Lightbridge Director Dan Magraw on Nuclear Energy's Essential Role in a Decarbonizing World

Meet Dan Magraw, a member of the Board of Directors of Lightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ: LTBR). He’s a leading expert on international environmental law and policy, as well as international human rights. During Dan Magraw’s career, he has served in the U.S. government under four different presidents and has become a widely published author in the field of international law.
We sat down with Dan to ask about international environmental law and how nuclear energy plays a role in solving the climate crisis.
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From the 1990s to the early 2000s, Dan Magraw was the Director of the International Environmental Law Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he also spent time in the White House and was Acting Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of International Activities.
Currently, Dan Magraw is a Senior Fellow and Professional Lecturer at the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and President Emeritus of the Center for International Law (CIEL).
Why is international environmental law important, and how does nuclear energy play a role?
“When we think about international environmental law, we first have to start with why the environment is important. We’ve learned over the past decades that because of ecosystem services (or the services that nature provides to humankind for free), nature is the real infrastructure of our society. We couldn’t have our civilization without nature.
International environmental law is crucial because many environmental problems we face today don't stay within one country's borders. Moreover, international environmental law, or international law regarding the environment, is important because it tries to regulate states and their behavior concerning the environment. The setting of environmental standards and regulating these standards is crucial because we’ve seen that some businesses don’t respect nature unless states play a role in setting international standards and regulations over the environment.
Nuclear energy is important within international environmental law because many international legal issues relate to energy, and nuclear energy is a valuable energy source in most parts of the world.”
Does Nuclear Energy Complicate International Law Agreements?
“There are hundreds of international environmental treaties going from the global level to regional to bilateral levels, and many of those treaties are specifically focused on energy or nuclear energy. Some examples include agreements entered into after the Chernobyl disaster or agreements to deal with nuclear waste. Remember, while these international environmental agreements are meant to provide the framework for regulated activities, these agreements can be very complicated. For instance, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) administers environmental and energy treaties and many non-binding guidelines, all of which together forms a massive and complicated system.
Throughout the world of environmental legal protection, there can be many sets of non-binding legal regulations or non-binding standards. Whether they are more or less effective than a legally binding treaty depends in part on how easy these regulations or standards are to apply and whether there is a consensus among countries about those standards or regulations. An agreement on something that is non-binding can be effective, but it depends essentially on political will, not so much on enforcement mechanisms when compared to legally binding agreements.
Even what we are seeing in Ukraine right now deals with the issue of enforcement mechanisms. Russia is clearly violating international legal standards in the war, including environmental ones. Russia is doing tremendous environmental damage in Ukraine, but no enforcement mechanism will make them stop doing that. There’s even an order from the International Court of Justice directing Russia and Ukraine to stop hostilities.”
The International Court of Justice deals with environmental agreements and disputes by providing a platform for countries to resolve conflicts related to environmental issues peacefully.
The International Court of Justice deals with environmental agreements and disputes by providing a platform for countries to resolve conflicts related to environmental issues peacefully.

What are the Key International Environmental Agreements and Treaties related to Climate Change, and what comes to mind?
“The main international environmental treaties that come to mind are the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and in 2009 there was the Copenhagen Accord, which led to the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is extremely important. The first half of it is legally binding, and the second half is not. The second half has specific commitments about reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or increases in greenhouse gas sinks.
It’s worth reiterating that most environmental issues are interrelated. Other ‘minor’ environmental agreements can play a big role in larger treaties focusing on climate change. One has to think about it in terms of an overall set of treaties and regulations and that sort of thing. It’s not enough to look at treaties and agreements specifically focused on climate change.”
What are the main benefits and drawbacks of nuclear energy in terms of energy security?
“The term 'energy security' can be interpreted in many ways. Energy security should be interpreted in light of the different types of security, like national security, environmental security, and other security issues. We know that nuclear energy plays a vital role in solving climate change, which has many national security implications that the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes.
I think nuclear energy is critically important in meeting the world’s energy needs as we are decarbonizing our society and moving away from the consumption and production of fossil fuels. We need nuclear energy because it’s a baseload for our energy mix away from fossil fuels.
Additionally, there are many interrelated environmental problems right now, and we need energy sources that don’t worsen those problems. I don’t mean to suggest there aren’t problems with nuclear energy. How to deal with nuclear waste is an issue, and I don’t mean to minimize that, but the point is that we need nuclear energy. And if we use nuclear energy carefully and sufficiently, nuclear energy will help deal with many environmental and energy-related issues."
Lightbridge test assembly mockup used for a thermal-hydraulic experiment
Lightbridge test assembly mockup used for a thermal-hydraulic experiment

