening is we will import from China the drugs much in the way that the U.S. exports Hollywood to the rest of the world. I think China will be exporting drugs and hopefully it’s well tested close to FDA-approved apparatus so that we’re not importing crazy stuff. But …

RITHOLTZ: So, what’s the difference between doing the research? This is where the ethical/economic discussion we had earlier comes to fore. Is there a difference between doing the research or purchasing the end result of that research?

To me, it’s the same. Effectively, the research was done. You may not like it but you’re eating the pork or you’re buying this product. How are you not as responsible for the research as if it was done here? Isn’t it hypocritical to pretend otherwise? And this goes to whether we’re talking about food or what have you.

WOLFE: Well, look, as a U.S. citizen, your tax money goes to the university research and you might fund some research whether you agree with that or not. I mean, that’s the allocation …

RITHOLTZ: Or the ward department or this, I mean …

WOLFE: Which itself is another ethic (ph) we should touch on …

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: … because military technology I think is going to be an absolute boon in venture capital. I think it’s one of the most exciting and important areas in the next five years in part because the vast number of big tech companies from Google going down are issuing wanting to do work with military.

They have such pressure from the HR and IR departments that people are saying, I don’t want to work on this stuff. It is creating a giant …

RITHOLTZ: Void. Yes

WOLFE: A void where there is a tremendous opportunity for some of the smartest technology, some of the smartest scientists and engineers to work on these wicked thorny problems in defense.

RITHOLTZ: Your pal Peter Thiel is …

WOLFE: We are co-invested in a company called (Anderal). I think it is going to be one of the greatest companies in defense. If you look at the new entrants …

RITHOLTZ: Let me get my …

(CROSSTALK)

RITHOLTZ: Yes.

WOLFE: If you look at the new entrants in defense, you’ve got Lockheed, you’ve got Raytheon, you’ve got BAE, you’ve got General Dynamics. There hasn’t been anybody over the past 25 years …

RITHOLTZ: They’ve all conglomerate ties over the past 30 years. There used to be 50 companies in that space. They’re seven now.

WOLFE: And in some cases, you have people that are doing amazing things but it takes a very long time and they’re working on huge multibillion projects like the F-35 joint strike fighter. In other cases, you have many, many small beltway bandits who are just getting these cost-plus contracts because they know somebody that know somebody.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: But true innovation, the thing that I think gave American military might which in turn gave our economy the ability to project power across the globe and control two oceans and all the geographic plus military advantage we have, it has to be supported by continuous technological advantage and that is something …

RITHOLTZ: A hundred percent.

WOLFE: … that over the past 20 years I think has slipped away. I think very few engineers want to really work on these problems and I think the smartest ones that do are normally going to make a fortune but they’re going to do a tremendous patriotic duty.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. There’s a fascinating story about how a bunch of engineers tried to get the Navy to take radar in the new book “Loonshots.” It’s just astonishing that this was an old technology by the time it was put to work in World War II. Nobody could get the war department, which as it was called back then, to recognize the military value of this. I going to think there’s a million things like that.

WOLFE: It’s always. I mean, even Jim Woolsey who’s a former CIA …

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: … was a venture partner to our firm for many years.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: He tells story of Amber which was — he traded a bunch of alpaca blankets to some people over in Eastern Europe to be able to get a runway and then actually fly a drone. He was looking at Milosevic and that early drone was predator by this really entrepreneur Abe Karem.

At that time. Woolsey went to the DoD and said, I need a drone, I want to be able to have unmanned pilot that could — pilot vehicle that could give me eyes on the ground, and they said it will cost $500 million and take six years.
And he was able to go to this entrepreneur and in $5 million in six months, they were able to create this.

RITHOLTZ: Wow. Astonishing. And whatever happened with the company behind the predator of drone? Did Boeing acquire …

WOLFE: General Atomics.

RITHOLTZ: General Atomics. OK. That’s a — General Dynamics or General …

WOLFE: Atomics.

RITHOLTZ: Really?

