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The objectives of MSTD are: promote the advancement of materials science in Nuclear Science Technology; support the multidisciplines which constitute it; encourage research by providing a forum for the presentation, exchange, and documentation of relevant information; promote the interaction and communication among its members; and recognize and reward its members for significant contributions to the field of materials science in nuclear technology.
Conference on Nuclear Training and Education: A Biennial International Forum (CONTE 2023)
February 6–9, 2023
Amelia Island, FL|Omni Amelia Island Resort
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Nuclear Science and Engineering
Fusion Science and Technology
Nuclear energy: enabling production of food, fiber, hydrocarbon biofuels, and negative carbon emissions
In the 1960s, Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory initiated a series of studies on nuclear agro-industrial complexes1 to address the needs of the world’s growing population. Agriculture was a central component of these studies, as it must be. Much of the emphasis was on desalination of seawater to provide fresh water for irrigation of crops. Remarkable advances have lowered the cost of desalination to make that option viable in countries like Israel. Later studies2 asked the question, are there sufficient minerals (potassium, phosphorous, copper, nickel, etc.) to enable a prosperous global society assuming sufficient nuclear energy? The answer was a qualified “yes,” with the caveat that mineral resources will limit some technological options. These studies were defined by the characteristic of looking across agricultural and industrial sectors to address multiple challenges using nuclear energy.
Sonja D. Schmid
Nuclear Technology | Volume 207 | Number 9 | September 2021 | Pages 1312-1328
Technical Paper | doi.org/10.1080/00295450.2020.1837584
Articles are hosted by Taylor and Francis Online.
A recent American “mini-series” on Chernobyl, widely watched across the world, presented viewers with the concluding finding that this massive accident had occurred because the reactor design had inherent flaws; flaws that were known but not previously fixed because it was “cheaper” that way. The reactor design in question is the RBMK, and this paper will argue that this design was far from “cheap,” neither then nor now, and that its adoption as the second standard design for the Soviet Union’s nuclear power reactor fleet was based on much more than economic considerations. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to forget that reactor designs are always chosen for a multitude of reasons and never solely based on their technical or economic merits. Based on archival research, interviews, and industry publications, I show that approving and building RBMK reactors made good sense at the time, despite later claims to the contrary. Then I take the examples of a small modular reactor (SMR), the proposed NuScale Power Module, and a fast neutron reactor, TerraPower’s proposed Traveling Wave Reactor, to argue that we witness comparable negotiations today, as new designs for reactors (1) attempt to fit into existing safety and regulatory frameworks, (2) navigate security and nonproliferation concerns, and (3) embody visions of a specific sociotechnical order. I conclude that technical designs never occur in a socioeconomic, political, or cultural vacuum; instead, they are developed by people steeped in social norms, regulatory concerns, and economic expectations of a specific time and place. In the spirit of making this point relevant to practitioners, I will suggest ways of making these implicit frameworks visible, to actively and consciously start tweaking them, while staying aware of the implications that technical choices may have on our social expectations and vice versa.