What role can the media play in promoting a more informed and nuanced public discussion about the potential contributions of nuclear energy to addressing the climate crisis?
“The media needs to do a better job. I think the media needs to first educate themselves on these different environmental issues and how they interrelate. I also think they need to give a better view of the environmental field. There’s a tendency for the media to focus on one issue and only deal with that. The media should look more broadly at environmental issues and bring up the fact that nuclear energy can solve some important environmental problems. Oftentimes, nuclear energy isn't even mentioned, and it should be.
One thing that I see that the media doesn’t report on much is the fact that nuclear energy plants are compatible with our current electrical grid. Nuclear energy plants can use our existing grid quite efficiently. The discussion around this aspect isn’t as loud. We all know that we need to improve the current electrical grid, but that’s terribly expensive and time-consuming. It’s important to take the steps away from fossil fuels now, and nuclear energy is one of the energy sources that provides us with that opportunity.
However, when you look at wind power, the issue there is that it can't take advantage of our electrical grid like nuclear energy does. Wind power is great, but there’s a problem connecting the wind energy generated offshore or inland to the population centers where the energy is being used. Likewise, when thinking about other renewables such as solar or wind energy, nuclear energy is considered to have a better life cycle when it comes to disposing of materials when they’re no longer being used and face less production line issues.
The current discussion of nuclear energy in the media needs to be more nuanced, comprehensive, and frequent. It’s not enough to only talk about nuclear energy during disasters like the Fukushima accident. The media should be making it clear that nuclear power is growing in different parts of the world and is not off limits in terms of utilization or growth.”
How do you view Lightbridge’s role in tackling the climate crisis?
“There is no one answer to climate change. There is no silver bullet. Lightbridge is playing an important role in helping to solve climate change, but it can’t be Lightbridge alone. There needs to be other climate solutions developed and scaled. Lightbridge can be a critical part of that link that allows other climate solutions like solar energy or wind energy to be developed, while nuclear energy is used now to support our energy needs.
Let’s start with the advantages of Lightbridge’s fuel once it’s been fully tested. First off, it’s safer and operates at a lower temperature. It cools more quickly, and is more efficient than other nuclear fuels. Lightbridge fuel is also non-proliferative. I think Lightbridge fuel technology can play a really important role in providing the energy we need to decarbonize our society.
From a company view, there’s also something to be said about Lightbridge being built on an ethos of transparency. For example, Lightbridge posts technical information online, which they’ve done since the beginning. Even the company's tone from the top and all the way down is that ‘we are transparent.’ When looking at the nuclear energy industry over time, transparency and accuracy have not always been evident. Our view is that the whole nuclear energy industry, ourselves included, and even all energy industries, should be as transparent as possible. I think the fact that Lightbridge is so transparent may be influencing the rest of the nuclear energy industry.
I think if Lightbridge fuel reaches full commercialization, our fuel will be the only morally acceptable fuel used in the current types of nuclear power plants across the globe.”
  • Patrick Kiash

    41 w

    Indeed there is no one answer to the climate crisis... Collective actions are very important to all and this call is very much needed.

    • Ingmar Rentzhog

      41 w

      I love the transparency approach!

      • Rashid Kamau

        42 w

        Environmental policies are key for they protect environmental values which are usually not considered in organizational decision making.

        • Adam Wallin

          42 w

          I really like the way you explained why international environmental law is so important. The climate crisis really doesn't stop at country borders, but different countries affect the climate different amounts, so it is really important to regulate internationally to make sure that low emitting countries are not damaged disproportionately from the actions of other countries.

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