Lessons from Early Experience in Reactor Development.

by Wendy Allen


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Outlines U.S. nuclear reactor development and demonstration experience, between 1946 and 1963. The pressurized water reactor was selected in 1953 because it promised short-term reliable nuclear power rather than long-run cheap power. It was assumed that the technology of reactor development was the primary problem and that a healthy nuclear industry would develop naturally. The Atomic Energy Commission did not distinguish between experimental research and development projects and demonstration projects, and the institutional arrangements for demonstration programs were sometimes inconsistent with technical objectives. Many different reactors were developed so a single project failure did not disrupt the entire effort. Conclusions drawn from this experience: (1) When high technologies are forced into service of national prestige, distortion is inevitable. (2) If political and institutional problems associated with technology are ignored, commercialization can be delayed. (3) Separation of R&D from demonstration is of utmost importance. (4) Institutional arrangements and technical objectives should be carefully matched. (5) Do not concentrate all development effort on one project. 9 pp.

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