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: That’s a great name, General Atomics.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: So, I only have you for a finite amount of time. Let’s jump to our speed round, our favorite questions. These are what we asked all of our guests. First car you even owned, year make and model.

WOLFE: 1994 Ford Explorer. It was a hunter green and I think I had it for a year before it spun out on the highway and I never drove it again.

RITHOLTZ: By the way, this is my test question because eventually someone is going to say what’s a car, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

WOLFE: Exactly.

RITHOLTZ: Tells us the most important thing people don’t know about Josh Wolfe.

WOLFE: There’s so much that I don’t even know about Josh Wolfe, right? So, just being intellectually honest. But personal side of me, I love heavy metal and hardcore. I grew up going to a mosh pit in Brooklyn, a place called The (Moores) and Life of Agony.

And I like skateboarding and I like people that just have this sort of gritty rebel side to that sort. Heavy metal, hip-hop …

RITHOLTZ: When you say heavy metal — like my hip-hop, following ends at Paul’s Boutique with the Beastie Boys but …

WOLFE: Yes. That’s too commercial like Black Moon on the hip-hop side.

RITHOLTZ: Like too commercial is 311 or …

WOLFE: Yes. And on the heavy metal side, it would have been Deftones, Life of Agony, Biohazard.

RITHOLTZ: You’re a hardcore heavy metal…

(CROSSTALK)

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: Like to me, heavy metal is Black Sabbath and …

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: Like when I was coming up — you say that today but when Black Sabbath came out, people were like what is this devil music.

WOLFE: Exactly.

RITHOLTZ: I think it was hilarious.

WOLFE: Exactly.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about some of your early mentors. You obviously have a few who helped shape your career.

WOLFE: Well, it’s interesting, there used to be this placard outside of our old office around 41st Park in Madison that was down in Broadway 20th, 21st and said that reading great books is like having conversations with the best minds of history.

And so, many of my …

RITHOLTZ: Embedded in the ground.

WOLFE: Exactly.

RITHOLTZ: So, my office is 40th off Bryant Park …

WOLFE: Yes. Right there.

(CROSSTALK)

RITHOLTZ: So, that — right. They’re fabulous. They’re all over and I don’t know who did that but it’s genius.

WOLFE: I love it. And you’re looking down and you’re looking at your computer, you’re looking at your phone or whatever and you notice these things. But that one always hit me because so many of my mentors in that sense are people that I never met that are dead, right? They’re just alive in the pulp (ph) and the ideas.

But the one human mentor that I really feel owe my career and the intellectual honesty is Bill Conway, the founder of Carlyle who is just — his ethics, his integrity, it doesn’t matter what the deal docs say, it doesn’t matter what the contract says, you just do the right thing.

The kinds of questions he asks. The way that he speaks without saying things. It’s …

RITHOLTZ: What do you mean by speaks without saying things?

WOLFE: He has a diplomatic way of saying things and sometimes, the messages and what he doesn’t say and I find that there is a handful of people I can communicate that way where you sort of into it what they mean without them actually being explicit.

RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. Talk about investors be it VC or otherwise who influence your approach to the world of risking capital.

WOLFE: Well, I think I’ve read every bio and every article that I could about the early venture investors. So, Tom Perkins and General Doriot and all the early venture capitalists. And so many of these lessons are basically irrelevant because you have this path depends. There’s an idiosyncratic moment.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: I remember there is a guy from a firm who’s legendary investor back in the day, Ben Rosen from Sevin Rosen. He was early investor in Compaq which was once a significant technology investment and Ben said, you just need one.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: You just need one because you get one hit and then that hit begets reputation and repetition begets more hits and so on. So, on the venture capital side, it was a handful of individuals.

The person who I have the most respect for venture capital hands down is Bill Gurley. I think he’s a true investor. I think he came from the sell side on Wall Street and he understood how to be an analyst first. He understands businesses. He understands human nature.

I think he happens to be a towering giant because he’s very tall and I’m very short. We’re both on the board at Santa Fe Institute and I …

RITHOLTZ: With Michael Mauboussin.

