The Innovators with George Davison

The Future of Nuclear Energy with Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory

December 28, 2021 Tomorrow's World Today Season 1 Episode 5
The Innovators with George Davison
The Future of Nuclear Energy with Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory
Show Notes Transcript

Even though nuclear power was first created by the Idaho National Laboratory just over 70 years ago, it is now at the forefront of clean energy and electricity of the future. Today, the Idaho National Laboratory remains the center of nuclear energy research and development.

In this episode of The Innovators, host George Davison talks to Corey McDaniel, the Chief Commercial Officer of Idaho National Laboratory, about writing for Congress, becoming a nuclear engineer, accepting failure, and the future of nuclear energy.

For more information about nuclear energy, head to TomorrowsWorldToday.com.

Introduction:

It all starts with one idea. Have you ever wondered how today's top CEOs, business leaders and people who work for the most innovative companies in the world found success? Join host George Davison , as he explores the innovators that are shaping tomorrow's world today.

George Davison:

Welcome to another edition of The Innovators. And this morning we have a special guest. His name is Corey McDaniel, and he is with the Idaho National Labs and his title (it's a big title, everybody) Chief Commercial Officer. So welcome Corey.

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Thanks for having me, George.

George Davison:

Well, thanks for coming to our show, and I'm hoping that you'll , uh , share some of your personal insights with your life today with our audience. And , uh, so why don't we just dive right into it? Absolutely. Okay. Can you tell us about your, your organization and what you do please?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Sure. The Idaho National Laboratory , uh , in Idaho falls, Idaho , uh , this is a national laboratory, one of 17 national laboratorie s that are part of the , uh , complex of the department of energy. We, we do the science and engineering around nuclear energy. We're the lead nuclear energy laboratory. Um, we are the laboratory that, that started everything with nuclear power back in the 1950s. And today we innovate the reactors for tomorrow.

George Davison:

Isn't that interesting? So you must have quite a staff out there working on this. How many people are we talking about

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Over about 5,000 people today and over half of those staff are technical PhDs, engineers of all sorts and scientists.

George Davison:

So let's say here , uh , see we have 5,000 people working in the science of nuclear energy and where it's going. How do you find people that would fit into the category of what you're doing?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

So Nuclear energy is a , it's interesting in that , um, as an engineer, you know, that there are civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and then you start to specialize , uh, aeronautical engineers, chemical engineers, nuclear engineers are really , uh, we have a background that encompasses electrical, civil mechanical, but also there's an aspect of physics , physics, nuclear physics, that's involved in that. And so the people that we recruit to Idaho National Laboratory have , uh , have , uh , have a basic science and engineering background, but then they actually have to have an interest in nuclear physics and, and what happens at the atomic level. And so those are, those are some of the people that we get that are, that have that extra interest maybe above and beyond your normal stem background.

George Davison:

So interesting. And you're blending all these different people with all these different backgrounds. So, I mean, innovation must be important to an organization like yours. Absolutely. If you take all these different skill sets and put them in the same space together, I imagine you can create a pretty compelling future. So talk a little bit, if you would please, about what does the future look like, you know, with your organization, where are we going here?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Well, you know, nuclear energy, this is a, this is a technology that has not been around for even even more than a century. It really is something that it's continually innovating. The first nuclear power was created just within the last 70 years. And what we're doing now at the Idaho national laboratory is we're finding new ways to take the power of the atom and produce that energy in ways that are more efficient, safer, more cost-effective. Um, and we're right now, what we're doing is really exciting and clean energy is we're expanding into other ways to use nuclear energy, not just electricity, but we're taking the heat and we're integrating nuclear with other sources of power, renewable sources, like wind solar that are intermittent sources. We're mixing that with storage and with, with nuclear power to do things again beyond electricity, hydrogen production, and we're, we're also facilitating the, uh, uh, transfer form from a fossil fuel to electric vehicles and transportation. So it's really exciting.

