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Nuclear Power Plant Construction
Old 08-10-2007, 02:31 PM   #1
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Nuclear Power Plant Construction

I heard an interesting talk by Scott Offen, who is the fund manager of Fidelity Value Discovery Fund. He was very forthcoming about what he is doing, but could not mention names of individual stocks. He alluded to a company which he said is necessarily involved in every nuclear plant that is being built today.

We were talking about infrastructure the other day, and from my POV building more nucs is something that we must eventually do if we are serious about this carbon thing.

I know there is Nords, and maybe other nuclear savvy people on here. What might this company do, and what company might it be?

Ha
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Old 08-10-2007, 02:38 PM   #2
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I know there is Nords, and maybe other nuclear savvy people on here. What might this company do, and what company might it be?
GE? Westinghouse? Exelon? Whatever overseas firms came up with the pebble-bed design?

The problem is figuring out whether he's talking about uranium miners & companies with NRC-approved designs... or concrete contractors, stainless-steel pipe fabricators, and turbine manufacturers.

Sounds like fund manager's marketing hype to me. Considering his employer's track record it's highly unlikely he'll even be at the firm in a year, let alone managing that particular fund. Can you keep an eye on Fidelity's SEC filings for clues?
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Old 08-10-2007, 02:40 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by haha View Post
I heard an interesting talk by Scott Offen, who is the fund manager of Fidelity Value Discovery Fund. He was very forthcoming about what he is doing, but could not mention names of individual stocks. He alluded to a company which he said is necessarily involved in every nuclear plant that is being built today.

We were talking about infrastructure the other day, and from my POV building more nucs is something that we must eventually do if we are serious about this carbon thing.

I know there is Nords, and maybe other nuclear savvy people on here. What might this company do, and what company might it be?

Ha
No HA

I believe the infrastructure of the country is getting so darn old that companies like Halliburton will get the contracts to rebuild bridges like the one that fell down in MN. Nukes? Until the government insures the people who live near a plant none will get built. Or unless the oil runs out or gets to the point that we cannot get it.

and we worry about the terrorists blowing up the bridges here in america?? Heck they don't have to do anything they just fall down.
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Old 08-10-2007, 02:47 PM   #4
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Maybe GE?
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Old 08-10-2007, 02:53 PM   #5
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WNG - Washington Group is pretty involved in nuclear power plant construction from what I recall reading. Would have been a great post-bankruptcy play. I believe they have agreed to be acquired and have had a huge run.
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Old 08-10-2007, 03:13 PM   #6
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The problem is figuring out whether he's talking about uranium miners & companies with NRC-approved designs... or concrete contractors, stainless-steel pipe fabricators, and turbine manufacturers.
Wasn't GE, and I think you can't buy Westinghouse. I believe it is something with proprietary technology- not a commodity type contractor. He was talking about plant construction.

Quote:
Can you keep an eye on Fidelity's SEC filings for clues?
I think that form (n-30-D?)is filed quarterly (unless the 13D or forms 3 or 4 are required. I figured I would do that. I am interested in hunting it down becasue I like nuclear, and I also like high ROE specialized companies when I can find them. It was not in the fund's top 10 at the last posting which is as of 3/31/2007.

I talked to him personally, as he was in town. He would eat my lunch any day, and has managed the fund since its inception sometime in the earlier part of this decade. I think less than 5 years. His record during that time gets him Morningstar 5 Star(18%+ overall, if I remember correctly. If I were looking for a fund I would consider Equity Discovery I think.

Ha
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Old 08-12-2007, 02:05 AM   #7
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In a sense, the government already took care of the "people living near the plant" issue sense the liability is capped by law and has been for some time.

Reuter-Stokes is one company that pretty much has to be used for a nuke. Although the last time I looked at them they were still a sub of GE.

Wade
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:12 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by haha View Post
I heard an interesting talk by Scott Offen, who is the fund manager of Fidelity Value Discovery Fund. He was very forthcoming about what he is doing, but could not mention names of individual stocks. He alluded to a company which he said is necessarily involved in every nuclear plant that is being built today.

We were talking about infrastructure the other day, and from my POV building more nucs is something that we must eventually do if we are serious about this carbon thing.

I know there is Nords, and maybe other nuclear savvy people on here. What might this company do, and what company might it be?