WOLFE: Exactly. And Michael chairs it. And so, I’m very fond of Bill. But there’s — Bill Janeway is another guy who I think …

RITHOLTZ: Really interesting guy.

WOLFE: … super smart guy and the way that he always thought about risk and technology was an influence. There’s an older guy Chris Brody was at Warburg Pincus who I spent a lot of time with. I’d probably learned how to be a good board member from watching Chris hold people accountable.

So, a lot of individual lessons. But from an investing philosophy, I mean, hands down, it’s like the value investors because they were just rational and they wouldn’t touch venture capital. Charlie Munger and Buffett and everything that I can read that they’ve ever written or said and all the acolytes that followed from them I think are just — it gives you a grounding sense of a true business and markets and human psychology.

And so, I think even as a venture capitalist, if you haven’t studied those greats, you get a massive deficit.

RITHOLTZ: Let’s talk about books. We’ve mention a few over the course of our conversation. What are some of your favorite books be they fiction, nonfiction, technology?

WOLFE: I’m a voracious reader. So, fiction, nonfiction, so, “Consilience” E.O. Wilson was great, “How the Mind Works” Steven Pinker. I love “The Operator” about David Geffen and I like reading biology — sorry, biographies. “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

RITHOLTZ: Sure. At Stanford. What’s his name?

WOLFE: Sapolsky.

RITHOLTZ: Sapolsky. Right.

WOLFE: Yes. Sapolsky. Robert Sapolsky. He’s a primatologist, right, but at the end of the day, we’re …

RITHOLTZ: He’s really a behaviorist if you think about it.

WOLFE: But we are two primates sitting here talking, right, and related to that, there’s a great book that Robin Hanson wrote in the past one or two years called “The Elephant in the Brain”…

RITHOLTZ: Sure.

WOLFE: … about signaling and if you understand why people, the motives behind why people do things, I think it’s really interesting. Let’s see, the — on the fiction side, it’s interesting, my wife really got me into fiction, I don’t know, going back 15 years or something like that with “The Magus” and it was sort of a psychological profile …

RITHOLTZ: Who wrote that?

WOLFE: I can’t remember the author’s name but it was …

RITHOLTZ: Spell it.

WOLFE: M-A-G-U-S. This guy has got this like Greek island and he has this teacher professor who takes this little sojourn there and it is just like all these mind games that he plays with him.

RITHOLTZ: John Fowles.

WOLFE: Yes. It was dark and cool and psychologically. That turned me onto a British writer Rachel Cusk whose writing like every sentence. I mentioned before I love the line that there’s daggers in men’s smiles from Shakespeare.

And so, just her use of language in the psychologically astute prose that she has is great.

RITHOLTZ: She is a trilogy that seems to be …

WOLFE: “Outline” is the first and then “Transit” was the second and “Kudos” I think is the third. Fiction recently “Overstory” by Richard Powers. Just brilliant prose and I really got turned onto fiction because I think that you can tell more in a paragraph by an amazing fiction author who understands human psychology than you can read in an entire textbook in psychology.

RITHOLTZ: So, I’m surprised there isn’t a science fiction title in the list because you talk so much previously about sci-fi.

WOLFE: Neal Stephenson, I mean, by far, the depth, the rigor, the foresight. “The Diamond Age” for me probably around the time that we were starting Lux which is such an inspiration.

RITHOLTZ: “Diamond Age.”

WOLFE: Yes. And …

RITHOLTZ: I don’t know that one. Didn’t he do “Seven Moons”?

WOLFE: “Seveneves.” Yes.

RITHOLTZ: “Seveneves.” Right.

WOLFE: And then TV writers like your David Milch in “Deadwood” and the current writers on “Westworld.” I just — I think it’s absolutely brilliant scintillating soliloquies that they put forth and philosophically everyday really interesting.

RITHOLTZ: We are in the golden age of television.

WOLFE: I think so.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about a time you failed and what you learn from the experience.