George Davison:

All right, so you're blending different energy backgrounds or energy sources, and you're trying to create a new way of using nuclear energy. Is that sound a fair way to describe it?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Yes, we're , we're doing two things. We're, we're using it in new ways and we're producing it in new ways where the, the atom originally the electricity was produced from a process of vision, vision of nuclear, nuclear , uh , materials and producing steam much the same way that you would with a , with a coal plant or a natural gas plant. We're now looking at doing that with , uh , coolants , other than water and in ways that , uh , again, get the higher temperatures, which , which add more efficiency to the process. It's a, it's a thermodynamic principle that the higher you get, the more things you can do. And then you start doing some really interesting things when it comes to the production of hydrogen at high temperatures, there's there's processes that , that we're developing that have , uh, that have not been done before. So the future is very bright.

George Davison:

It sounds like it. So, well, thanks for sharing that with us. I'm going to keep moving along here. Cause I think it would be important for everybody listening today. You know, your specific , um, title gives you , uh , you know, some sense, what would a day in the life of Corey look like if I was thinking I was a young person and wanted to come up and do something like what you're doing, w what exactly do you do Cory ?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

So as the chief commercial officer at the Idaho National Laboratory, my , my job is really to reach out and work with industry and take the work that we're doing at the laboratory and get it into the private sector to where the companies are using it. We , uh, there's a term tech deployment technology deployment. We take the , the technology at the laboratory , um, and we , we make that available to the public. Anybody can come and take that because it's taxpayer funded research and development. Uh, one such project , uh, has resulted in a nuclear, a new nuclear reactor called the new scale power module. A new scale is a company that 20 years ago worked with the laboratory to develop a small, the very first small modular nuclear reactor. That project then was funded by Oregon State University with some private investors. Then they got more investors than a floor corporation came in and became a bigger investor. Now, 20 years later, they're looking to deploy the very first reactor in Idaho , um, at a , at a commercial scale. So it's been, it's been a 20 year venture and it still has a couple more years to go, but that's the, that's what I, that's what I get up four in the morning, as I say, I'm going to start the next new scale. So , um, so that's, that's, what's really exciting about my job is I can be working with somebody that in a matter of years now in nuclear, it does take a little bit longer, but, you know, within my lifetime, I'm going to, I could see something that we developed at the laboratory go into commercial , uh , commercial practice.

George Davison:

That's exciting. So you get to see all the goodies that are going on in the research and development lab, and then think about what kind of companies or new emerging companies there might be that would want to look at technology like this and commercialize it, or bring it to market. That's an interesting job. You get to see everything.

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Yeah, well, I mean, it's really exciting to take something from a laboratory where the laboratory people, they're scientists, engineers, they don't have that commercial background. So they're not necessarily thinking when they're doing it, they're thinking, okay, what's the most innovative, advanced technology that we can, we can prove, prove out. And then taking that to the private sector where, you know, the businesses they have to raise the money. Um , right now we have , uh , uh, influx of , of dozens of companies that are raising private money for startups, nuclear reactors , startups, that gets really exciting. And it, it does take a lot of money, a lot of patience, but , uh , there's a strong enough interest that the private sector is putting money in like , like never before for advanced nuclear reactors.

George Davison:

That's very exciting. So, Corey , can you tell us, how did you become interested in nuclear energy?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

So it started out for me in high school and really in junior high, those first physics classes that I took , um, I always enjoyed math and science. I didn't really know why I enjoyed solving problems and, and advancing through, through the different types of , uh, math , uh, techniques, but I didn't really know where I was going until I started taking my first physics classes. I had a great physics teacher in ninth grade and suddenly, you know, everything just came to life, everything that I was doing in math and science, I could put together and solve real problems and understand how people would solve problems before. And so I stayed in the advanced courses, the AP physics classes and calculus through high school. And when I went to college, I looked and I, I knew I wanted to be an engineer. I took one of those, one of those surveys where you , you know, you fill in the dots and they all came back, you know, the top five careers for you. You want to be this type of engineer, that type engineer, you know , aeronautical, civil, mechanical, nuclear didn't even come on. It wasn't even on the radar. And when I went to college, my freshman year, you took a one class where you studied each week, you studied where you learned about a different type of engineering. And when nuclear came up there , a light just went on and said, well, this is all of the engineering, but it also has the physics, which was really exciting to me, the atomic physics. And I said, well, this just makes a whole lot of sense. And when I did it, it was, it was really because it was a passion. It was something I was excited about. Um, didn't really look at the job market or prospects. I mean, at the time, it wasn't a good time for nuclear power, but , uh, but I jumped in and then the advantage was that even though not everybody was going into it, I was one of the few people at that time. And so it's opened up more opportunities because there weren't a lot of nuclear engineers at the time.

