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AZ Inno

May 16, 2023

A Phoenix-based startup that leverages artificial intelligence to solve challenges in the nuclear industry has raised a new round of funding.

Nuclearn closed a $2.5 million seed round led by Phoenix-based AZ-VC with participation from Nucleation Capital, headquartered in Menlo Park, California.

The company plans to use the capital to develop its sales team, hire more engineers and bolster its hardware, said co-founder Jerrold Vincent.

“More recently, we've been training our own large language models, similar to a ChatGPT for nuclear-specific applications,” Vincent said. “Having some more hardware on hand is going to help us further refine and train those models.”

Nuclearn developed a machine learning platform with products that automate tasks for utilities and nuclear power plants.

“Ultimately, our goal is to help drive down administrative costs at the power plant, and we can do that by creating and distributing many more products to our customers,” said co-founder Bradley Fox.

Fox and Vincent launched Nuclearn in 2021. Prior to that, the two nuclear industry veterans founded the in-house data science team in 2016 at the Palo Verde Generating Station.

“That's where we got closely acquainted with some of the various ways that you can use artificial intelligence and data science to help automate various tasks in the nuclear industry,” Vincent said.

Nuclearn aims to alleviate the administrative burden at nuclear power plants without compromising safety.

“There's a lot of administrative burden that had been added over the years, and that's actually where a significant portion of the cost of nuclear power goes,” Vincent said. “We really firmly believe that by using artificial intelligence, we can help these nuclear power plants reduce some of the administrative burden, operate more safely and focus on the things they need to focus on.”

Nuclearn's founders developed the company's AI technology from the ground up to ensure privacy and security of nuclear data, which is under export compliant regulations by the U.S. Department of Energy, Fox said.

“So we need to be very sure that we are securely processing it, which means that hardware all the way through deployment is our responsibility,” he said. “We really can't use other vendors to supply that, which means we got quite good at building and developing all the AI technology in-house over the last eight years or so of doing this.”

Nuclearn has six employees – including Fox and Vincent – in addition to a part-time consultant. The company operates out of an office near 15th Avenue and Thomas Road.

The company sees potential to possibly expand its platform into the electric utility industry.

“Most nuclear plants are owned by an electric utility, so it's a kind of an obvious choice to jump out into the broader electric utility market and we got people interested already doing that,” Fox said. “We're working with a utility and have a pilot use case on just pivoting some of the technology we have now to focus more on traditional utility transmission and distribution space, essentially kind of re-leveraging what we've already built to help them achieve some of the same goals that the nuclear plants are looking for.”

Nuclearn estimates its current market share is about 30% of the nuclear industry in North America with customers both in the U.S. and Canada. It aims to increase its market share to 80% in the future.

“We also want to expand what we're offering," Vincent said. "We're working on new applications of AI almost daily, and helping our existing customers find additional ways to use AI to reduce administrative burdens and help automate things at the site."