WOLFE: Well, there’s business failures and there’s personal failures. The business failures, you lose some money, right? You made a bad decision. So, if you’re …

RITHOLTZ: Well, losing money is you’re not going to hit homerun every time you have bat. It may not be a failure, it’s within the expected distribution of returns.

WOLFE: We look at it as process for outcome, right?

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: So, there are times where we actually make money but we consider it a failure because we had the wrong process. So, what I mean by that is maybe our thesis was we’re going to make a certain amount of money or it’s going to work for this reason and we ended up making money but we’re totally wrong, we consider that a process failing.

But being — I don’t want to sound like, I don’t know, too clichéd here but like the biggest failures for me are the things that have the permanence of regret. So, choices I made or relationships that I under invested in or people that I didn’t spend enough time with who passed. Like those to me are the biggest failures.

And if there’s like a — if there is a younger Josh that I can go back to, it would be some of the relationships that I wish I could have fixed or people like I said who passed that I could have spent more time with. Those to me are the biggest failures because you can never fix them.

You lose money in an investment, no big deal. You’ll make money in another one.

RITHOLTZ: Right.

WOLFE: But you lose a person or a friendship or relationship, I think those are the biggest failures.

RITHOLTZ: So, afterwards, I’ll give you the secret of time travel and tell you how you could solve those issues. And I’m not kidding. What do you do for fun? What do you do when you’re not reading or at work?

WOLFE: My kids are just — it’s an amazing adventure. We have three of them. Now, they’re nine, six and three, two girls and a boy, and you get to just see the world through their eyes and make all kinds of new mistakes over.

So, I love my kids, I love my family. I was the only child. All I ever won was a big nuclear family and my parents flew when I was young. So, this is sort of the chance I’ve had to make it right.

Love reading, skateboarding, basketball …

RITHOLTZ: You’re still skateboarding now?

WOLFE: Yes. Still skate. In fact, there’s a Sunday morning crew of dads that are sort of between 40 and 45 and we go out in Tribeca, the skate park and …

RITHOLTZ: Right. You got to keep the orthopedics busy.

WOLFE: Exactly. Exactly.

RITHOLTZ: And you turn a living also. Tell us what you’re most optimistic about today and what do you most pessimistic about.

WOLFE: I think this is a constant. I’m always optimistic about scientists and the incremental discoveries and the big breakthroughs that they’re going to make because I think it’s an inevitability. I was talking about the sort of directional arrow of progress and I think there’s an absolute inevitability just driven by human greed, pursuit of status that we are going to continue to discover incredible things that by definition nobody ever anticipated.

So, I’m optimistic about science itself as a process. I am generally pessimistic about human nature. I mean, the best in reports (ph) and the worst things that I think happen in the world are not because of inanimate things, it’s because of animated things. It’s about people. Two-legged mammals who are filled with too much greed or too much fear, too much hate or too much ignorance. And so, I’m generally pessimistic about human nature and that classic daggers in men’s smiles.

RITHOLTZ: And our final two and most favored questions, what sort of advice would you give to a millennial or recent college graduate who came to you and said, hey, I’m interested in a career either as a technology entrepreneur or venture capital.

WOLFE: Yes. I think the single most important thing for anybody is to build your brand, be differentiated, be indispensable, stay close to the money, find where the capital is flowing and stay close to it. That was one of the great early advices that I got from somebody.

And be voracious in your reading. I think you have to be exposed to so many things so that you can sort of develop your passion and then from your passion, develop an expertise and be able to stand out. So, all these things are in a linked.

And the best advice that I probably give again with regret to my older self is I think you need to find a balance between having a chip on your shoulder and the ambition and then being mindful that every relationship you have and every person that at some point in the future they’re going to be a call option and you don’t want that to expire. So, be good to people.

RITHOLTZ: That works for me. And our final question, what is it that you know about the world of venture capital investing today that you wish you knew 20 or so years ago when you were first getting started?

WOLFE: I wish that I would have known, and this is going to sound a bit cynical, how rigged the game is. I think every system at every point is rigged and if you can figure out that little mechanical torque in the machine that’s pulling the con, I think …

RITHOLTZ: Rigged.