George Davison:

So now let's, let's say that , uh, you're talking to a ninth grader right now. And it's you , uh, let's say the, you know, was there a certain math teacher that opened your eyes or a physics teacher, or was there a mentor, a parent? How, how, who impacted you to get your fire ignited into the world of discovering physics? I mean, once you made the discovery that you liked those kinds of things , um, that that's, you're , you're starting to chart a course because you're finding what you like, but how did you find what you liked ?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

You know, I don't know that I found it as much as it found me once I was in that , uh, you know, the advanced physics class first class was in , in ninth grade , um , Mr. Alexander and I just, it was just excited . Every time I went to that class, I was excited. I was like, what are we going to learn today? And then I would learn it. And then I would take, you know, my skills in math and science and I'd apply it. And , and that was, and it just, it just kind of started that way to where I knew that this is the , this is what I wanted to do. This is , this was going to be fun and exciting. And, and regardless of anything else, that's what I wanted to do.

George Davison:

Great . I had a science teacher, I really, as well, Mr. Yoder, he ignited my world with , uh , physics and science and , uh, just forever grateful for him for, to opening up that world. Right. Yup . So teachers are important. Let's just say it that way. Um, so can we talk a little bit about , um, what in your background led you to where you are today? Because you, you know, you are well-advanced now, but we need to go back in time, the earlier maneuvers , um , let's say out of high school, college, what were some of those early decisions that led you to where you are?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Well, I was, I was thinking about that recently and I, and I, I think part of what I did, whether it was conscious or not, is I never got comfortable. I never got to a point where I felt I have this mastered , and now I can just go with what I have. I , I was always looking for the next, the next challenge. And , and that was really started even in elementary school, you know, looking for, okay, well, you know, can I , if I've done this, what's the next thing in math. What's the next thing in calculus. What's the next thing in physics. So, you know, when I got through nuclear engineering, it wasn't, okay. Now I'm going to go be a nuclear engineer. I'm just going to sit at a desk and do what a nuclear engineer does. I said, what's next? And so I started my career at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and national laboratory is one of the advantages is there's always something new. We're , we're doing the cutting edge technology, cutting edge science. And so I was constantly, you know, had different new things to do. There was never, there was never a point in my career where I felt settled. Some people, you know, you want to get into a routine. I've never been in a routine in my career. I've always gone and done something new and , you know, after I've mastered one thing.

George Davison:

That's one of the nice things about the career choice that you made engineering does allow you to ask, can I do this better? Or why do we do it this way? And if you're naturally curious, then it feels good , uh , to be exploring and doing something different all the time. Um, it's, I think that's an important thing to bring up because some, some people feel comfortable in that space and others really don't. They want a more consistent, same thing every day. It's safe. I know what it is. So understanding that about yourself as a younger person, you know, that may help you to navigate your way in life. Um, did you, have you mentioned the one teacher, did you have any specific mentors, anybody that kind of put their arm around your shoulder and said, Corey , I'm going to kind of show you a way in life. Did , did you have anybody mentoring you?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

I didn't know what a mentor was until, until after college. Um, and, but looking back, many of the mentors that I had, that I would say where my mentors were, some of them were colleagues, some of them were friends. Some of them were my own age because they were other, other students that , uh, that were pushing themselves to do things differently. Um, you know, in, in my upbringing, a lot of what I did was, you know , I had a big imagination. I was always thinking of doing things differently. So if I was taught to do things a certain way, I would learn it, but then I would say, okay, now can I, how can I apply that to something completely different? And it was a lot of, it was the kids that I grew up with, you know, in the , in taking those classes, we were, you know, we would, we would work on team activities and say, okay, let's do, let's take this lesson and do this in a different way. And I didn't know at the time that , that there was a word for that innovation, you know, let's , let's, let's find new and exciting ways to do things differently and to just keep pushing the envelope. And , and one of the things that I've realized now later in my career is that's a , that's an advantage to students growing up in the United States that doesn't happen in a lot, other places in the world. I've lived, I've lived in India, I've lived in China. I've been to dozens of countries around the world. And a lot of countries, the education system is not as open to allowing students to do that in some countries it's memorization, it's, you know, read this book, it's take this test and, and they may score higher on, in , on test results. But , uh, in the United States, you really, you've got this , the freedom, the freedom of the country and the freedom, an education to ask questions, to do things differently. And I really think that's one of the advantages. I think the United States , um, has that advantage in the world in that we , we promote and , uh, uh, support innovation and keep people doing things differently. And that that's a huge advantage.

