Answers some of the most commonly asked questions about the Nucleation Capital venture fund.

General Questions

Nucleation Capital is a venture capital fund that invests primarily in early and mid-stage private ventures developing technologies in the areas of advanced nuclear and deep decarbonization.  Unlike most other climatetech funds, we are focused on less-known technologies that punch well above their weight in effectively reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We believe that these two broad sectors will see incredible growth as climate impacts worsen and the global pressure to decarbonize mounts.

Nucleation invests in early to mid-stage ventures operating primarily in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. (or in other regions but using English), which are developing technological innovations in the areas of clean energy generation and carbon management. We are focused on ventures working in fission, fusion, low energy or subcritical nuclear reactors and their supply chains. For carbon management, we invest in ventures that reduce, capture, utilize or synthesize emissions (CCUS), produce hydrogen or other synthetic hydrocarbons, or utilize clean energy for other critical industrial purposes along with ventures supplying materials, software or support services.  Lastly, we will invest in grid optimization, including smartgrid innovations, improved energy storage, energy transmission technologies, waste reprocessing and innovations related to these areas.

The focus on deploying renewables has come at the cost of increased dependence on natural gas as a means of maintaining grid reliability. This is because better options have not been available. Once advanced nuclear becomes commercially available and demonstrates its ability to provide the firm, reliable and clean power that complements renewable power, it will quickly supplant natural gas and coal. Advanced nuclear technologies will also be instrumental in decarbonizing industrial process heat, marine propulsion and other “hard-to-decarbonize” energy uses, including continued demand for liquid fuels, for which there are no other good solutions.

Yes, Nucleation Capital is an “evergreen” rolling fund and is able to accept subscriptions from new investors in each quarter. Accredited investors set their capital investment level and participate for as many quarters as they wish, and get a pro rata share of everything we invest in for the quarters of their subscription term.

Like traditional ventures funds, Nucleation Capital is only able to accept investments from accredited and qualified Investors. Unlike many traditional venture firms, however, most accredited investors can afford our low minimum and thus are able to participate in our fund to gain investment exposure to venture capital focused on these key sectors of climate innovation.

Traditional cleantech has an abundance of venture capital firms competing for the most attractive solar, wind and battery deals. Thus, investors have plenty of choices through which to participate in those types of ventures. In contrast, the advanced nuclear and carbon management sectors have few venture firms willing or able to invest, despite a growing number of increasingly attractive investment opportunities. Nucleation Capital brings both expertise and focus to this much smaller practice area and aims to leverage our unique focus to increase both our deal access and fund returns.

Renewables have long been in vogue with state environmental advocates and have garnered preferential energy policies and favorable tax treatment. These have improved the investment prospects for renewables, however they have not changed their underlying physics—which is their dependence on the weather. In contrast, nuclear energy, seen as the black sheep of clean energy, has been excluded from state clean energy policy and tax benefits. Fortunately, a growing number of states and the Biden Administration are starting to support advanced nuclear as a critical climate solution, so there is growing interest in the investment opportunities provided by these technologies.

Absolutely.  An “impact” investment is one made with the intention of generating a positive measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Our investment focus directly addresses solutions to 14 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with a primary focus on affordable and clean energy (#7), sustainable cities and communities (#11), and climate action (#13). Helping to decrease demand for fossil fuels, further helps provide clean air which produces good health and well-being (#3), reduces the need to sacrifice our open spaces, improving life on land (#15), creates jobs with decent work and economic growth (#8), healthier life below water through reduced acidification of the oceans (#14) and, via education and outreach, greater partnerships for the goals (#17) of ending emissions while providing abundant energy and restoring the health of our climate.

Nucleation Capital is a majority woman-led climate fund, with a focus on addressing the “E” component of “ESG,” namely by investing in clean energy and emissions reduction. As such, we are tackling some of the most critical and urgent aspects of any ESG mandate: the climate crisis. Furthermore, we evaluate ventures on how well they integrate social and governance metrics into their processes and performance plans, as we recognize that for next-generation nuclear to be broadly embraced by the communities it serves, companies will need to operate at the highest levels of customer accountability, social equity, environmental justice and community transparency.

No, we are targeting standard venture capital returns or better. Climate change poses an existential risk to humanity and, at the same time, this crisis also presents an enormous market opportunity for companies that can commercialize scalable, cost-effective technological solutions. The world is increasingly motivated to solve this problem and there is now just a limited window to act. These factors work in favor of nuclear power, which has a proven value proposition. The Biden Administration’s  “whole of technology” approach must be taken if we are to meet our carbon reduction goals.