Ha
He must be talking about international construction, since there is no new nuclear plant construction currently in the U.S. (I helped build one of the last new plants in this country in the late 1980's), although the business and regulatory climate and public perception may have been changed sufficiently to allow new construction in the foreseeable future.

The only publicly traded company I know that is probably connected with every existing nuclear plant in this country is USEC (ticker: USU), which is currently the only domestic company that enriches uranium so that it can be used as fuel. (although some plants may use USEC's foreign competitors).

GE is a supplier of the NSSS (nuclear steam supply system), which means they design and provide the nuclear steam plant pumps, pipes, valves, etc. There are other NSSS suppliers, such as Westinghouse and (at one time) Combustion Engineering, as well as foreign companies like Mitsubishi. The actual architect/Engineer and constructor of the whole plant is usually Stone & Webster (now part of the Shaw Group:Ticker SGR) or Bechtel (privately owned).

Any of these companies would obviously benefit from a nuclear renaissance in the US, but he was probably not talking about them. I suspect it is one of the suppliers for something like the plant instrumentation or detectors. I will give it some more thought.

In the meantime, I wouldn't hold my breath on new construction in the US. Even if a utility company took the plunge and ordered a plant tomorrow, it would take many years to be built.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:28 AM   #9
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Hey Gumby,

Just how good is the earthquake design of nuclear power plants? Living (pretty far) downwind of what is apparently the largest nuclear power plant in the world (Kashiwazaki Kariwa), which admittedly rode out a magnitude 6.8 with apparently only a few little "oopsies" (revealed thus far), but which alarmingly seems to have only been designed to handle a 6.5 (which seems, naively, like an awfully low number to design to, at least to someone who went through Loma Prieta in 1989 -- though I can't be sure that the magnitude scale being referred to is the same one, since there seem to be so many of them), and also as an (extremely minor) stockholder of Tokyo Electric, which operates said plant, well, to wrap up a run-on sentence somewhat lamely, I was just wondering. And, if I may exercise your patience a bit further, would pebble-bed designs be more robust to little things like the discovery of fault lines running right under the core?
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:50 AM   #10
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Hey Gumby,

. . . would pebble-bed designs be more robust to little things like the discovery of fault lines running right under the core?
Yes, they would. The most significant failure mode of a conventional reactor is a catastrophic rapid loss of coolant (inclding loss caused by the effects of an earthquake). The designs incorporate many safety features and redundancies to help assure it won't happen, but if it somehow does there's a potential for core meltdown, failure of containment, etc. Again, this usually takes multiple simultaneous failures. The primary advantage of a pebble-bed design is that, even if all coolant is lost, the bed can't get hot enough to melt the fuel (because the fuel "balls" are made of ceramics that can withstand some amazing temps). The pebble-bed designs are "walk-away safe", though you'd come back to a very big mess and probably have to scrap the whole reactor.

I await correction from the experts . . .
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:31 AM   #11
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It is an interesting question. When I think about nuclear and hydro power, I wonder if any of the existing plants would have been built in the environment today of lobbyists and NIMBY. Even solar and wind power encounter a lot of opposition to commercial scale deployments.

The James Bay project in Quebec will probably be the last hydro-electric project to be built in North America.
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:50 AM   #12
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It is an interesting question. When I think about nuclear and hydro power, I wonder if any of the existing plants would have been built in the environment today of lobbyists and NIMBY.
I wonder the same too. I guess we lucked out decades ago for not having those green orgs. We'd still be in the dark age today if they existed.
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Old 08-12-2007, 11:48 AM   #13
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Yes, they would. The most significant failure mode of a conventional reactor is a catastrophic rapid loss of coolant (inclding loss caused by the effects of an earthquake). The designs incorporate many safety features and redundancies to help assure it won't happen, but if it somehow does there's a potential for core meltdown, failure of containment, etc. Again, this usually takes multiple simultaneous failures. The primary advantage of a pebble-bed design is that, even if all coolant is lost, the bed can't get hot enough to melt the fuel (because the fuel "balls" are made of ceramics that can withstand some amazing temps). The pebble-bed designs are "walk-away safe", though you'd come back to a very big mess and probably have to scrap the whole reactor.

