top of page

How Big Things Get Done

Angelica Oung

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to decouple. Today I'm joined by returning guest Angelica Huang coming to us from Taiwan. Angelica has recently joined the decoupled team and will very shortly be releasing our new decouple substack. We haven't fully come up with the name yet. It may be dispatches,


Angelica Oung  0:19  

we're going with the couple of dispatch. I think the couple of dispatchers, decoupled dispatch either way, I think it sounds good.


Chris Keefer  0:26  

Absolutely. Absolutely. So looking forward to that new product offering and Angelica as a correspondent. But today, we both read a book, which I think for obvious reasons was enticing to us. And we're going to discuss that book today. Angelica, what's the book,


Angelica Oung  0:43  

the name of the book is how to get big things done. And it's by Professor bent, flew Berg, I believe, sorry, if I got the pronunciation, right.


Chris Keefer  0:54  

Fly V. BG erg? I mean, I as, as my dedicated listeners know, I think finished names are the ones I struggle with the most. But the answer the answer kind of related, I guess, hopefully haven't offended anyone. Yeah, so this book certainly has been making the rounds. The marketing has been pretty good for it. And hearing that you just read the book. I thought I thought let's let's get into this and don't want to steal any thunder from Brahm Newfields decoupled reads that started a couple book club. This may end up being one. But anyway, felt urgent felt like we should get to it. So Angelica, why don't we start off with with some kind of, I was gonna say gut reactions, but maybe kind of a broad overview is in place, I'll let you decide.


Angelica Oung  1:51  

Well, when I first read the book, I was so excited about about it when I first heard about the book, because this is exactly the kind of topic I think needs to be discussed. And especially since we're so interested in nuclear, and the book started off really well just give gonna give you my rundown. You know, as I read it, I thought that he was going into some good examples was very readable in the kind of Malcolm Gladwell kind of vein. But then I realized that his conclusions are just just seems really seems really shoehorned in there because he gives you all the projects, the big projects, right? The whole thing about this book is how do we build big things? Why do some big projects succeed? And some fail most fail spectacularly? That was a very good point. So one of the example he gives is contrasting the Sydney Opera House, which I didn't know this, it was a mega project that went way over budget and destroyed destroy the career of the architect that built it. Why was that a failure? And why was Guggenheim just as crazy a building? by Frank Gehry? Why was that such a success? And even though it looks utterly crazy, both buildings are absolute masterpieces. Why was one success in terms of construction, the other failure? So that I thought that example is really interesting, I learned a lot. But fast forward. The conclusion of his book is basically, you have to build things in this modular way. That's basically like, one brick at a time. And that's why solar is good, and nuclear is bad. And I'm not just just not seeing the through line between the how he started the book and his conclusion.