Traditional venture capital firms do need to avoid any suggestion of making a “public offering” if they don’t want to do a full registration statement. Fortunately, we are able to operate under a less restrictive exemption that allows us to make public-facing statements, in large part due to the requirement that all of our investors be accredited through our platform.

While we may not be able to disclose our planned investments prior to closing them, we will be reporting on our investment activities to our subscribers after the end of the quarter. Our quarterly updates will provide non-confidential information about the investments we have made. While we cannot violate any confidentiality provisions that we have agreed to with our portfolio investments, we will report as much as possible on our investment activity and the performance updates of the companies within our portfolio.

Nucleation Capital charges the standard venture capital fee of “2+20.” This is shorthand for a 2% management fee paid to the GP for managing the fund as well as the incentive fee of 20% carry. “Carry” is short for “carried Interest,” the right of the General Partner (us) to share in the upside profits earned by the Limited Partner (you) on your investment.  You have the right to receive the full return of your subscribed capital upon the distribution of investment proceeds following a liquidity event. You get 100% of your paid-in principal for the term of your subscription repaid first (i.e. all 4 quarters of paid-in capital are repaid if the subscription term was for 4 quarters, or 8 quarters if the term was an 8 quarter subscription). Once all your paid-in capital is returned, then any additional proceeds returned from investments in excess of that amount are deemed profit on the investment, and you receive 80% of that profit and we receive 20% as our carried interest. 

No. With the rolling fund structure, subscribers only pay the amount of their subscription, so there are no further capital calls for fees or fund expenses, which are typically charged to LPs by traditional venture capital funds.  This means that the LP’s only requirement is to fund their quarterly subscription amount.  

AngelList charges a fee of fifteen basis points (0.15%) for our use of their platform. While most all other rolling funds charge that fee to their LPs in addition to the management fee, Nucleation Capital is paying that fee itself and has directed AngelList to deduct its fee from our 2% management fee, resulting in a net management fee to us of 1.85% (rather than 2.00%).

Limited partners do not have the right to participate in making any management decisions about the fund but also none of the responsibility. This preserves both the LPs limited liability as a partner coupled with the right to receive highly favorable partnership tax status for their invested capital. This is why that structure is favored by professional LPs and GPs, whether investing via a traditional fund or a rolling fund.

Venture funds are classified as partnerships for US federal income tax purposes. Investors are Limited Partners (LPs), and treated as a partner of the fund. Partnerships are not subject to US federal income tax at the entity level. Rather, each partner is required to take their share of any taxable event, whether income, gain, loss or deduction in the taxable year of the partnership. A partner must report on these distributed gains or losses, even if the partnership has not distributed cash or property directly to the partner.  In certain instances where an investment has realized a taxable gain in value but has not made a distribution of proceeds, partners may be liable for federal or state income taxes on that income, even though they have received no distributions from the fund. Although this is a sought-after result, each partner should have alternative sources of capital from which to pay their income tax liability.

Ten years is the standard term for a venture capital fund and this is used because it typically takes many years for a young venture to build up its operations and revenues and substantially increase its value.  In the event that there is a sooner liquidity event from the IPO or sale of a venture that we’ve invested in, we will distribute those proceeds, sometimes in cash but usually in equity, back to the LPs as soon as feasible (given lock-up provisions and other sale restrictions). If there is a recognized loss, that will also be “distributed” via K1 tax forms as soon as feasible.  At the end of the term, the disposition of invested assets which have not had a liquidity event or gone bust but are rather still building value will be evaluated and discussed by the GPs in consultation with the LPs. Typically the fund term can be extended by a year or two or alternatively those securities can be traded on a secondaries market, should the LPs require liquidity.

We understand that there are events that may force you to have to end your subscription early. If so, please contact us. Remember, if you are unsure of how long you’ll be able to  participate, you can select a quarter-by-quarter subscription, which has the virtue of automatically rolling over each quarter unless cancelled, where non-payment of the quarterly amount constitutes cancellation.