WOLFE: Yes.

RITHOLTZ: Now, explain that a little bit.

WOLFE: Well, every year, ’98, 99, 2000, people thought you’re just going to pick the winners whatever but the system is rigged. IPOs were rigged. The distribution of IPOs was rigged. Housing market, CDOs, there’s always a game being played and there is a secret that the people who are making the most money basically keep. They won’t acknowledge publicly until after the fact.

And so, I think at any point in time in some domain, it’s happening and whether it’s central bankers today or whether it’s the housing crisis or whether it’s the SoftBank stuff today or that there’s always some game that’s being played that is totally unfair and rigged and to sort of appreciate that and look for it. Try to figure out where is the system rigged because it’s always there somewhere.

RITHOLTZ: Quite cynical and fascinating. We have been speaking with Josh — I almost called you Josh Lux, Josh Wolfe, managing partner and co-founder of Lux Capital.

If you enjoyed this conversation, well, be sure and look up an inch or down an inch on Apple iTunes and you can see any of the previous 250 such conversations we’ve had over the prior five years. You can find that wherever you find a podcasts are sold, Spotify, Apple, Google Podcast, et cetera.

We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at [email protected] I would be remiss if I did not thank our crack staff who helps put this together each week. Carolyn O’Brien (ph) is our audio engineer today, Michael Boyle is my producer, Atika Valbrun is our project manager, Michael Batnick is our head of research, I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Idaho National Laboratory Gets DOE C harter for Test and Presentation of Advanced Reactors

In the late 1940 s the federal government developed the National Reactor Screening Station (NRTS) at a site on the dirty volcanic plain of the Arco desert about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. Now some 70 years later on the government has once again turned to the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to produce the National Reactor Development Center (NRIC). (Fact Sheet)

NRTS  to  NRIC

The new initiative will assistance the development of innovative nuclear energy innovations by utilizing the world-class capabilities of the DOE national lab system. It will be a test and presentation center for these technologies and it will involve public / personal collaborations with companies that desire to bring these innovations to a fully grown enough level to draw in investors and consumers.

NRIC will be led by Idaho National Lab and builds upon the successes of DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) effort. GAIN connects market with the national labs to accelerate the development and commercialization of advanced nuclear innovations. NRIC will coordinate with market, other federal organizations, the national laboratories, and universities on screening and demonstrating these concepts.

The NRIC will provide personal sector innovation developers the necessary assistance to test and show their reactor concepts and assess their performance. This will aid speed up the licensing and commercialization of these new nuclear energy systems.  (slide deck – PDF file)

nuclear  TRLs

“NRIC will make it possible for the presentation and release of advanced reactors that will define the future of nuclear energy,” stated U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

“By taking industry together with our nationwide labs and university partners, we can enhance our energy independence and position the U.S. as a international leader in innovative nuclear innovation.”

The Idaho Falls Post Register and the Associated Press reported that INL will partner with private business to test new nuclear reactors at the website. Depending on how numerous companies go into into reactor development and testing deals with INL and what these tasks appearance like, officials state this development has the potential to be a significant economic chauffeur for eastern Idaho in the years to come.

INL Director Mark Peters told the media that the center will be “a extremely, very important part of our future. We’re talking to a lot of companies that are approaching the lab to explore the idea.”

INL is already working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and NuScale Power on prepares to build 12 little modular reactors (SMRs) AT 60 MW each at the INL desert website.

This classification will likewise increase the possibility that the Versatile Test Reactor will be constructed at INL. This reactor would be the first new test reactor constructed in the U.S. in decades and provide the country a devoted “fast-neutron-spectrum” testing capability.

DOE just recently revealed it will prepare an environmental effect statement as part of the procedure to build the test reactor at INL or at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

U. S. Sen. Mike Crapo, and Sen. James Risch, who led the 2018 Nuclear Energy Innovation Abilities Act that licensed the center’s creation, stressed that the statement corresponded with the 70 th anniversary of the lab, which was called the Nuclear Reactor Checking Station when it was established in 1949.