Chris Keefer  3:52  

Yeah, yeah. I agree. I mean, it's obviously a pretty technical topic, that should be of broad interest, not just to policymakers and project managers and the like, you know, and they do make it relevant, I think, to more of the lay public discussing what is the biggest infrastructure project of many people's lives if you're lucky enough to be a homeowner, you know, home renovation. He also talks about Pixar as a studio. You know, I guess, identifying these outliers, like Frank Gehry, right, who's delivers these fantastical buildings, bizarre shapes. I mean, just Google the picture of the Guggenheim. I mean, I hadn't appreciated what a crazy building that was. But I think looking at the outliers of who's done it well, Pixar, like basically every one of their productions has been a smash hit. And there is a reason behind that. And of course, I'm drawn to it because I talk ad nauseam about the nuclear secret sauce. I'm fascinated by this technology, which is it requires incredible excellence, human organization, collaboration between industry, government, regulator, etc. When it's done amazingly, it's a beautiful value proposition and delivers for generations. And so I was hoping to gain some insights. I'm in my quest to further understand the nuclear secret sauce. And I have to set say I was a bit let down. The book is based upon the flip Berg database, in which he's apparently gathered information and stats on 16,000 mega projects. And the results are pretty shocking. I mean, the majority go over budget, the majority go over time. And when he combines together over budget, over schedule and the value that it actually deliver on the value, something like less than 1% actually fulfill that criteria. And in terms of delivering on the valley, maybe it's just give an example. But the California High Speed Rail experiment, I think is supposed to link up San Francisco and LA. In the end, it's been such a boondoggle and fiasco, they're basically building a railroad to nowhere doing the first you know, 100 Kilometer leg, and it's going to be functionally useless. So those criteria, I thought were very important because even though the Sydney Opera House, which went something like 500%, over budget, was just this huge boondoggle. Ultimately, you know, it has delivered an enduring value to the city, it's an icon, you know, the tourist boom has probably been huge over many decades that will probably pay itself off in terms of those cost overruns. And I think that's, you know, it's a point I made on Twitter comparing, you know, calling Vogel, the Sydney Opera House of nuclear Vogel, well, you know, being, you know, a boondoggle financially and by schedule over its 80 years, it's going to be a blip. So, you know, those were those are, you know, what drew me into the book, and maybe what turned me off a little bit about it, it did seem a little surface level, again, I think, because it's meant to be a pop culture book, it was quite short, like I couldn't believe I was done. It was it was kind of left thirsting for more. But


Angelica Oung  6:48  

I have to say, I actually do recommend that people read this book if they're interested in projects, because I think there's going to be some of the examples that you don't know. I think it's ultimately flawed in its discussion of some of these projects, especially the nuclear ones, because flu Berg seems to just take it as a given that because nuclear power. Well, should we talk a little bit about his formulation of fat tails versus thin tails?


Chris Keefer  7:22  

And distribution bias? Yeah,


Angelica Oung  7:25  

yeah. So basically, we assume that things tend to fall into a normal distribution. And, for instance, the height of human human beings, and you have you have people who are taller than others, but basically, they fall on a normal distribution. And you know, we've got tall nuclear right here. But but, you know, Chris is taller than most people, but he's not like 10 times,


Speaker 1  7:50  

not three standard deviations off. Yeah, three standard deviations,


Angelica Oung  7:55  

three standard deviation, and you're not like three times taller, right. But if you, if you take somebody who's like three standard deviation away in terms of wealth or something, then all of a sudden, you can, you can get somebody who's like, much, much wealthier than the average person. And he calls that the fat tail. And when it comes to all these mega projects that blow out their budget, there's a fat tail, meaning if they go way over budget, then if they don't go over by, like a little they go, they go over, they have the potential to, like almost just limitless downside. And in terms of that tail project, he is true, if you look at his chart, although we can't see his model like, like, it's proprietary, apparently. But nuclear power is, is up there. But you know, he's it's flanked by both sides by it on one side, and the Olympics on the other side. So I really don't understand why Flubaroo its conclusion is basically that nuclear power is just hopeless. We're as he's not, I don't see how we can avoid building. There are some things that we just need, we need it, we need the Olympics, we need to figure out how to do this big prize exactly


