Remarks from CyNam June 6, 2023
Founded in 2015 as a Meetup networking group, CyNam has become an essential player in the cyber technology industry and is now known for hosting events that boast hundreds of attendees. CyNam’s second headline event of 2023 explored the development of clean and green tech, the related security challenges, and how the cyber industry can play its part.
I was invited to speak on a panel at the conference called “Sustainable Cyber – How Cybersecurity Can Enable A Net-Zero Future”. Participants were asked to discuss the cyber industry’s important role in tackling climate change. With the rapid development of new technology and the need to bring solutions to market quickly, we must not overlook the importance of ensuring they are developed and operated securely. There is an important role for the cyber industry to play in this area.
Here are the three key takeaways from my speech:
1. 10, 440, 30+50
The key numbers when we think about the nuclear energy sector today are 10, 440 and 30 plus 50. Today, worldwide, the nuclear energy sector provides about 10% of the world’s energy needs with 440 different nuclear plants spread across 30 countries with 50 new plants being built. In the industrialized world, the numbers are considerably higher. In the UK, the nuclear energy industry provides between 20 and 30% of the country’s energy needs, but it accounts for more than 50% of the clean energy that’s being produced. Today in countries like France, it provides up to 90% of the country’s energy needs. Clearly, nuclear has a very important contribution to make.
2. Nuclear energy safety record is (almost) impeccable, but vulnerable.
In recent years, the safety record of the nuclear industry has become impeccable. As Bill Gates says, nuclear energy is safer than food, citing the fact that in the U.S. and the U.K., deaths from nuclear energy remain at zero and about 300 people every year are lost to food-related causes..
We cannot overlook the fact, however, that nuclear plants can be put at risk. Look no further than the Russian attack on the Kakhovka Dam.
Earlier in the invasion of the Ukraine, Russia seized a nuclear plant, and threatened a number of actions that would cause safety concerns. Also, in March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted three Russian intelligence offices who have been launching cyber attacks on energy companies around the world for more than a decade under the Dragonfly. Under the name “Crazy Bear,” this same group attacked, amongst others, a nuclear plant in Kansas.
3. As nuclear energy production becomes more digitalized and smaller in size, we must protect the plants from cyber attacks.
More and more of the control rooms of nuclear power plants are becoming digitalized and virtualized. Fortunately, there is some very exciting innovation that’s taking place in the nuclear world. Plants are becoming smaller and smaller. Today, we have small modular and nuclear reactors, which are completely safe and mobile.
In the U.S. my firm C5 has invested in a company called X Energy, which is producing the first small modular and nuclear reactor for Washington state. It’s important to note that Washington is the first state that has legislated the need for clean energy and total clean energy production.
Nuclear energy is also moving into space. NASA has contracted X Energy to build the first small modular nuclear reactor on the surface of the moon for its Artemis moon base. Protecting nuclear energy is becoming of critical importance.