“This will become part of the history of the national laboratory,” Risch said.

The House Energy and Water Development committee has actually assigned $5 million in the FY2020 budget for NRIC, which plans to show small modular reactor and micro-reactor ideas within the next 5 years.

The Senate hasn’t yet marked up its Energy and Water appropriations legislation. Idaho’s congressional delegation is over the leading in its advocacy for the site which is a big change from its arms length stance of the 1990 s.

The Nuclear Energy Development Abilities Act gets rid of some of the monetary and technological barriers standing in the method of nuclear innovation. It directs DOE to facilitate the siting of sophisticated reactor research presentation facilities through collaborations in between DOE and personal market.

The reactor center statement has been expected for some time. INL officials told the Post Register in January 2019 that the laboratory was in the running for the center. The legislation, which had bipartisan support passed both the Home and Senate on voice votes.  It authorized developing the National Reactor Development Center and consisted of a number of other provisions to encourage cooperation in between the DOE, Nuclear Regulative Commission and personal market on brand-new reactor advancement.

NuScale and Partner Universities Win
DOE Grants for Nuclear Reactor Simulators

Three of the business’s reactor simulators will be installed at Oregon State University, Texas A&M University-College Station and the University of Idaho

nuclear  imageNuScale Power revealed that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has actually awarded three grants to assistance the setup of a NuScale reactor plant simulator at each of Oregon State University, Texas A&M University-College Station and the University of Idaho.

When finished, the simulator centers will be used for research, education, K-12 outreach and public advocacy regarding nuclear power and small modular reactor (SMR) innovation.

“We are very grateful to our university partners for their cooperation and eagerness to get involved in this job, and to the Department of Energy for its continued support of NuScale’s groundbreaking work in the advanced nuclear industry,” said John Hopkins, Chairman and chief executive officer of NuScale Power.

NuScale’s reactor simulator is a virtual nuclear power plant control room that provides U.S. universities and national laboratories with the capability to observe nuclear plant habits from the control room. These simulators, based on NuScale’s simulator technology and computer system designs, will include a simulator user interface that accepts input from operators in a virtual control space and shows specifications simulating the plant reaction.

The simulator facilitates research study into human aspects engineering, human-system user interface design, advanced diagnostics, cyber security and plant control room automation. In addition to supporting STEM research study and education at universities, NuScale’s simulator can be utilized to show students and members of the public innovative nuclear innovation in a control room setting. After, deployment at each university, NuScale will provide technical assistance and further design advancement to assistance research.

Lead collaborators from each of the partner universities include Qiao Wu, Ph.D. (Oregon State University), Yassin Hassan, Ph.D. (Texas A&M University) and Richard Christensen, Ph.D. (University of Idaho).

“The installation of these 3 simulators will offer exceptional opportunities for students, scientists and operators to much better comprehend SMR innovation,” said NuScale Development Manager Derick Botha, who established the job proposal on behalf of the company in cooperation with the university leads.

NuScale’s technology is the world’s first and just SMR to undergo style accreditation review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is scheduled to complete its review of NuScale’s design in September 2020.

Advanced Reactors / US A nd Canada Regulators Indication Arrangement

(NucNet) The US N uclear Regulative Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have actually signed a memorandum of cooperation to boost regulative effectiveness through work on the technical evaluates of innovative reactor and little modular reactor technologies.

CNSC  NRC  concur  to  collaboration
CNSC president and chief executive Officer Rumina Velshi (left) and NRC chairman Kristine Svinicki (right) indication off on a historical MOU to collaborate on SMRs. Picture: NRC

The NRC and CNSC are building on a arrangement signed in August 2017 accelerating efforts to realize innovation in the evaluation of advanced reactor and small modular reactor innovation ideas.

The NRC said in a statement that the “historic” memorandum represents a uniquely crucial step in both nations’ strong commitment to a more reliable, effective, and timely analysis of next-generation technologies, and both firms’ safety and security objective.