Chris Keefer  9:14  

how to do them. Well, what's the secret sauce for sure. And I think he, you know, and especially in his post promoting the book, basically says that, you know, nuclear just is not doable. And he's not looking, you know, not just that the exceptions to the rule. But I mean, this is again, something that fascinates me that in country over country, nuclear has been done well for maybe a decade or two, starting in the US in the 60s, you know, amazing economic quick builds. Pickering our first large can't do station here, eight reactors under budget under time. France, you know, did quite well Japan, South Korea, I don't want to name them all but but there's there's a track record of success which, again, the the database is proprietary, but I do feel like it's being skewed by recent builds, such as the EPRs, in Europe, and in Vogel. You know, there's another point in his in his book, and I want to jump ahead too much, but he talks about the need to think right to left. So to really establish what are your goals, and I think the example is the Danes, his homeland wanting to connect an island to the mainland, and assuming it should be a tunnel, for instance, and just, you know, to have that, that thought in the early stage to take a long time planning and to act quickly, plan slow act, act fast. But, you know, maybe it's better served by you know, a bridge may be best served by an airport may be best served just by a zoom link, you know, that we need to really think of these things. And I think that was, you know, his kind of conclusion on the energy front is that because wind and solar have very, like basically no tendency towards FAT, FAT tails, really, you know, the best modern construction projects in terms of being built on budget and on time, or wind and solar. And I guess we'll talk about some of the reasons behind that. But that that's what we should do. And I think that's a real failure on his part to consider the goal. And if the goal is deep decarbonisation, if the goal is ultra reliable electricity to electrify everything, if the goal is, you know, just transition etc, we need to look at what that is, in my example, in my tweet, dissecting the book was, you know, it's very easy to make bicycles, we can bang those things out in factory, we can put them on a production line mass produce them. But if our goal is to move freight, it might be better to build a locomotive and a railroad, ultimately, it's going to be a more complicated construction project, it's going to take longer, but the payoff is going to be bigger. And I think I think it is a decent comparison between wind and solar and nuclear. You know, bicyclists have to take breaks, if the weather's really bad, they might not be able to ride if it's pitch black, if they need to stop to eat three times a day. It's one I've used before, but I think it's apt. And I think that's ultimately where the book kind of falls flat in its conclusions. Because I agree there's there's a lot of value in some of the other projects he discusses and not being a huge architecture buff. I mean, I still have an appreciation for it. But this idea that the construction is the only element rather than the end goal, despite him saying otherwise. Yeah, I guess I'd leave the rant there.


Angelica Oung  12:20  

I would just like to add that the complexity goes somewhere. So let's say yeah, it is easier to construct a solar panel array than a nuclear power plant. But because they don't produce energy on a steady basis basis. Now you are faced with figuring out how to add enough grid balancing storage in order to deliver a steady stream of electricity. So you think you're reducing the complexity of your construction projects. But a no, because you need the grid to deliver all the time, you're actually adding complexity and worse than adding complexity, you're adding unknowns, because his other big heuristic is that we should do what he calls right to left thinking, what you were talking about earlier, which is you start with what is your goal, always go back to what is your goal, don't get suckered into starting something, just to start something, think about your ultimate goal, then you can be creative and outside the box, how you accomplish that goal, right. But if you're doing this thing, where you're just like building a bunch of wind and solar, and your goal is not actually make a bunch of electricity, but deliver a steady stream of electricity. Now, you're, you're not doing righteous thinking, in fact, you're just committing to this mega project that you don't even know would work. I don't think anybody knows that. You know, 100% variable, electricity grid would work is progress, but we don't know what it's gonna take us for sure. And


Chris Keefer  14:01  

I think that that leads him to and it's understandable, he has this bias of like, well, what can we construct? Well, let's do that. But I think that is that is a kind of fatal flaw. So I mean, for him, the challenge I would pose to him is just do the mental exercise to say that nuclear is necessary. Let's study that and figure out how that big thing can get done. And I guess on that theme, why don't we? Why don't we shift over a little bit to discussing, I think probably the most memorable part of the book, which is this comparison of the Sydney Opera House and the Guggenheim Museum and how they were different. And the Frank Gehry approach, Frank Frank Arias, the architecture architect and firm, which, again, has consistently delivered on budget and on time, these fantastical buildings all over the world. Why don't you describe a little bit that Frank Gehry process, and we can see whether there's been nuclear builds that are doing something similar or what the nuclear instrument Yeah, from it?


