HH: One of my favorite interviews in the country sitting across from me. Governor, now-Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, and he’s unarmed. Last time, he always comes to my studio in California, and he wears sticky Velcro gloves, because he would take businesses out of California and move them to Texas. You’re not in that anymore. You’re not trying to destroy the Golden State anymore.
RP: Oh, no. I’m, as I told you many times, I love California. If I could afford to live there, I would consider living there. I think Santa Barbara, well, I mean, there’s, you just start naming them, everything that’s within five, ten miles of that Pacific in California is absolutely some of the most beautiful country in the world. The challenge is keeping enough money to be able to afford to live there.
HH: Well now, we’re going to need your help on energy.
HH: Now that you’re secretary of Energy, there’s a lot that needs to get done in California. And I want to go to that in just a minute. First, I’ve got to ask you about your Texas roots. There are three vacancies on the 5th Circuit, and there’s this paralysis because Cornyn, Cruz and the Governor have different views on who ought to fill this. That’s crazy, Governor.
HH: Have you talked to people about, hey, draw some names out of a hat, get Don Willett up there?
RP: Yeah, well, I’m obviously a big Willett fan.
RP: I appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. I don’t think you can find anybody that’s more capable, more of a scholar…
HH: America salutes you.
RP: And even, well, Willett was one of the short list for the Supreme Court, and of course, we got a great one in Gorsuch, but Willett would have been a very, very good Supreme Court justice. So obviously, I think you can’t go wrong with somebody like Willett. But I’m like you. Let’s go. Let’s get some people on there. I mean, aren’t we all conservatives, by and large? Can’t we find someone that believes in judicial restraint, and is a strict Constitutionalist and a constructionist when it comes to judicial work? Aren’t there a lot of those out there that we could pick from?
RP: The answer is yes. So you know, quit being all testy about it’s got to be my man or woman, or I’m going to go in a huff. Let’s get this done.
HH: Let’s get it done. Now I want to turn to energy. I want to spend my limited time with you, Mr. Secretary, on nuclear issues. Now your predecessor in part, Dan Poneman, is one of my closest friends in the world. He was the deputy secretary of Energy.
RP: Smart guy.
HH: …now runs Centrus.
RP: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HH: He’s been in to see you and says you’re off to a great start.
HH: He’s trying to get the enrichment business going.
HH: We’re trying to get Westinghouse up out of the ground. We need nuclear.
HH: I mean, we need nuclear.
RP: It advanced…
HH: Are you making it key?
RP: Advanced modular reactors, small modular reactors, all of those, I happen to think, are the future of nuclear. One of the things, Hugh, you’re going to see us do is create a program that I refer to not tongue-in-cheek, but rather humorously, as let’s make nuclear cool again. If you’ll remember when we were kids growing up…
RP: If you were a nuclear engineer, if you were one of these kids that were headed off to a really good engineering school, you wanted to be involved in the nuclear energy side of things, and it was cool. We were going to the Moon. I mean, a lot of things in America were happening at that particular point in time, nuclear power being one of those, particularly on the civil side. And you know, this country’s really let that fall through the cracks, if you will. Some of it, I think, is a thoughtful attack by those on the left that don’t like anything that happens to do with, you know, the nuclear side of things. And it’s an interesting dichotomy for me. If you’re a millennial, and you really care about the climate of the globe, I mean, if that’s something you care about the environment out there, how can you not be for nuclear energy?
HH: Exactly right.
RP: That is zero emissions. Now the question is when are going to wise up and figure out that you have to have a place to go with the nuclear waste? And there are some very safe sites across this country, one in Texas there outside of, on the New Mexico-Texas border outside of Andrews, Texas, that is a site. Obviously, there’s Yucca, WIPP in New Mexico, and we’ve got to, you know, this, it’s kind of like putting somebody on the 5th Court. Come on.
HH: Come on.
RP: You know, let’s get some things done. You know, God’s given us this opportunity to really make a difference, put America back on a track here with the election of Donald Trump. Quit wasting time. Quit, you know, splitting hairs. Let’s go.
HH: And why wouldn’t we want to own this industry? Why would we not want the jobs that come with having the best technology, the safest technology, made in America, and model this for the world?
RP: Well, and here’s the other side of it, Hugh, that I think is really important for your listeners, for Americans to think about. If we don’t get back and become very technically capable, as we were 30 years ago, the Russians and the Chinese will fill that void. And at that particular point in time, if the Russians and the Chinese fill the void of the nuclear side of things, if they’re building civil nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia and South Korea, in all of the countries out there, what does that do, I mean, how much jeopardy does that put America in from the standpoint of having the Russians and the Chinese, who are the leaders in the world when it comes to nuclear power?
HH: Now Poneman’s particular writ is in enrichment. We let our enrichment capability go to zero, or near zero.
HH: Is the department going to get back in the game and get, because that’s a very short-sided thing. We’ll be out of it in 80 years.
HH: 80 years comes quick.
RP: It does indeed. And I think this, President Trump truly cares about this issue. He’s obviously very focused on the weapons side, making sure that we keep it safe.
HH: I’m going to come to that next, yeah.
RP: …making sure that you know, God forbid we ever have to use them, but if you do, that they work as advertised, and they don’t work when they’re not supposed to. I mean, keeping an arsenal that is modernized, very important to him. But also, he understands the importance of having an all of the above energy strategy in this country, nuclear being a very important leg of that.
HH: Now let’s talk about the weapons. Livermore is under your watch. Los Alamitos is under your watch. You get all of the, Los Alamos, not Los Alamitos.
HH: You’ve got all the weapons testing. Have you visited the facilities, yet? Are you going to make it a priority to get there often?
RP: Yeah, two out of the three of them that do deal with that, Los Alamos, the Idaho National Lab, PNL, Pacific Northwest, you know, Sandia, those labs are incredibly fascinating, from my perspective. And we cover the watershed on the things that they do, you know, whether it’s the Princeton Plasma Lab. It’s back in Oregon where we’re looking at, you know, black dark matter. I mean, just, you name it, a national lab is out there working on it in some form or fashion. On the weapons side, obviously you know, we’re behind. I mean, and there’s no use trying to tell it any other way. And this goes back all the way back to the Carter administration when they started dismantling the nuclear energy program when Russia, or I should say, the Soviet Union, when it failed, we had nuclear weapons all over Eastern Europe, and it was our responsibility, and we’ve done a really good job of gathering those back up. Here’s the fascinating thing for me. The French are the real leaders in European theater relative to nuclear energy and how you deal with it on the reprocessing side. Now that’s on the civilian side. When it comes to the enrichment side, I think we have to make a decision of whether or not America is going to be a leader in nuclear power, America’s going to be a leader in nuclear weapons, and the protection of our country. I say yes, and we’ll be working on a regular basis to promote those, and you know, again, get a stream of young people right now who may be in the 7th or 8th grade, who are adept at science and technology and engineering and math, and really get them focused on this. So I will tell you, stay tuned. You’ll see some programs and some public relations, if you will, coming out of the Department of Energy to do just that.
HH: Secretary Perry, you’re getting the wrap up from your friends out front. Thank you so much for stopping by. Keep pushing nuclear, and stay out of California and taking our businesses away. Good to have you, Governor.
RP: Hugh, it’s always an honor to be with you, Hugh Hewitt.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.