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Prof. Robert Armstrong

Director, MIT Energy Initiative

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Opening remarks

8:10-8:20, August 13

Robert C. Armstrong is MITEI’s director and the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering. A member of the MIT faculty since 1973, Armstrong served as head of the Department of Chemical Engineering from 1996 to 2007 and has directed MITEI since 2013, after serving as the organization’s deputy director from 2007-2013 with founding director Ernest Moniz. His research is focused on pathways to a low-carbon energy future.

Armstrong has been elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2020) and the National Academy of Engineering (2008). He received the 2006 Bingham Medal from the Society of Rheology, which is devoted to the study of the science of deformation and flow of matter, and the Warren K. Lewis Award and the Professional Progress Award in 1992, both from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Armstrong was a member of MIT’s Future of Natural Gas and Future of Solar Energy study groups. He advised the teams that developed MITEI’s most recent reports, The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World (2018) and Insights into Future Mobility (2019), and is co-chairing the new MITEI study, The Future of Storage. He co-edited Game Changers: Energy on the Move with former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

Dr. Ian Scott


Moltex Energy

Stable Salt Reactors - a new platform technology in nuclear fission

8:20-9:10, August 13

Stable Salt Reactors (SSR’s) are a new platform technology in nuclear fission. They are based on the globally patented breakthrough in understanding that nuclear reactors could gain all the enormous intrinsic safety and cost benefits of using molten salt fuel by simply putting that molten fuel into essentially conventional fixed fuel assemblies. This eliminates at a stroke the new hazards, and hence costs, of having to pump that intensely radioactive fuel around a chemical engineering plant that would be extraordinarily challenging to maintain and which would require a certainty of not leaking never achieved before in such a plant.

The first reactor to be developed within this platform is the SSR-W where the W stands for wasteburner. It is a fast spectrum reactor fueled with a mixture of higher actinides extracted from spent conventional nuclear fuel. Very low purity of those higher actinides is acceptable in the SSR-W fuel, indeed it is preferred for non-proliferation reasons. As a result, a radically simpler process for extracting those actinides from spent fuel can be used. This process (WATTS, Waste To Stable Salts) has been patented and is now under development in Canada in conjunction with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.

The “First of a Kind” SSR-W, a 300MWe single unit, is being developed in conjunction with New Brunswick Power in Canada with the intention of deployment at the Point Lepreau reactor site before the end of the decade. Canada would then become the center of the global export market for this reactor. The design is part way through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review. This early regulatory engagement has been of great value in identifying and, to the extent possible, eliminating design factors that might slow the licensing of the reactor. New details of the design following this regulatory engagement will be shared during this talk.

About Speaker: Ian went to Cambridge University to study nuclear physics, but was seduced during his first year by the excitement of the fast moving biological sciences and made his first career in that field. He became one of the four Chief Scientists in Unilever’s international organisation, leading the global bioscience program before leaving to found an entrepreneurial drug discovery company.

In 2012 he became bemused by how nuclear energy had gone from being "too cheap to meter" to too expensive to afford and determined to try to remedy that flaw which was preventing nuclear energy making any meaningful contribution to fighting the climate change crisis. The result was his invention of the Stable Salt Reactor and the creation of Moltex Energy.

Prof. Yi Cui

Stanford University

Nanoscale Design for High Energy Batteries

9:10-10:00, August 13

The demand from portable electronics and electric vehicles call for high energy batteries beyond the current lithium ion batteries. Here I will present our recent progress on materials and interfacial design to enable much high energy density batteries, which include 1) High capacity Si anodes with success in commercialization; 2) Li metal anodes: host and interface design to over the lithium metal dendrite formation and interfacial instability; 4) Sulfur as an earth abundant material for high capacity cathodes; 4) Our pioneering development of cryogenic electron microscopy for understanding the battery materials and solid-electrolyte interphase down to atomic scale resolution.

