“Safe, cheap, clean energy is probably the most important thing an individual can do for the future of the world”


“I have studied a lot about what I think is sort of the best use of my time and money and what I think will help the world the most. And I really do believe that safe, cheap, clean energy is probably the most important thing an individual can do for the future of the world.” — SAM ALTMAN

If you listen to the Econtalk interview I think you will agree that Sam has done his homework. Not surprisingly I think his conclusions are indicators of an open, inquiring mind:

“There are two nuclear energy companies in this batch. I believe that–the 20th century was clearly the carbon century. And I believe the 22nd century is going to be the atomic power century. I’m very convinced of that. It’s just a question of how long it takes us.

Y Combinator is well-positioned to harvest the rewards of innovations that require a long development cycle and heaps of capital. Unlike the typical 10 year venture fund, YC makes a large number of small ($120k) bets, 700+ such bets since Paul Graham launched YC in 2005. New nuclear generation is obviously a very long-term bet.

Question: will the NRC license a new design that isn’t just a variation of existing PWR designs? How is it possible to innovate in this regulatory environment?

I think it will take way too long and too much capital to launch a new design based on NRC licensing. So Sam Altman’s new ventures will almost certainly have to move to a friendly-regulator nation for the initial licensing. Note: Sam is more optimistic  than I am about the NRC. That said, if I were talking my book publicly I would be carefully deferential to the NRC.

Update: I found one of the two YC S14 batch nuclear companies. It is Helion Energy who is building an SMR concept. But it is FUSION, not fission:

Helion is making a fusion engine 1,000 times smaller, over 500 times cheaper, and realizable 10 time faster than other projects.

Obi Wan: could this be the one that works? There’s a bit more at TechCrunch. Enjoy the Sam Altman interview – it’s not your everyday porridge.

Why is Econtalk interviewing all these Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and VCs? Since Russ Roberts in now full time at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, he has been spending more of his time at the vortex of the Silicon Valley innovation cluster. One of the benefits is that he is becoming progressively more involved-with and excited-about the innovation culture. So his Econtalk guests include a growing number of Silicon Valley insiders. In July Russ interviewed Sam Altman, CEO of the iconic accelerator Y Combinator (YC). Sam confessed in the interview that he doesn’t filter himself very well – meaning it was a refreshingly frank discussion.