About Rolling Funds

Rolling funds are a new structure for a venture capital fund which makes participation more affordable to the average accredited investor. By leveraging a sophisticated technology platform, a rolling fund brings down the costs of investor participation. Through the quarterly subscription model, the rolling fund permits investors to pay out their capital in regular installments over time, improving the “cash management” profile for investors. As such, rolling funds expand access to venture for more accredited investors, democratizing what was previously a very exclusive asset class. This access was made possible by changes in the law established by the  “Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act” of 2012.  AngelList was founded in 2013 and introduced their rolling fund in early 2020. The introduction was overshadowed by the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, so AngelList re-introduced the product in mid-2020.

Rolling Funds utilize unique technology that faciliates a novel legal structure in which the fund is comprised of a series of consecutively-formed quarterly funds. This allows the fund manager to offer investors participation through a subscription to match the investor’s participation preferences. Unlike investing in a traditional venture fund, a Rolling Fund provides:

  1. An online portal to access information, subscribe, receive reports and track performance, as well as engage with a larger community of investors.
  2. Capital paid out with small, regular quarterly capital payments through online banking, simplifying funding. This contrasts with a one-time capital commitment, paid out through a series of unpredictable capital calls for traditional funds.
  3. Flexible subscription terms which allows a wide range of investors to participate at different funding levels and over different time periods and receive a pro rata of just those quarters that they participate in.
  4. Substantially lower minimums enable nearly all accredited investors to be able to afford to participate at some level,  rather than just the top 10 to 15% of accredited investors.
  5. An “evergreen” structure allowing the fund to continuously invest and raise capital over time, without needing to close the fund to futher investors or capital. 
  6. Automation of the bulk of fund administrative tasks, freeing fund managers to focus on finding great companies, investing, communicating with investors and supporting portfolio ventures, while reducing costs.
  7. Simplified closings and fee structures, which virtually eliminate the need for legal support or fees, makes launching such funds far more economical for fund managers, allowing a more diversified set of fund managers to create fund offerings.
  8. Online accreditation of all subscribers, ensures that the fund qualifies for the rule 506(c) exemption to fund registration, enabling the fund to conduct public outreach and leverage assets like social media followings and online networks.
  9. Based on all of these features, the majority of investors for rolling funds are individuals interested in angel investing and family offices, rather than institutional LPs like pension funds or foundations. The overall size of rolling funds tends therefore to be much smaller than traditional funds.

Subscribing to a Rolling Venture Fund is a simple process done directly through the AngelList platform. The investor receives the fund subscription link, reviews and approves the fund’s terms and legal documents and selects their subscription level. They submit proof of accreditation to AngelList then apply to subscribe. The fund manager receives a notice and reviews and approves the application. Once approved, the investor proceeds with lining up their funding. It’s very simple and the whole process can take as little as 10 minutes.

Subscriptions are funded directly through the AngelList platform and may be made either through wire transfers or via ACH transfers that are set up through the investor’s bank. The GP (i.e. Nucleation Capital) does not ever directly handle the funds.  Funds are held at the investor’s own funding account within AngelList until the time that their investment is officially closed.

Those who are new to AngelList need to go through AngelList’s fraud prevention process called “Know Your Customer” (KYC). U.S. investors need to provide identification information (Legal Name, Address, Social Security Number), and AngelList will verify the identity. Non-US investors also need valid identity documentation from their country of residence. Investors also need to submit proof of investor accreditation. This may involve submitting account statements, tax returns or obtaining a certification from an investment advisor.

There is no cost to register as an investor on the AngelList platform, be accredited or access investment information about available funds or syndicates. Those who choose to go ahead and participate in the Nucleation Capital rolling fund will pay fees to compensate us as the fund managers, doing the work to line up deals and manage those investments. Our management fee includes the fees charged by AngelList for our use of the AngelList platform. 

Yes, they can. There is tremendous flexibility built into this plattform, allowing investors to select the number of quarters and the amount they want to invest. LPs may cancel, increase or decrease their subscription at any time. Investor subscriptions are automatically renewing, unless cancelled.

Subscribing LPs get exposure to all deals in the quarters they’re subscribed to. For example, if an LP joins the fund in Q3-21 and remains subscribed for the next three quarters, they would get exposure to the investments made in Q3 and Q4 of 2021 plus Q1 and Q2 of 2022 but not to Q3 or Q4 of 2022.

You will receive annual tax documents for any investments that have a taxable event within a given tax year. Tax returns and K-1’s are only required to be filed with the IRS if there is taxable income or loss to report.  If none of the investments that were made during the period you subscribed generated taxable income or loss, no K-1 will be required.