About Speaker: Yi Cui is a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He received B.S. in Chemistry in 1998 at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), Ph.D in 2002 at Harvard University. After that, he went on to work as a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at University of California, Berkeley. In 2005 he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University. In 2010 he was promoted with tenure. He has published ~480 research papers and has an H-index of 199 (Google). In 2014, he was ranked NO.1 in Materials Science by Thomson Reuters as “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”. He is a Fellow of Materials Research Society, Electrochemical Society and Royal Society of Chemistry. He is an Associate Editor of Nano Letters. He is a Co-Director of the Bay Area Photovoltaics Consortium and a Co-Director of Battery 500 Consortium. His selected awards include: Dan Maydan Prize in Nanoscience (2019), Nano Today Award (2019), Blavatnik National Laureate (2017), MRS Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience (2015), the Sloan Research Fellowship (2010), KAUST Investigator Award (2008), ONR Young Investigator Award (2008), Technology Review World Top Young Innovator Award (2004). He has founded three companies to commercialize technologies from his group: Amprius Inc., 4C Air Inc. and EEnotech Inc.

Prof. Daniel Kammen

University of California, Berkeley

The Green Energy Revolution is Finally Here

10:25-11:15, August 13

COVID-19 has altered energy consumption patterns worldwide, and highlighted both inequality and systemic racism, including in the energy field.

A clean energy research and deployment agenda can greatly facilitate the movement to a just and inclusive society. In this work I highlight both theoretical and implementation strategies that are built around key synergies between clean energy and water, and social justice. This nexus opens important new avenues for use-inspired basic and applied research.

In this paper we draw on research in the US, and from East Africa and Southeast Asia, where the majority of the roughly 800 million people without electricity access live today. In the United States, California, New Mexico, and New York (over 40% of national GDP) have committed to a 100% renewable energy future (by ~ 2045). Overseas an increasing number of nations and subnational regions have committed to this goal.

In exploring the synergies between a green economy and social equity, we find that it is either impossible, or far more difficult and costly, to design, socialize, and implement the needed energy transition to meet climate goals without making equity a co-equal goal. We draw on cases ranging from solar energy and electric vehicle deployment in low-income communities, to promoting social justice and economic opportunities for women and oppressed minority groups through distributed clean-energy powered mini-grids, to the integration of climate friendly housing and transportation policies. This work provides strong evidence of the economic benefits of integrated design of infrastructure and policy around the co-benefits of between social and environmental goals.

About Speaker: Dr. Daniel M. Kammen is a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, with parallel appointments in the Energy and Resources Group where he serves as Chair, the Goldman School of Public Policy where he directs the Center for Environmental Policy, and the department of Nuclear Engineering. Kammen is the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, and was director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center from 2007 – 2015.

He was appointed by then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in April 2010 as the first energy fellow of the Environment and Climate Partnership for the Americas (ECPA) initiative. He began service as the Science Envoy for U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2016, but resigned over President Trump’s policies in August, 2017. He has served the State of California and US federal government in expert and advisory capacities, including time at the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Energy, the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

He has authored or co-authored 12 books, written more than 300 peer-reviewed journal publications, and has testified more than 40 times to U.S. state and federal congressional briefings, and has provided various governments with more than 50 technical reports. For details see http;// Dr. Kammen also served for many years on the Technical Review Board of the Global Environment Facility. He is the Specialty Chief Editor for Understanding Earth and Its Resources for Frontiers for Young Minds.

Dr. Marcia McNutt


US. National Academy of Sciences

Energy Transformations to Meet the Climate Challenge: Advice from the National Academies

11:15-12:05, August 13

For decades, scientists have understood that the key to maintaining a stable climate for Earth is to reduce, if not eliminate, fossil fuel emissions from the energy sector. Some fraction of emissions reductions (~30%) can already be achieved with existing technology – the “low-hanging fruit.” Another 50% of emissions reductions can be accomplished with known solutions, but will require much more effort. The fact that such solutions are not yet widely deployed presents interesting questions for social scientists, including economists, political scientists, and behaviorists. A complete solution to the last 20% of the emissions problem will require overcoming significant challenges, but there are some game-changers on the horizon that can meet our current demands.

About Speaker: Marcia McNutt is a geophysicist and president of the National Academy of Sciences. From 2013 to 2016, she served as editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals. Prior to joining Science, she was director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 2009 to 2013. During her tenure, the USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and Japan, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. McNutt led a team of government scientists and engineers at BP headquarters in Houston who helped contain the oil and cap the well. She directed the flow rate technical group that estimated the rate of oil discharge during the spill’s active phase. For her contributions, she was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard’s Meritorious Service Medal.


Prof. Ju Li

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Prof. Michael J. Aziz

Harvard University



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