13 November 2013

What's Wrong With Nuclear Power?

"The question ... is why such an inherently flawed design as the light-water reactor (LWR) is still, after all these years, the preferred technology?

Most of today’s reactors, whether they use boiling water or pressurised water, trace their ancestry back to the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, launched in 1954. At the time, the LWR was just one of many reactor designs that existed either on paper or in the laboratory—using different fuels (uranium-233, uranium-235 or plutonium-239), different coolants (water, heavy water, carbon dioxide or liquid sodium) and different moderators (water, heavy water, beryllium or graphite).

The light-water reactor of the day, with its solid uranium-dioxide fuel and water for both moderator and coolant, was by no means the best. But Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of America’s nuclear navy, chose it because it could be implemented faster than any of the others, making it possible for Nautilus to be launched on time. The LWR also appealed to Rickover because it produced a lot of bomb-making plutonium as a by-product.

After that, the die was cast."
So we have a flawed technology because the decision-making process was dominated by military not energy generating considerations. (Source: This story at The Economist.)

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