Nearly all venture funds operate with a ten-year term. The reason for the long term is that the capital that is invested is put to work in private ventures that are illiquid investments which will not return that capital until there is a “liquidity event,” such as an acquisition, an IPO, a merger or an agreement to deploy  a SPAC. It can take many years for even the most succesful private ventures to achieve “liquidity.” Of course, not all investments take that long to mature, so there is the prospect of getting funds distributed to investors much earlier, should a venture experience a liquidity event sooner. Nevertheless, investors in venture funds need to use what is called “patient” capital, namely funds that they will not returned on a particular schedule, so they can allow their investments to mature in due course. 

About Syndications

An investment syndicate is a group of accredited angel investors who come together to invest in a particular venture opportunity that is made available by a lead investor with access to particular deal flow, in this case Nucleation Capital. The syndicate is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that pools the capital provided by the group of accredited investors who each invest smaller amounts into a single investing entity. The SPV simplifies closing a larger number of smaller investors into a private equity deal and  keeps costs down for each individual investor.

From time to time, Nucleation Capital will select deal opportunities and write up a description summarizing information about the venture and the investment opportunity. We will offer these opportunities to those who have subscribed to our venture fund or joined our investor network. Anyone receiving the invitation to participate can read the description provided and decide if they’d like to participate.  There is never an obligation to invest. In exchange for creating deal flow and the syndication opportunity, Nucleation Capital earns the right to share a small percentage of future return (the carried interest) on future returns, typically between 10 and 20%.

Rolling fund subscribers elect to participate at a set level of capital per quarter for a set number of quarters, for which they get a pro rata  interest in all of the direct deals that Nucleation Capital makes over the subscription period. Nucleation Capital performs due diligence and makes the investment decisions and provides reports on its investment activity to each investor. In contrast, syndicate investors do not commit capital in advance but are given the opportunity to review select deals and decide if they wish to participate, on a deal by deal basis. In this way, they make their own investment decisions about which opportunities they are interested in and how much to invest each time. Not all of the ventures that the fund may choose to invest in provide allocations to be syndicated.  Additionally, Nucleation Capital offers syndication opportunities to subscribers first and thereafter to syndicate members who are not subscribers.

Nucleation Capital invests rolling fund capital in the best deals it finds first. From time to time, some of these deals will have additional allocations of equity that they are seeking to issue. Nucleation Capital will always be an investor in each syndicated deal but, where the venture has additional fundraising capacity, Nucleation may opt to syndicate such opportunities to its network. Syndication offers will go first to existing fund subscribers, then to those who have joined the syndicate and lastly to general members of its investor network, if sufficient allocation is available.

“Carry” is short for carried interest which is a share of the deal’s profits. Carry for most syndicated deals is 20%. Carry is paid to the deal originator when the deal is successsful as upside reward for its selection of good ventures, negotiating deal terms, performing due diligence, writing the deal memo, and taking the risk to form the SPV.

No. Both rolling fund subscribers and syndicate participants remain confidential and are not disclosed by Nucleation Capital. Cap tables in both cases only list Nucleation Capital. AngelList lists members of a syndicate who have participated in at least one investment on our syndicate page within the private AngelList community. Some investors may also choose to list their participation in the rolling fund or their syndicates as part of their AngelList bios. 

Syndications have been around a long time but technology has only recently made it really affordable. This means that it’s not just the top 10% of high net worth individuals who can afford to invest in these kinds of deals. Syndicated deals are quite well known to those who work in banking, finance, venture capital, hedge funds, or who have been entreprenurs fairly recently. For those who have worked in more traditional industries, government service or lab research, private equity and venture investing is less well-known. Nucleation Capital is seeking to build a network that broadens access to the remaining 90% of qualified investors.

Yes, you may participate as a foreign investor (excluding those coming from Russia, China, or Korea) however, you need to be able to meet the US SEC accreditation requirements through the submission of evidence of income or assets, whether you are a US citizen or a foreign national.

You can expect to see one or two syndicated deals per quarter initially. As the amount of capital the venture fund has to deploy grows, this deal flow is likely to grow as well.