Angelica Oung  14:52  

Yeah. You know, maybe maybe we could, we might be mentioning them by the onesies and twosies but Chris, should we go through Well, All his heuristics are and then maybe we can apply them to a new nuclear project. So basically, it starts off with understanding your odds. If you don't know what your odds are, you won't win his next heuristic. Plan slow, act fast. I thought this was quite a quite a good point, which is that planning is essentially costless. And once you start executing, then you get into potentially expensive trouble. A really good example of this is save, you have a film production that's in the planning stage as the COVID pandemics drug, you're fine your project is in hibernation, you wait and wait it out, and then you pick it up again. But if you started shooting, and the COVID pandemic struck, all of a sudden, it's an expensive disaster, you got all these actors, you got all these staff. So that's basically you know, he's a bias towards doing a ton of planning. We talked about thinking right to left. And that just means starting with your goal. And then you identify the steps that you need to get there. The next one is which we also talked about a little bit. He calls find your Lego. And that means that he believes that biggest best build from small, and I do believe that if you can do it and still achieve your goal, then you're sure that makes a lot of sense. This is the thinking I think is quite pervasive, you know, you find your smallest unit and then you make a repeatable and you have your learning and you do it faster and faster. B be a team maker, you want to succeed without an us I think that that's pretty well known everywhere, and master the unknown unknowns. So that is basically like there's no, there's no substitute for experience. And I think we call it like implicit tacit knowledge. It's just like you can you can learn things. You can learn like explicit pieces of knowledge, passing it on in textbooks, in training, but then there are things that are more intuitive that only comes through experience. I've seen that a lot in nuclear power plants. And he uses this word I like a lot, which is called for nieces. And that is that concept is basically basically kind of like kind of practical wisdom that has to be learned through experience. And so he says, basically, these are the heuristic for determining how megaprojects can beat the odds and be successful. So maybe from we can apply those to a nuclear project.


Chris Keefer  18:04  

Yeah, or maybe, again, keep going back to the Guggenheim. But I think Frank Arias, you know, he's, he's referenced in the book a number of times. And I mean, just a few things that stood out for me, obviously, he's he's got a very well established team about him. And his team goes with him to each project in terms of the key engineers, structural people, in terms of their methodology, again, these bizarrely shaped buildings with lots of curves, they actually got the software from the airline industry, where the fuselage does have a lot of structural issues not being boxes and squares that they're solved with this technology. And I mean, I think that's also why the Olympics tend to go over is because it's an economic development project, you can track local people to do it. But this is an event that you've probably never done before in your city. Or maybe the last time was a generation ago. That sounds pretty reminiscent of a lot of new nuclear builds in the West. Yeah. One can imagine that the Olympic committee might, you know, have this dream team of people that would go city to city but that just doesn't make enough sense as Frank Gehry is able to do that and pull off these these buildings. You know, the think right to left, I think when he went to the Basque Country, Bilbao, they wanted him to renovate a warehouse. And he kind of did some thinking and identified more of what their goals were that this was really to be an iconic building to kickstart their tourism industry. And so proposed the site and, you know, was really good at that. You know, the planning, they do it, I think, a ton of iterative planning lots of drawings, using the software to model it out, make sure they figured out all the structural issues and the comparison with the Sydney Opera House was fascinating, right? Because it sounded like yeah, the design process there was like, essentially a back of the envelope sketch of these, you know, these beautiful wing shapes. And this architects have never built anything before in his life, and then they had to sort of move backwards from there and figure out how to construct those shapes. And in the end, they learned that acoustically the place is a nightmare for opera. So the contrast that's hilarious the contrast was was was very cool there, but I'm not sure if there's any other, you know, tidbits from Frank Gehry or if you want to move on to sort of, you know how I


Angelica Oung  20:07  

actually think that it's a great way to talk about how we applied to nuclear because I think in many ways, Frank Gehry is building, its highly complex structure. And he it, it is like a nuclear power plant. And I think your comparison of the Sydney Opera House with Volk volatile and Frank Geary's building with, with Baraka, which is the nuclear power plants that the Koreans recently built in 10 years, in a country that didn't have nuclear before. It, the parallels are right there. And we know from from from the Morocco's of the world and from the French nuclear build out, it's not impossible, to build nuclear on time and on budget, and to also to deliver way more benefits than we thought we were going to get, since it turns out nuclear power plants are practically immortal. And you can just keep extending their lifetimes, you know, from 40 years, which we expected up to 6080 years now. So all those things are possible. And it's a matter of actually applying Professor bluebirds tools, the tools that he came up in his own book, two nuclear power plants. And I think, if he had he truly appreciated the value that nuclear power plants actually bring to our energy systems, maybe he wouldn't have been so dismissive and just assume that, well, maybe we shouldn't build them, because they're not Legos, because


