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April 20, 2013

Fascinating read about the role of brokers in the material/tech ecosystem [Purp]

A facet of modern industrial life-cycle most people never pay any attention to. Once you start reading the piece, its hard to put down.

I once sold 60 tonnes of nuclear power plant scrap to be turned into car wheels. Not used scrap of course, rather the stuff left over from making the fuel rods. These are, in the Soviet system, made of a zirconium/niobium alloy (the Western world uses Zr/Sn)...
... the plants that made the new tubes were all closed, so there was no recycling to be done by them, there's no point in trying to run them through the Western Zr scrap plants because it's an entirely different alloy. So what to do with this pile that we were being offered? Zr is used in some aluminium alloys, usually a 1 per cent or so addition. But no one wants the Nb: not a good thing to have in such alloys. However, there was one bloke in Rotterdam who had worked out that under 0.01 per cent Nb (100 ppm) was fine and the Russian nuclear alloy was 1.1 per cent Nb. So, if he mixed in a bit of pure Zr scrap and only wanted 1 per cent Zr in the Al alloy then the Nb would be diluted below 0.01 per cent and thus he was willing to pay bottom feeding fire-sale prices for this nuclear scrap.

The job of the broker is to know this shit: there's no reason why the bloke running the fuel rod filling plant should, he's got other things on his mind. And this broker did know this shit and after contacting the friendly local smuggler (without, of course, mentioning the need for a nuclear goods license) shipped three trucks worth off to be made into MAG alloy wheels for cars...

Adam Smith's pimp hand insists upon itself

In related news, IBM missed 1Q expectations and the stock plunged. Rumors abound of IBM sale of x86 server business to Lenovo.

The one bright spot in the Obama economy? Brokers don't lack for material to unload.

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posted by Open Blogger at 04:21 AM

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