About Nuclear Energy

In some sense, all of our energy comes from the Big Bang, which created stars and planets. Mankind has been fortunate that we’ve been gifted with special minerals with the ability to fission. A  single fission event has been found to produce 200,000,000 electron volts of energy carbon free versus 2 electron volts produced by the burning of a single hydrocarbon molecule, that merely breaks a chemical bond and results in the release of a molecule of CO2.  We hope this graphic helps explain the origins of energy (click to enlarge).

There are many expert professional groups and organizations that have devoted enormous resources to helping the public understand nuclear accurately. We shall list some of the best resources that we have found below:

  1. The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy is responsible for managing nuclear energy in the U.S. and overseeing nuclear research conducted in the national labs as well as providing DOE grants through a range of programs. The department’s website represents the scope of their work and numerous initiatives and is designed for use by professionals more than the general public. There are, however, a number of consumer-oriented infographics, such as Five Fast Facts about Nuclear Energy, which are accessible through their Information Resources area. The Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, has been doing a lot of videos discussing nuclear energy. We highly recommend that people search for Secretary Granholm’s Youtube videos and follow her on Twitter, to get up-to-date info on what the DOE is doing regarding nuclear energy.
  2. The Idaho National Lab is at the forefront of work being done to bring nuclear energy in to the 21st century. The INL is leading the nation’s research in advanced nuclear energy technology and work to develop technology and support American innovators working to design advanced reactors that can replace fossil fuels with carbon-free energy and materials that lower carbon emissions for every energy source. They have their own Nuclear Energy FAQ page, which has great information for those seeking reliable answers to key questions about nuclear safety, reliability, operation and more.
  3. General Electric (GE) has been “at the forefront of innovation in nuclear power generation since the mid-1950s,” and they have experienced both the ups and the downs of the industry. They are a leading public company that is currently working on Advanced Nuclear and they have produced a very informative, nine-page position paper entitled “Nuclear Energy: A critical pillar of a carbon-free future,” which touts their views on the role that nuclear should play in the transition to a carbon-free future.
  4. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), an organization funded predominantly by large U.S. utilities, provides a range of resources on its website that enable you to look at nuclear fact sheets, nuclear statistics, performance data, such as the amount of nuclear generation in each state, and much more. (Note: because virtually all utilities also own fossil fuel and renewable energy assets, many nuclear advocates believe that NEI does not provide sufficient advocacy for nuclear power.)
  5. The International Energy Agency (IEA), headed up by Dr. Fatih Birol, monitors international energy activity and works to ensure energy security, tracks clean energy transitions, collects energy performance data and  provides education and training around the world. They monitor and report on all types of fuels used internationally, including nuclear energy.

We choose to invest in the innovations happening in nuclear because we see how amazing these innovative ideas are and how incredibly critical the need for firm clean energy is in the context of a rapid transition to a zero-emission economy. While there are many investors scouring the renewables area for too few exciting opportunities, there are too few investors able to identify what’s exciting in next-gen nuclear. Historically and increasingly with new technologies, nuclear bests fossil fuels on every metric that matters to humanity—low carbon/zero emissions, firm reliable energy, zero toxic air pollutants, low ecologic footprint, weather resilience, high fuel security, walk-away safety performance, quality job creation, scalable and manufactured designs that reduce construction risk and finance costs, flexible sizing and energy output options that can meet a broader array of energy needs. Providing abundant clean energy that does not pollute the environment but works together with renewables to help eliminate the need for fossil fuels while increasing energy access for all people of the world, is a compelling value proposition.

This is the quintessential question for those seeking to solve climate. Vinod Khosla, the famed venture capitalist, explained the rationale for why we need to make this investment when he wrote the following in a blog post entitled “Black Swan thesis of Energy transformation:”

“The looming twin challenges of climate change and energy production are too big to be tackled by known solutions and time-­honored traditions. Incremental remedies are fine for incremental problems, but they are insufficient for monumental, potentially life-­altering threats, which need to be approached with a disruptive mindset. There are 5 billion people coveting the energy-rich lifestyles currently enjoyed by 500 million people, mostly in the developed world. Incremental technology progress will not satisfy this craving. We need non-linear jumps in technologies – technological Black Swans!  We can invent these future technologies.”

Here is another, more animated answer to the question of “Do we need nuclear?”