Chris Keefer  21:45  

they're high risk. I imagined building like one of a kind, fantastical museums is also high risk, right? I mean, it's got to be in terms of the kind of shapes sizes, bizarre stuff that they're doing, you know, that's, you know, not utilitarian. But again, it has an aesthetic purpose it draws because there's a value proposition to it. I think the analogy is really strong. And so, you know, he did reply to my twitter thread, and he said, read the book, you don't understand.


I had read the book, I talked to his co author for an hour. Anyway, I do think that is anti-nuclear priors are probably getting in the way of a very interesting exploration very analogous, you know, as you said, to the Sydney Opera House and the Guggenheim, you know, on the Find your Lego element. You know, we had a, you had a great summary, actually my interview with Tony Roulstone, it was on SMRs and economics. And, of course, you know, we want to modularize and do in a factory as much as we can. And, you know, his suggestion was, you know, currently, maybe we're at 20% modularization. And if we can bump that up to 50, or 60, that's going to be very beneficial. I think that something that frustrates me with nuclear in the West is, and something that's a valuable contribution from the book is just this understanding of how God damn hard it is right that 95 99% of mega projects don't deliver on budget on time or the value proposition. And so I think if the nuclear industry in the West starts with that, and with this utter humility and utmost respect from the Frank Gary's the you know, the Koreans with their APR 1400s. Maybe where the Chinese are at now they're well hold on one or the Russians or the vvr. You know, if we start with let's figure out what works, let's be humble that, you know, frankly, we're not we've proven ourselves not to be good at this, we have a lot of catching up to do, then we have a greater chance.


Angelica Oung  23:32  

Maybe our Lego is the one gigawatt scale nuclear power plant. Because if you think about it, sure, there's a lot of on site work. Sure. It's not made in a factory. But if you look at how the French did it, something that's almost the same as Legos have, I've heard it described as a cookie cutter approach, you don't change anything about your plan, you get don't get tempted into design upgrades, or you don't fuss about to increase efficiency by 10%. You just do it the same way. Because that's the way you know how to do it, you get a lot of you get a lot of efficiency and savings and learnings from that. And I forgot like they built 50 Something nuclear power plants in a span of two decades or something like that. And they're still working to this day. So maybe the lesson should be Go big or go home. If maybe if you do a France you have a more of a chance of succeeding than if you just build build them in the onesies and twosies I don't know


Chris Keefer  24:40  

I think maybe it could be sort of a Lego versus Duplo Duplo you know, for the non parents out there. It's much bigger blocks. But you know, like if if there's enough of a societal impetus and a need to build a lot of say electricity generation. I think the French you know, there was a factory that was pounding out and shoes I believe or so lose eight reactor pressure vessels every single year. So they'd scaled things up to the extent that that was modular. Obviously, if you're just building one EPR, every 20 years, the scaling isn't there, because you haven't mobilized your entire industrial base around a sufficient number of projects for there to be learning and replication and building multiple units on the same site, for instance. And you know, that way, like what we've been seeing in the West, is really stagnating


demand for electricity. So it's, it makes sense that there hasn't, there's simply hasn't been the financing there to build, you know, to continuously the legacy in Ontario of building eight unit nuclear plants. Because investors want to know, is there going to be someone to buy this electricity and pay off your debt to us, and there hasn't been, you know, maybe with the climate imperative, and electrification, we're going to see that again. And that will allow us to go big, as you're saying, but also, you know, be able to learn, do things in sequence, etc.