NRC chairman Kristine Svinicki stated advanced innovations are emerging at a fast rate, requiring that regulators keep in action with modernization efforts and the innovations of the future.

CNSC president and chief executive Officer Rumina Velshi stated: “Globally, interest and advances in little modular and innovative reactors are growing rapidly. The CNSC and the NRC are working together as regulatory leaders to ensure the advancement and deployment of these ingenious innovations are done securely and effectively.”

The memorandum of cooperation is the first of its kind between the United States and Canadian regulators on matters including nuclear power development.

Other Nuclear News

South Africa / Start Planning For New Nuclear Now,
Says Energy Minister

(NucNet) South Africa’s incorporated resource plan, which foresees a diversified energy mix that includes nuclear, is in the process of being completed and “planning for new nuclear power plants must start now”, minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe said in a speech to parliament.

Mr Mantashe stated the IRP will be tabled prior to cabinet for approval in September 2019. “It thinks about a diversified energy mix that consists of all types of energy innovations such as cleaner coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, renewables and battery storage.”

“To state nuclear energy is too expensive is deceptive,” Mr Mantashe said. “The method to South Africa’s energy sector need to be one of balancing all the various sources together.”

He stated South Africa’s just business nuclear station at Koeberg is “getting on in life”, but demonstrates the benefits of nuclear power and shows why South Africa must continue with a nuclear growth program.

A 2010 energy strategy integrated 9,600 MW of nuclear energy into South Africa’s future energy mix, but nuclear energy was dropped entirely from a modified draft plan released for public remark in August 2018.

In April 2017 a Cape Town court ruled that a series of initial procurement offers for brand-new nuclear building in between the federal government of South Africa and Russia, China, the United States, South Korea and France were illegal.

The court ruled that the procurement process was not adequately public and did not involve appropriate ecological and financial evaluations.

The procurement effort was withdrawn as a result.

Indonesia Opens Feasibility Research study for Nuclear Power

(WNN) Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Firm (Batan) has signed a Memorandum of Comprehending (MoU) with utility PT Indonesia Power to work together in the use of nuclear technology in the energy sector. One location of cooperation will be a feasibility research study on the usage of nuclear power plants.

The MoU was signed in Ancol, North Jakarta, by the head of Batan, Anhar Riza Antariksawan, and the acting director of Indonesia Power, Ahsin Sidqi.

The scope of the cooperation covered by the MoU includes a feasibility study on the usage of nuclear energy for power plants, as well as the possible use of thorium, uranium and other radioisotopes in batteries.

The arrangement also calls for cooperation on human resources advancement, the exchange of data and info, organizing scientific meetings, and the usage of each other’s centers and infrastructure.

Prior to signing the arrangement, Ahsin stated: “This afternoon, Indonesia Power will have an MoU with Batan to prepare for research study into the first nuclear power plant in Indonesia, as well as the development of nuclear batteries with Batan. So that in the future, Indonesia Power will not just be an electricity business, however also an energy company.”

Batan released a strategy in 2014 to build a 10 MWt Speculative Power Reactor (Reaktor Daya Eksperimental, RDE) at its biggest research study centre website – the Puspiptek Intricate, in Serpong, South Tangerang, Banten – as a first strategic turning point for the introduction of massive nuclear power plant fleets into the country.

The RDE is a domestically-designed, very small-sized pebble-bed high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) with low-enriched uranium oxide TRISO fuel.

In March 2018, Batan launched a roadmap for establishing a detailed engineering style for the RDE.  It will be an important requirement for Batan to attain approval for the RDE design from the Indonesia’s Nuclear Energy Regulative Agency.

Batan is promoting the introduction of nuclear power plants in Indonesia to assistance satisfy the county’s demand for power. It envisages the start-up of standard large light-water reactors on the populous islands of Bali, Java, Madura and Sumatra starting in 2027.

In addition, it is preparation for the release of little HTGRs (up to 100 MWe) on Kalimantan, Sulawesi and other islands to supply power and heat for industrial use. The model unit is prepared for West Kalimantan.

 

Read More


.