“Advanced nuclear” encompasses a very wide range of designs for ways to generate heat for electricity and includes: 1) Fission, which involves the splitting of large, fissile atoms; 2) Fusion, which involves fusing small atoms together under high pressure to generate heat; and 3) a still-indetermined type of nuclear reaction which involves a low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR). All advanced designs are working to get away from the “traditional” design, called the Light Water Reactor, which was just one of more than 50 initial designs that were proposed in the early days of nuclear energy. The light water reactor was a particular design optimized for use in nuclear submarines—which requires massive water cooling and high pressure—and it became the de facto standard when the Navy began to order the production of them and the NRC learned how to regulate them. This is the reason that all nuclear plants built to date have been sited near large bodies of water and require complex back-up systems, in case the primary water cooling system fails. Advanced nuclear gets away from needing extensive safety systems and allows the reactor to cool through natural physics, that work even with a complete loss of power and which simplifies the design and reduces the costs.

Rather than standardize around one design and size, many people expect that there will be a number of commercial designs that energy buyers will be able to select from. These designs will come initially from fission developers, and have a variety of styles, sizes, cooling configurations and fuel types.  However all of them are looking to use modular designs and as much mass production as possible to help speed construction, reduce costs and enable users to start small but increase generation capacity as needed.  This will help buyers in differing geographies and with different energy demand profiles to select the type of unit that works best for them.  Some of these designs will be well-suited to extracting unused energy from spent nuclear fuel—which is widely called “nuclear waste” but from which only about 5% of the inherent energy has been used. This will reduce our stockpiles of this material, our costs of maintaining it and reduce the need to extract new minerals for use as fuel.

While nuclear innovation has been on the rebound for more than a decade, news from developers rarely gets covered by the mass media, so you may have to subscribe to an industry newsletter (ANS Nuclear SmartBrief, World Nuclear News, NuclearNewswire, etc.) in order to stay abreast of what is going on.  Additionally, there appears something of a taboo among those who have been in the environmental movement a long time (which essentially covers most of the leaders of large environmental groups), to never discuss positive developments for nuclear power, as this would be detrimental to their fundraising. 

There’s a lot of work being done around the world to try to commercialize advanced nuclear designs. While there’s nothing stopping this development process, there is a lot that slows it down: mostly access to capital; access to a limited number of specialized test facilities; and the still nascent capabilities of nuclear regulators to grapple with the specific safety features of new designs. Together, these factors make nuclear development a slower process but access to sufficient capital would help expedite the process considerably for most all ventures. 

Advanced nuclear designs are now on track for demonstration units to be built mid-decade and sales commitments to begin being received by developers soon after, with commercial builds coming online in early 2030s.  While it would be better if these designs were available now, by then, the demand will be even stronger, as the dire consequences of climate change will be impacting everyone and the urgency to end all fossil fuel extraction and use will be at its height.

Nuclear waste is functionally a non-issue, given that it is safely stored and impacts no one. No one has been hurt by nuclear’s waste, yet fossil fuels’ waste—carbon emissions—are heating our climate and causing massive amounts of death and destruction. That’s a really big waste issue but those who oppose nuclear power have successfully made the “management” of nuclear waste appear to be a huge issue by politicizing it. There may be political disagreements but there are no unsolved technological issues involved.  We know how to store these metallic rods safely and have been doing it without any problem for more than sixty years. We also know that the inherent energy remaining in the spent fuel rods is a valuable energy source that could be extracted and used as energy. Some of the advanced nuclear designs coming out will be able to use nuclear waste. Others will extract valuable isotopes during their regular operations and use them to supply medical and industrial needs. Future nuclear waste streams should be a very small fraction of what we currently collect for more permanent, long-term storage using well-proven stable geologic storage sytems.

Of course, but that is the same for any new technology. No one has ever said that the high cost of the first prototyped iPhone means that there won’t be a market for the product.  All technologies see declining costs as production increases. Advanced nuclear, because of its smaller sizes, will be able to travel down the cost curve much more quickly than the prior generation of power plants, each of which were distinctly different builds and were not designed for pre-fabrication or mass-production.  Eventually, advanced nuclear power will be one of the lost-cost energy sources known to man but, in the interim, recent studies have shown that, even if nuclear power costs more initially, the existence of firm clean power on any grid will make the total cost of decarbonization of that grid cheaper.

We have about 10,000 years of nuclear fuel  available from known Uranium resources. Experts have estimated that there is as much as 1,000 years of energy locked up in the unused fuel that remains in existing spent fuel rods. Decommissioning all nuclear weapons can supply perhaps several hundred years worth of power. Then there is Thorium, an even more abundant mineral resource that has been found in the earth on every continent, which can augment Uranium fuel supplies. The hydrogen resources needed to supply future fusion technologies is even more abundant and won’t require Uranium at all.