But it's challenging. I wanted to talk to you a little bit, because obviously, you have a big background in offshore wind. Yeah. And something that they talk about is that, you know, wind and solar, why are they so easy to construct? So why don't you give us your reflections on that? I'm not sure I think you were getting your certification to go out to like, physically be on these offshore wind platforms. I haven't


Angelica Oung  26:11  

gotten an opportunity to do that yet. But basically, I don't know if I'm the best person to act on this because Taiwan's offshore wind development is actually running into some issues with a lot of cost overruns, and lack of left to right thinking. And I think a very important point that he makes well is how localization can really hurt you. So basically, the Taiwanese government made the strategic blunder in my opinion, of asking that a bunch of offshore wind components we made in Taiwan. These are huge, like absolutely enormous jackets, tower pieces, blades and the cells. So we are now building the most expensive offshore wind farms in the world now in Taiwan, and a number of them are way, way behind budget. And it's definitely not the kind of nice clean, nice, clean cost down curve that you see in some of the other thing, especially solar projects have cost down really, really convincingly. But in my opinion, I don't see wind as continuing that cost down trajectory, I think at some point, especially with commodity prices and inflation like this. We've seen in the news, all these turbine manufacturers like Vestas and Siemens, Gamesa, they're not making money, they're losing, in fact, huge amount of money. The vessel owners are bleeding developers aren't making much. So like I said, I could only talk about my own personal professional experience. But I think at some point, we're not going to keep costing down forever. But interestingly, people accept that people have said that, okay, you know, we will have to, let's say, we've exploited all the easy sites, and we need to push it out into the ocean, into the water so deep, that we have to have a floating Foundation, all these Eiffel Tower sized wind turbines have to float now. Yeah, and so it's definitely going to be more expensive, there will be a cost down journey. But it will probably never be as cheap as bought on fixed offshore wind turbines. Just because floating is going to be more expensive. Yeah. So we accept that because I think floating wind the value proposition is it is a little bit more stable, the winds are a little bit stronger, with larger turbines also come strength. I don't know, instability, you get to tap into the, into the air currents that are a bit higher up the power, there's a awareness of trade off. And that's, that's what I asked for nuclear is like people people are, you know, acknowledge that it's, the stability is good.


Chris Keefer  29:19  

No, I mean, I think that's interesting to approach the time when he's experienced anyway, and I'm gonna think it's starting to be replicated. Gamesa Siemens, apparently have no orders. That's a global problem. Yeah. But in terms of Taiwan, and we had a great episode of the EU in Taiwan, where you're sketching out some of the energy dynamics there. In this kind of virtual blockade of Taiwan that could occur simply from China buying up all the available liquefied natural gas cargoes, particularly as Taiwan heads in to shutting down its nuclear plants.


Angelica Oung  29:51  

Not so much buying up because we do have long term contracts that are 25 years. What I noticed was during Nancy pool overseas visit, they were just like, well, you know, a missiles might fly out of the sky here, here, here, here here. And it totally disrupted commercial traffic. It's like a joke blockade.


Chris Keefer  30:11  

Right? Cool. Cool. Well, let's not get too sidetracked on the on the Taiwan side of things. But yeah, let's let's, let's dive back into the book. What else did you find? Interesting in terms of we've been heavy on the critiques here. Some other some other positives or things that you took from it that you enjoy?


Angelica Oung  30:30  

I think you the thing that I, one of the most valuable things and so true to my experience is a misalignment of incentives between the people trying to push the projects through and the actual interests of the greater unit, be it the country or the company or whatever, there's a misalignment of incentives. And I think superb describes so well, that for the people who are trying to get the project started, sometimes you just want to spend enough money, that the real decision makers can't take it away from you, because you've already it will be too embarrassing, right. And I don't think he used this example in the book, actually, but it jumped out at me, it reminded me of, I think, the what chelski. Now sisters, when they shot the matrix, they blew their initial budget on on that cool initial scene with the bullets frozen in space, and people fighting around the frozen bullet. And that's it, they spent that whole budget for the movie on that. And then they went back to the studio and say, Well, this is what we did. Are you going to give us more money? And at that point? And I think that happens a lot. And why do politicians over promise, it's because they want to secure the political legacy? Why do executives over promise because they know that if that project gets started, then good things will come to them. And a lot of times, that's that's how it works out, or, you know, if you're too responsible, those big projects don't get done. And so you have these probably way too, over arrogant people. And, you know, they just do whatever it takes to get it through.