George Davison:

Uh , there's a, the way we talk about that around here is innovation flourishes in freedom. Absolutely. And I truly believe that it does. I mean, it's a , there's quite a few studies on that. In fact , uh , that talks about the more restrictive the situation, the less innovation you're going to get out of your people. So that's a very interesting point. You're bringing up and actually one that we study here , uh , that, and there is a reason why, I think some of my better friends are they're innovators, but they're also a bit of a rebel. They don't accept the status quo. They want to make something different. They want to make it better, or they'll blend certain arts that haven't been blended before, and they create a completely new thing, so to speak and that freedom to do that should never be taken for granted. It's truly something special that we do have here. Absolutely. So, all right. So let's, let's flash back again. You're going back to high school, Corey , and let's find one of your things that you may not , uh, want to talk about, but we need to talk about that our lives. Aren't perfect. I'm sure we had a failure too , along the way. Do you have any , uh, you know, benchmark , uh, things that you'd like to go back and redo, and would you share that with us?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Well, since you putting me on the spot, I'm going back, going back. I , I would generally say that when I, when I look back at , uh, at, at those events in my life that have, that have catapulted me forward and , and , and the temporary setbacks , um, it has been, this , the setbacks are what move you forward , um, when you're, when you're moving along and everything's going fine. Um, you don't, there's no acceleration into, into the next level. Um, right now I'm struggling to identify that , uh , that single, when you said go back to high school, I'm like, okay, there's, there's some things in high school. I don't want to go back to. Um, but in terms of my, my career and , and the , the , the path that led me to be in a nuclear engineer, and then the other interesting things that I've done along that path , um, there's, there's not one setback, but there's many, and there's, there's too many to maybe identify whether it was a , you know, a test or a , um, you know, a class that I had decided. Yeah, that's just not, that's just not for me, but, but throughout my career , um, I made it it's it's, it sounds like a stereotype to say, well, you know, the failures are what I learned the most from, but it is true. Um, that's, that's where, you know, throughout my career, that's where , um, things, things, things that changed, you know, brought me forward. So probably the, the biggest example, and it wasn't something I necessarily had any control over. But when I was , uh, graduating about to graduate from college with my nuclear engineering degree, I had worked as an intern at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. And I had my path set out. I was going to work on space, nuclear power, so exciting. I told everybody, you know , I'm going to be a space nuclear engineer at a national laboratory. And March of my senior year, before I was graduating, I got a call from my mentor, my advisor at the laboratory. And he said, you know, I just wanted to let you know, the , uh, that program has been canceled by the federal government. Oh , yes. They're going to shift in they're shifting the money that Congress has shifting the money to another program. So we're no longer going to be doing space nuclear. Um , and you're not going to be able to work on these space reactors that would go to, you know, in space. This is in the early 1990s. So I was pretty devastated. Well, what am I going to do? And they said, well, there's this, there's this thing called risk assessment. And there's these other things that you can do looking at nuclear waste. And that it was really, wasn't all that inspiring to me at the time. And so when I graduated, I had a job and that was, that was great. Most people would be happy with that, but , uh, but yeah, when I went to the lab, I was like, well, this is not what I, this is not what I expected. And so having that type of disappointment early on, where I thought I was going to be working on the , the coolest, most fun thing you could possibly be doing. Right. And so I spent a couple of years doing things that, frankly, weren't all that exciting. They were technical, there were challenging. Um, but then that led me to, to just to make the decision after a couple of years of the laboratory, I decided to go to Washington DC and to get involved in policymaking and to figure out what is it that happens in Washington, DC, around the funding of these activities. So, several years later, I ended up working for a couple of U.S. Senators, and I ended up writing the bills and the legislation and , uh , providing funding to, to the national laboratories.

