The future of nuclear power

Nothing like this happened with nuclear power. It was a technology whose development was dictated by a few prominent government and military officials and large organizations and straitjacketed within narrow constraints. Most of the developers of nuclear technologies were staid, elderly bureaucrats rather than young iconoclasts like Frederic de Hoffmann. An early design invented by Admiral Hyman Rickover – suitable for submarines but hardly optimal for efficient land-based power stations – was frozen and applied to hundreds of reactors around the country. Since then there have been only a hundred or so reactor designs and only half a dozen or so prominent ones. Due to a complicated mix of factors including public paranoia, lack of economies of scale, political correctness and misunderstandings about radiation, nuclear technology was never given a chance to be played around with, to be entrusted to youthful entrepreneurs experimenting with ideas, to find its own way through the creative and destructive process of Darwinian evolution to a plateau of technological and economic efficiency. The result was that the field remained both scientifically narrow and expensive. Even today there are only a handful of companies building and operating most of the world’s reactors.

via The future of nuclear power: Let a thousand flowers bloom – Nobel Week Dialogue.