Chris Keefer  32:23  

Well, I guess going back a little bit to the plan, slow act fast component. I had a really fascinating tour recently, in Ontario, you know, we're doing these candy refurbishments, which, you know, by us another 30 to 40 years of life out of our Canada units, which will go into their 70s and 80s. So really exciting, but it is complex work. For those who have been following me on Twitter, you're probably seeing a few diagrams posted of Canada's the truly modular core reactor, you know, with 480, pressure tubes, each of those needs to be changed out, there's a pipe fitting on either side. So a 900. And my math is that bad right now I'm tired 960 tubes coming in, it's a lot of work really complex, the tolerances are down to 1000s of an inch, and obviously has the potential to be disastrous, I'm sure Ben would look at that and go, Oh, my God, but something I think he'd really appreciate. And this is what I got to visit was this mock up, they spent something like $60 million building this big warehouse, and a life sized Candu reactor Calandra area, with the pressure tubes in place, with a bunch of manufacturing right there on site to do tooling, and everything laid out perfectly, you know, they'd use lasers to capture the exact dimensions. And for workers to practice before they go into the reactor vault where there might be some limitations in terms of dosing to get in and out quickly. And the payback had just been absolutely enormous. But it was, it was really neat to see this. In real life, you know, a lot of nuclear reactors are a bit of a mystery to folks that are not nuclear engineers, just seeing all the containment around them. But having that stripped away, and being able to look into this pretty small physical space, like the Calandra vessel where all the pressure tubes go through. I'm trying to find a good comparator for it. I mean, it's certainly smaller than, I don't know, the second floor of my house here. And it's providing 5% of the power of the entire province. Like if you saw the power density there, I'm on track here a little bit, but that whole, you know, again, planning, planning, planning, and we are going to have Gary rose, who's head of new nuclear OPG, and really was a lot of the brains behind making these refurbishments go so well. He's gonna be on the podcast soon to discuss that. But a neat illustration, and I love to bring bento or Dan Gardner, his co writer to come and check out that facility because I think it really speaks to what they're talking about. And is the reason why, you know, our first minister coming in, under budget and ahead of schedule, you know, they found a process just in terms of the tacit knowledge as well you can gain that tacit knowledge even in rehearse We'll space like this, but they figured out, they could take out two things at once, essentially, during this refurb. And they cut a month off their schedule, which is, you know, just enormous.


So those examples are out there, they're happening in the nuclear industry. And, you know, it's kind of what makes me really bullish about nuclear in Canada is that we have a lot of of the ingredients, and we have really an experienced industry that is pulling off megaprojects really well, right now. So I'm gonna stop tooting my Ontarian horn here, but