George Davison:

That's fascinating that that's how you navigate it into that space. No pun intended. Sorry about that. But , uh , well done. So you just didn't take it lying down. You actually said, Hey, you know, funding means something in the career choice I made, let me go see if I can help guide it in the right direction. It gave me, it gave me,

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

I have a bigger perspective cause I had grown up , um , in a small town in New Mexico and went to college and then went back to New Mexico and then going to Washington, DC was, it was a totally different world, but it was, it was , uh, you know, continuing that theme of not getting comfortable and always like, you know, I, I know I can do this. I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm going to get there. And I eventually was able to get to that point where I was actually writing those, you know, those bills and , and supporting the funding that would come from Congress for the research that went on.

George Davison:

Well, I think we're all the, you know, the , the magic there is is he didn't just take it lying down. You actually got involved, saw, saw another challenge and that's funding down in Washington, DC . And if you couldn't go back and look at that moment , um, you know, it didn't make an impact on your early career and I can see why you did that. And that's, that's an important part of your character as a human being and young people as we develop ourselves, really, that's just a part of growing up. Really. I I've identified what I want to do. I can't achieve that right now. There's something stopping me from getting there. Well, maybe I should look at what's stopping me from getting there. And , uh, if I think about that, what can I do to go unwind that and create a better path for maybe other people like me who were coming after me? So now you've got new funding and I think we're gonna , so let's , let's , let's go in a slightly different direction because if you are a younger person and you're really trying to figure out your path, you know, we have stem and steam today, right? Science, technology, engineering, and math, or art in there for the a , but you know, how important is that from your perspective , um, in our school system today to create the innovators that are up tomorrow?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Well, George, I think it's really important to have the foundation in science and engineering. You can't, that's not something you can get later. That's not something if you grow up and you decide I'm not going to be a stem person. And then, and if you , if you're just saying in the arts and then you suddenly want to get into nuclear engineering, it's not something you can , you can do as easily as if you start out with a really strong engineering background. By again , at least in my experience, once you have that background, you can do just, you can do just about anything. And so, you know, in my opinion, I think, you know, having a strong, you know, math, science, stem background, regardless of what you're going to do, if it's going to be law, if it's going to be business , um, going into medical profession, having, having the, the broad background, the strong math and science skills are transferable to everything else that you're going to do. Um, and again, I just say, you know, starting early and pushing yourself as hard as you can. You know, when I, when I look back , uh, I didn't, it's easy to tell a story now and say, yeah, that's, that's how I progressed at the time. At no point when I was doing any of this, did I set out and say, oh, I'm going to do this. Then I'm going to go to Washington DC . Then I'm going to work for a Senator. Then I'm going to write are appropriations bills and support these programs and be able to point back and say, this was my path all along. I didn't know the path. I just went about doing it , uh, with the, with the trust and the faith that I had, the, I had the technical background. So there was, there was nothing there that was going to be too challenging for me. And so I just went out and did it. Um, but it really, when you tell these stories, it sounds like, wow, he really knew what he was doing. I didn't really have much of a clue what I was doing. I just, but I had the , the skill set , the stem background that allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do.

George Davison:

So that's an important , uh, touch on there because, you know, building your confidence and in believing that you could make a contribution there that doesn't happen overnight. So building those skill sets in a , in a high school environment of understanding, Hey, I can do, I can do math. I can do some math, right? It's a progressive , it's a progressive kind of , uh , of , uh , of a field , uh, you know, the challenging questions in physics or in engineering, they're pretty , uh , basic in the beginning. Uh , and then they , the field just grows and grows. It never ends. So you can continually challenge yourself. Um , and that's the reason why I believe, you know, stem and steam are such interesting , uh, you know, career choices in those fields that if kids do select that space, they're really, you know , opening themselves up to a world of curious , uh, curiousness that , uh, is, is fun to chase, you know, so yeah, I think stem and steam is critically important. Um, how about hands-on skills? You know, stem and steam are hands-on in a lot of ways. What did with your engineering background, physics background, how important was the physical act of doing these things important versus let's say reading and theorizing hands-on skills. Could you talk to

