September 6, 2023
“If You Whittle A Piece Of Wood Too Much, You Don’t End Up With Very Much Left” Featuring Jeff Merrifield, Pillsbury Law
Today we were thrilled to welcome Jeff Merrifield, Partner and Head of Global Energy at Pillsbury Law, for an engaging nuclear-focused discussion. Jeff is a global thought leader on nuclear power with over three decades of experience in the energy industry. His current leadership roles in addition to Pillsbury include serving as Vice Chairman of the US Nuclear Industry Council and Chairman of the Advanced Nuclear Task Force, as well as serving on the Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee. Jeff is a former two-time presidential appointee to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and serves as the outside counsel for the Fusion Industry Association, along with additional industry related board positions. We were delighted to visit with Jeff and hear his important perspective on a wide range of nuclear-related topics.
In our discussion, Jeff shares insights about Pillsbury’s extensive experience in the nuclear sector and their expansion to include fusion and hydrogen practices, along with wind and solar. We discuss the pace of nuclear investment and activity, the significance of interest from industrial companies seeking their own low carbon power solutions, and the evolving landscape within all different levels of the government around nuclear technologies. Jeff highlighted the military’s interest in microreactors for portable power generation before turning to his experience as a Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the future of the nuclear regulatory picture, and nuclear supply chain challenges such as uranium enrichment capabilities. We also discuss corporate finance in nuclear startups, investor and financial institution interest in nuclear technologies, the nuclear fusion community and connectivity across nuclear technologies, the NRC’s recent decision to reduce the minimum evacuation zone surrounding nuclear facilities, Canada’s recent nuclear investments, and more. It was in reference to regulatory not going too far that Jeff commented you can whittle a piece of wood away to nothing if you aren’t careful. We ended with Jeff’s vision for the future landscape of nuclear energy in ten years. It was our pleasure to host Jeff and we greatly enjoyed the discussion.
Mike Bradley kicked us off by highlighting several recent commodity and energy equity events. From a commodities standpoint, he flagged that Brent price eclipsed $90/bbl. and that crude oil time spreads exceeded 1-year highs due to a strong “physical” crude oil market. He noted that crude oil prices have moved higher on news that Saudi was continuing its “price over volume” strategy and extending its 1mmbpd of production cuts through year-end and 2H’23 global crude oil S/D deficit greater than 2mmbpd. From an energy equity standpoint, he highlighted this week’s Barclays Energy & Power Conference and that investor sentiment seems to be constructive. He also noted that energy management teams seemed to be modestly more constructive with the 2024 commodity macro setup which could be the reason we’ve seen a handful of upstream, midstream and utility deals over the last 4-5 weeks. He wrapped by highlighting a leading offshore wind developer potentially having to take substantial impairments in its US wind portfolio because of uneconomic PPAs stemming from higher equipment inflation, lack of investment tax credit movement and higher than expected interest rates. Brett Rampal shared recent nuclear developments including news that Oklo has been selected to supply a microreactor at an Alaskan Air Force base and India’s recent achievement of bringing its first indigenously designed commercial reactor to full capacity.
We mentioned a number of nuclear companies and projects in today’s episode. If you are interested in learning more about some of these companies, Veriten’s COBT episode with Westinghouse is linked here as well as our Gener8 episodes with X-energy (linked here), Oklo (linked here), and Dr. Jeff Waksman with the US Department of Defense (linked here).
We want to thank Jeff for sharing his time and perspective with us today. His breadth of understanding made it easy for us to ask him almost anything. We look forward to continuing the all-so-important nuclear discussion. Thank you for your friendship and support!
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