Angelica Oung  35:30  

Well, I think it just goes to show that Ben isn't wrong in his heuristics. And he's chosen good examples to illustrate them. And they fit pretty well to the nuclear industry, both in terms of its failures, and its success. I just think that he's perhaps a little bit just to fixed in his, in his belief that somehow, wind and solar and nuclear are interchangeable things and that you can, you can build wind and nuclear so easily, you can give up on nuclear, sorry, wind and solar so easily, you can give up on nuclear. And I just don't think that's a true assumption. But I'm tremendously excited by this kind of thinking being out there, you know, thinking about how there's no meta learning, learning about how to learn, build, you know, learning about how to build in a, in a very, like he would say, outsider thinking, you know, trying to take yourself outside of your assumptions and addressing your projects. And I would like to actually talk about a some of his fellow things. So I went to visit Copenhagen atomics in Copenhagen. And they do Molten Salt Reactors. And Denmark is actually doesn't allow this actually a law law against nuclear power. So how do they manage to build a startup involving Small Modular molten salt reactors, and actually, they just do as much as they can, without the radioactivity, they build it, they test the South, they control for the corrosion, they make sure all those systems are working, they build up, they have a lot of engineering work done. And then they use a lot of digital twins work. So that's kind of reminiscent of, you know, the Pixar or the Frank Gehry example, where it's like using as much mock ups as possible. And they hope that in this way, if they can still do the iteration and the fast design and the kind of constant testing of your concept in engineering fashion, but without, but without the radioactivity, of course, that approach will only give them so far, at some point, you need to introduce the radioactivity. But I think that's something that that's it's very refreshing line of thinking. And I hope that it'll yield food in the future.


Chris Keefer  38:21  

So they have a physical warehouse, and they have mock ups made out of real world materials. And


Angelica Oung  38:27  

well, here's the thing with molten salt, a huge part of the challenge is actually controlling for the fact that it's, it's extremely corrosive. So figuring out how to do that part, they can do without the without the radio activity. Of course, that's going to make it worse, but then they have digital twins and stuff like that. And, yeah, I'm the hopefully, they've established a branch in the UK, where they will be hoping once they get through the licensing process, they will be able to one day work with actual radioactivity.


Chris Keefer  39:06  

That's really exciting. Cool. Well, I think I think we can make it a shorter one today, unless there's other any other kind of key points that you wanted to explore at all.


Angelica Oung  39:16  

No, no, I would just say that I still think that the book is, you know, very worth reading. And I think we as nuclear, nuclear advocates can, can feel good that even though it's more challenging than a lot of other things, there are in fact, a tremendous space for improvement in nuclear projects. If we can, if we can apply a lot of these principles that are in the book,


Chris Keefer  39:50  

what's your what's your score at a 10? Here, let's let's


Angelica Oung  39:53  

Well, I think I think this book is pretty good. I'm gonna give it a solid eight out of 10. All right. All right, and you,


Chris Keefer  40:01  

um, lower, um, kind of like maybe six and a half. And I


Angelica Oung  40:06  

think you're mad. I think you're mad. Badly. He railroaded. I think I don't think Chris I don't think you can make a judgment that's, that separates the fact that he did railroad nuclear,


Unknown Speaker  40:21  

I was gonna fact that


Chris Keefer  40:23  

I was gonna provide a qualifier that there's probably a minus two just associated with that. But no, I mean, you know, in real terms I do try and check that bias and that frustration, I did feel like it was a little too shallow little to pop culture. It's quite a short book, a little gimmicky. But the strongest parts are definitely some of the narratives around the different kinds of projects. And we didn't really talk about the Pixar as much in detail. But, you know, just having watched a few shows recently, and your jaw just drops like how did they not see this inconsistency? Or maybe they didn't care about it. I'm a nitpicker. Right, especially when it's anything medical that's completely botched. But in sort of hearing that Pixar process of really starting with an idea, like a grumpy old man, and then flushing that out into a story and creating a sort of a storyboard and getting tons of peer review. That was a really kind of compelling process. So you know, I think, looking beyond just nuclear and being like the nerd that I am, I can see some real value in the book. Maybe I'll bump it up to a seven. Oh,


Angelica Oung  41:24  

good. i Yeah, definitely read it either. And I think that disagreement is actually good. I think we need to get fired up about our process here. And yeah, that's, that's all for the book. I just like to add that I am going to be studying the sub stack with a pipeline of different articles. So if you have some subjects that you'd like to me to report on, just just let me know, write write to me on a decoupled VM, or open and off to investigate.


Chris Keefer  42:03  

Awesome, awesome. Okay, folks, thanks for tuning in. And I will be back with some more content next week.



bottom of page