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Sure. Well, you know, in my career, most of my skills, you know, I talked about when I went to the national laboratory, I wanted to work on space nuclear, and I thought that was gonna be so exciting cause I knew something was going to go into space. Well, what I ended up doing was more, was more technical work. I did some work , uh , probabilistic risk assessment, which is a fancy way of saying that we, we looked at all the different things that could go wrong and quantified those, and then found ways to reduce the probabilities of something going wrong in, in nuclear energy, in , um, in waste management deal, because there are, there are risks and safety concerns with nuclear power. So while that wasn't the as exciting as space, I develop my technical skillset . And once you, once you've had the opportunity to take something you learned in college, turn it into a report, something that gets published, that somebody can use that gives you that , that extra set of confidence that, you know, Hey, I took my skills. I used in , I produced something technical. Now, after that point in my career, then when I went to Washington, DC, I started working more on , um, on the policy side of things I didn't do as many of those technical things, but I knew that I could. And , and because I had, I'd done it early on , um, it gave me the confidence to do other things. Now. I was never that person who was going to, you know, to do the major technical project all the way through, because that's, I, I didn't choose a path of being an engineer all the way through. I worked in policy. I worked in business, worked in these other areas, which gives me the mixed skillset of being the chief commercial officer of a national laboratory. But , uh, but not, you know, I would not call myself that , uh, the , the career, you know, research.

George Davison:

Understood. So that's, that's , uh, that's uh, so the side of , um, creating opportunity through understanding how to navigate, I don't know if I'm saying it the right way for the audience that we're speaking with right now, but it's not always easy to get things accomplished. So understanding theoretically , um, and being able to support your argument can lead to how to achieve getting funding. Let's say so that later on the mission that you're thinking that needs to be accomplished gets funded, the projects move forward, and we're able to see new innovation. Is that a fair way to say it?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

I think so. I think the way I'd look at it , George's you have all the different skill sets . You have those technical people who are going to specialize in a certain science or technology or engineering who are going to, who are going to carry that through. Then you have the people on the policy side that are going to fund or legislate the direction the country's going to go on. And that was something that I did. Um, but I couldn't have done that if I hadn't had that, the technical background. And then later on in my career, I worked in, in business and in business, working in a technical area, you have to have some of the, you have to have that foundational understanding of what's of what's happening to be able to do that. But again, that's the path I took, but without people that were the engineers who, who stayed in engineering or the scientists who stayed in the science, in the national labs, without all those pieces coming together, you wouldn't be able to achieve what , what we're able to achieve, especially at , at the Idaho National Laboratory.

George Davison:

So that is the spice of life, all these different people, all these different skillsets, and they're all inter interwoven in some way on these projects to make them come to the real world reality. Right. Yep . All right. So let's kind of turn the conversation a little if we could. Sure. And let's just talk in general about people, you know , it's , uh , do you believe anybody can be successful glory?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

I do. I do. I believe that anybody who's given that opportunity. Again, I , I talked about , uh , you know , in the United States, our , the way our system is set up, anybody has the opportunity to, to work through the system, to learn, to earn a scholarship, to go to college, or to do what, to do whatever they want to do or whatever they're capable of doing. Um, in other countries, that's not, that's not the case. Again, having lived in, lived in other countries, I appreciate more, you know, you hear it. You're like, well, you know, in this country, they don't have this freedom or this country doesn't have these opportunities, but now that I've actually seen it and experienced it, I appreciate it even more , um, that, you know, he said, you know, freedom breeds innovation without , uh, without freedom, there is no innovation.

George Davison:

Well said. All right . So what do you think the next big innovation is going to be in the nuclear industry? So,