Fusion researchers are clearly making progress and are increasingly transitioning from research groups to development groups. This has raised expectations and leads many to believe that such efforts will lead to the successful production of “net energy” from fusion within the decade (more energy out than in). If that is the case, then that starts the clock on the next phase, which is working to design a system that can reliably produce usable electricity cost-effectively. Depending upon how “net energy” was achieved, that may be a relatively quick process. However, once that has been achieved, then these teams still need to design beta commercial implementations, test them and get manufacturing, testing and operator training systems designed and and built, which are themselves multi-year processes. Given very optimistic outlooks, we can hope fusion designs become reality within the next two to three decades and can begin to replace the aged power plants being built now that will be ready to retire then.

LENR is an exciting and yet still rather mysterious area of energy exploration that has eluded precise scientific definition. Once this area of science was called “cold fusion” and ran into problems with wildly unsupported claims that left the area discredited. Now, three decades along, scientisare still unable to definitely explain or dismiss a phenomena where, through a special mix of reactants and metals, a sudden burst of energy is triggered that has blown holes in lab benches and floors.  Yet, there are more than 100 organizations engaged in this research and some $250 million has been raised to develop LENR technologies for a range of power applications. 

There are dozens if not hundreds of initiatives that endeavor to help people learn the truth about nuclear energy.  Unfortunately, there are likely as many sites trying to spread inaccurate information to keep people feeling afraid of nuclear, when the reality of nuclear is that it is a life and environment-enhancing technology.  Reliable sources include:

About Deep Decarbonization

Deep decarbonization is a term that covers and a whole range of existing an new approaches, methods and technologies for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmopshere and doing something else with the molecule or, specifically, the carbon part of that molecule.  We have not yet successfully stopped emitting new amounts of CO2, so there is still an upward trajectory of the levels of CO2. Deep decarbonization contemplates using “negative emissions” technologies to capture, utilize or sequester CO2 after it has been released into the atmosphere and oceans, as another critical mechanism to try to prevent the worst climate impacts from happening.

Because of humanity’s habit of burning fossil fuels for energy—which releases carbon dioxide as its waste product—the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising faster than any other time in the past 66 million years.  Today, and has reached levels not seen in at least the past 800,000 years, which is causing our atmosphere to heat up very quickly. While the challenge of making a wholesale shift away from burning the types of fossil fuels that release CO2 continues to elude us, there are things that we can do to try to mitigate the damage being done by removing increasing amounts of free CO2 so that it cannot function as a heating mechanism in the atmsophere.

This is from Climate.gov’s  “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” page:

“Based on preliminary analysis, the global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2020 was 412.5 parts per million (ppm for short), setting a new record high amount despite the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the jump of 2.6 ppm over 2019 levels was the fifth-highest annual increase in NOAA’s 63-year record. Since 2000, the global atmospheric carbon dioxide amount has grown by 43.5 ppm, an increase of 12 percent.”

“CDR” stands for Carbon Dioxide Removal and contemplates one or more methods for capturing CO2 and rendering it harmless to our atmopshere. “DAC” is Direct Air Capture and involves capturing the CO2 from the air as one method for achieving CDR.

“Net Zero” is an approach to dealing with carbon emissions that recognizes that while we are working to shift to clean sources of energy, we will be continuing to emit CO2. So we need to use CDR methods to draw down the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as fast or faster than human activity is forcing it up.

Here is a chart listing the most common and most promising negative emissions technologies:

The following is a depiction of the various industrial and commercial uses for CO2 or C, converted from CO2:

2021 saw a lot of activity in the carbon capture and removal space. We shall list some of the resources that can give you a better sense of where things are:

  1. NORI Has published a 2021 Carbon Removal Recap podcast.
  2. Jason Hochman posted a Month-by-Month breakdown of the key CCUS news of the year via Twitter.
  3. Microsoft shared lessons learned and insights on purchasing carbon removal credits through the publication of a white paper.
  4. Mother Jones published an essay looking critically at the hype surrounding carbon removal by Clive Thompson entitled “Is Sucking Carbon out of the Airt the Solution to Our Climate Crisis? Or just another Big Oil boondoggle?
  5. ClimateWorks published a report on how to decarbonize concrete, the world’s most used building material.