I await correction from the experts . . .
Very good summary Samclem. I would also note that, like light water reactors, pebble bed reactors have a negative temperature coefficient of reactivity, which means that as temperature rises, such as in the event of loss of coolant accident (the coolant in a PBR is an inert gas such as helium), the number of fissions is reduced and power is reduced. As I understand it, PBR's are designed so that, in such event, they will automatically reduce power to a level where the heat generated by fission will match the heat radiated from the pressure vessel. Also, because the PBR has a power density so much lower than an LWR, the waste heat after a shutdown should never be high enough to melt the pressure vessel.
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Old 08-12-2007, 11:58 AM   #14
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Hey Gumby,

Just how good is the earthquake design of nuclear power plants? Living (pretty far) downwind of what is apparently the largest nuclear power plant in the world (Kashiwazaki Kariwa), which admittedly rode out a magnitude 6.8 with apparently only a few little "oopsies" (revealed thus far), but which alarmingly seems to have only been designed to handle a 6.5 (which seems, naively, like an awfully low number to design to, at least to someone who went through Loma Prieta in 1989 -- though I can't be sure that the magnitude scale being referred to is the same one, since there seem to be so many of them), and also as an (extremely minor) stockholder of Tokyo Electric, which operates said plant, well, to wrap up a run-on sentence somewhat lamely, I was just wondering.
When a plant is designed, the designers assume an Operating Basis Earthquake of a certain magnitude. The plant is then designed so that it can operate and be shut down safely even after an earthquake of that magnitude. The magnitude chosen for the OBE depends on a variety of factors, most of which are related to the local geology. Thus, plants built close to known fault lines are designed to withstand earthquakes of greater magnitudes than those that are far away from faults. Here is a Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation that specifies how the numbers are chosen.

10 CFR Appendix A to Part 100--Seismic and Geologic Siting Criteria for Nuclear Power Plants

To answer your other question, since the Richter scale is a log scale, a 6.8 is approximately twice as powerful as a 6.5. An 8.5 would be 100 times more powerful than a 6.5
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Old 08-12-2007, 12:17 PM   #15
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To answer your other question, since the Richter scale is a log scale, a 6.8 is approximately twice as powerful as a 6.5. An 8.5 would be 100 times more powerful than a 6.5
I wonder what earthquake magnitude civil engineers can design a foundation to handle if the surrounding soil is liquified by the tremors-- let alone exciting design problems like hospitals, highway overpasses, and nuclear plants. Maybe 6.5 is as good as it gets.
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Old 08-12-2007, 12:30 PM   #16
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Thanks for the info, Samclem and Gumby.

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When a plant is designed, the designers assume an Operating Basis Earthquake of a certain magnitude. The plant is then designed so that it can operate and be shut down safely even after an earthquake of that magnitude.
Heh, to which my first question would be, "so what happens when a bigger earthquake happens?", since they always seem to. The Nimitz Freeway in Oakland was designed to some known-to-be-low standard, and collapsed as designed. Etc. Or, "the backup plan when Plans A, B and C fail is...?" I'm sure Nords can relate.

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To answer your other question, since the Richter scale is a log scale, a 6.8 is approximately twice as powerful as a 6.5. An 8.5 would be 100 times more powerful than a 6.5
Thanks. So log10 in amplitude, or sqrt(power). Seems to me 8.5s are not that unheard of -- Alaska had one in the 60s, right? Then there's Memphis every 500 years... Seems to me that fine-tuning for local conditions is making a big bet. But of course, I don't have to write budgets for these things.

Somehow, though, I think I'm becoming a big fan of pebble-beds now. I like the failure mode presented.
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Old 08-12-2007, 09:50 PM   #17
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Oh, one other thing about Japan. I think they still operate breeder reactors as a key part of their nuclear program/fuel cycle. It would seem to me that the "pebbles" would be significantly harder to reprocess in a breeder than the fuel rods in a conventional LWR. If so, the Japanese may be reluctant to adopt the pebble beds.

Nuclear fuel goes a LONG way if breeder reactors are used, so they can save a lot of money (and extend the day at which we'll run out of fissile material for reactors). But, the breeder reactors operate closer to the technical margins (and are generally acknowledged to be less safe than LWR) also produce plutonium in amounts that would be very useful to some nasty folks.
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