SHINE Founder and CEO Greg Piefer Featured on ‘Titans of Nuclear’
“The way you think about this is not what I hear from most nuclear entrepreneurs.”
Those were the parting words from Bret Kugelmass, host of the podcast ‘Titans of Nuclear,’ at the end of his episode featuring SHINE Founder and CEO Greg Piefer.
“The way you think about building a business, and your phased approach, and the regulatory … everything is just so competent. And the product you’re working on is so important.”
For reference, the episode featuring Piefer was the 372nd episode of “Titans of Nuclear,” which features interviews with experts across technology, industry, economics, policy and more.
During a 75-minute chat, Piefer shared more about the state of nuclear today, fusion’s role now and moving forward, where SHINE and its technology fit into that picture, and a whole lot more!
You can listen or watch the entire episode here, or by finding Titans of Nuclear wherever you get your podcasts.
But if you want to jump ahead or dive into particular topics, here’s a breakdown of the show. Note that the timestamps correlate to the YouTube version of the episode.
Where It All Began
0:00-7:48 – “As a kid, I thought I could do anything. And then as I got older, I started to realize the world is a big place, and so it’s full of lots of really talented people.”
Learn more about what sparked Greg’s interest from his time as a “nerdy kid” in Brookfield, Wisconsin, to a class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison about going to space to retrieve resources from the moon.
Take a trip back in time to around 2010, when the National Nuclear Security Administration embarked on its mission to establish a domestic supply of Mo-99 without the use of highly enriched uranium, and learn more about how SHINE first started getting involved.
Stick around to the end of this section if you want to dive in and learn much more about those potential resources from the moon and Greg’s research project on fusion at UW.
12:11-17:15 – Greg dives more into what he was working on in his fusion graduate program, but also how that work led him to be discouraged, as well.
Learning All About Business
17:18-19:28 – “We ended up starting our own data recovery company just to provide people a better answer. … They’re one of the best data recovery companies in the world right now. Like, the FBI sends stuff to them.”
Greg talks more about where he picked up his education when it comes to starting a business, and then how he parlayed that into creating a fusion technology company focused on using the neutrons from fusion reactions.
Neutrons for Nondestructive Testing
20:39-24:00 – “Let’s say 1 to 2 percent of the blades might fail. And an engine’s got a lot of blades, right? So most engines would blow up if you didn’t have a way to inspect the (airplane’s) turbine blades.”
The first phase in SHINE’s four-phase plan to use fusion technology to make the world a safer, healthier, cleaner world is to use neutrons to inspect industrial components.
26:35-30:58 – Greg talks more about beam target fusion and Phoenix, the company that began commercializing our fusion technology, which merged with SHINE in 2021.
Navigating Regulatory and Licensing Matters
31:07-33:37 – The first part of the discussion about regulations, the NRC and licensing matters focuses mostly on SHINE’s Phase 1 technology and regulations at the state level.
52:32-1:01:50 – As SHINE began looking into building its large-scale medical isotope production facilities, Bret asks Greg what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission process was like, given the facilities’ first-of-a-kind nature.
Greg also gives an update on where things stand in terms of SHINE gaining its operating license from the NRC.
Using Fusion Technology to Produce Medical Isotopes
33:41-42:25 – “Taking stuff that was meant for nuclear bombs and turning it into medicine.”
Greg discusses why SHINE’s future production of molybdenum-99 provides a great plug-and-play option for current markets, and the differences between fission-based Mo-99 to that produced by neutron capture.
44:33-50:08 – More about SHINE’s production of Mo-99.
50:31-52:28 – Greg shares a story about how his first conversations when getting into Mo-99 production were with potential customers in order to make sure SHINE was delivering the product they want.
Fusion’s Future: Nuclear Medicine, Recycling Nuclear Waste and Fusion Energy
24:10-26:26 – “It is the way humans will produce energy someday. … Chemical energy serves us for the last million (years). Fusion will serve us for the next million.”
Greg and Brett enjoy some entertaining banter about how, when and if fusion will play a role in producing energy.
1:09:35-End – Greg talks about The Chrysalis, SHINE’s large-scale medical isotope production facility which will have the potential to produce up to 20 million doses of Mo-99 per year.
Then, he discusses how SHINE’s process to produce this nuclear medicine actually correlates closely to the process used to recycle nuclear waste.
And finally, Greg gives a take on the timeline for generating fusion power, which is SHINE’s long-term, Phase 4, audacious goal as we continue to scale our technology.
“I’m still keeping my dream alive of participating in fusion energy, while providing a sustainable company along the way. There are people trying really hard, spending lots of money on fusion R&D. But I think, even if the science pans out really, really positively, this is a decades problem in terms of the engineering. You’re going to need a company that doesn’t have to keep raising money for 20, 30 years; it can help support itself and create real value along the way. That’s what we’re trying to do.”