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

George, I think the next big innovation in nuclear is happening today. We have entrepreneurs and investors looking at advanced nuclear technologies, smaller micro, micro reactors, small modular reactors using advanced technologies that are going to produce higher temperatures, higher safety, more, more cost-effective reactors reactors that can operate , uh , remotely and locations in Canada and Alaska, where we don't even have to have an operator on site. But what what's just as exciting about the reactor technologies themselves is what they're going to do. It's not just electricity and the electrification, by the way, electrification is something that really is exciting. As last week. I drove a Tesla in ludicrous mode for the very first time. And if you've never done that, you, you, you, you hit the gas and the car takes off. And a Tesla is faster than any sports car on the market today. Any gas powered sports car. So that's exciting from, from electricity, from electricity standpoint, but what we're doing in nuclear is now we're branching beyond electricity. We're using the heat. We're , we're able to store the heat, and now we get into other clean energy applications. We can, we can integrate, we call integrated energy systems where you have , uh , you have wind turbines, you have solar and, and all of these systems are working together to produce electricity and hydrogen, which is kind of a , it's a storage mechanism, but it's a, it's a, it's another clean energy , uh, objective of the U S department of energy. And right now there's the opportunity to see hydrogen expand into ways that that clean energy will, will be ubiquitous. We, we , we're not going to in the future, my kids are going to grow up and they're not going to have , uh , fossil fuels. They're not going to have , uh, the concerns that that we have today. So, so that I'm excited about, because we talk about climate change. We talk about cleaning up , um, energy and nuclear is going to play a key role of that in places that it never has before.

George Davison:

Well, that is exciting. And you've got me wanting to go jump in a Tesla right now and go into what's high, low, high , it's

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

A ludicrous mode. I said , it's like nothing I've ever experienced fastest I've ever gone, or the fastest I've ever accelerated .

George Davison:

All right. Well, it's fun to think about the future and how we can accelerate our way there. I was , uh, I was hoping you'd share another topic with us this morning. And , uh, let's just imagine for a minute that we had some of our policymakers and education, you know, sitting here at the table with us, if we could talk with these people today, and we could share with them our insights as to how to best prepare our youth for the world of the future , um, you know, what types of things should we recommend to them that the students should be learning today?

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Sure. Well, George, my recommendation, we were just talking about this , uh, this morning. It it's not actually directly STEM-related, but this is like , again, my, you know, my experience having lived in as an ex-pat for about a dozen years in different countries, and that is in all these other countries, people that you meet, they S they all speak English, no matter what country they're from, and they speak the native tongue of their country, but then some of them speak local languages as well. In the United States. We don't have those opportunities , um, as much because everybody speaks English. Um, my children are enrolled in a program that it's an immersion program, that these are starting to shoot up in different places in the country where they starting from kindergarten, the kids learn, they spend half of the day learning another language. My kids do Chinese. There's Spanish, there's dozens of programs, but there's only a couple hundred of these programs around the U S and in other countries, everybody does it. I think the biggest thing that we could do in education today in the United would be to implement these programs and have kids learn a second language all through so that they're fluent in at least one other language. That, that, in my opinion, is, is a disadvantage in the United States. We have so many advantages in that we have such strong stem programs. You have the freedom to pursue any of those opportunities, but when we go out and we expect everybody else to speak our language, it's, I think it's a , it's a disadvantage. If we, if we'd given, we'd given our kids the ability to, you know, not wait, I studied German in 10th grade, and I did it for three years and I could speak mildly and then , you know, get by. But some of the more difficult languages , um, you know, you , you, you have to learn those from from much younger age. So that, that would be my, my one recommendation to educators. These are the programs are not that difficult to , to start, but when a child learns another language there , their brain functions in different ways, they learn to look at things in a totally different way.

George Davison:

It's interesting because with your background and your travels around the world, you're seeing the value of being able to speak these different languages. And , uh , that's a good, that's a good, fine for this conversation today. And , um , hopefully we can, hopefully we have some of these policymakers listening in , uh, cause I I've studied Spanish from sixth grade on, but I would have liked to start a little earlier. It, it didn't really have a direct impact on my , um , on my career, but I did love to travel and to be able to speak with people when I was there. So , um, yeah, there's , uh , there are lots of different reasons why, and there's a social reason. And then there's the business reason which you've experienced in your career choice? Um, when I was in college, I was, I went in for international business and I wanted a minor in Spanish. So , um , from, you know, I can touch on that space with you. Yeah.

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

It's a huge, huge advantage in the world. The world is getting smaller. And I think for the , especially in the United States, other countries have this advantage and it's something that I think we should be doing.

George Davison:

Corey , I can't thank you enough for sharing your insights and your background. Uh , you know, the world that you came from with us today , um, you've helped our listeners and I'm sure they appreciate your time as much as I do.

Corey McDaniel, Idaho National Laboratory:

Thank you, George.

Conclusion:

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Speaker 4:

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