Monday, March 28, 2011

Is It Reset Time for the Nuclear Industry? (New Scientist)

Cut nuclear power's umbilical cord to

the military

What if nuclear reactors were designed from first principles, simply as a means to produce power with as little risk as possible?
NUCLEAR power comes from a dark place. The first reactor, CP-1, was built by Enrico Fermi and his colleagues under the abandoned west stands of the Stagg Field stadium in Chicago. It began operation on 2 December 1942 and was a crucial step in what became the Manhattan project, which culminated in the annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The vast majority of today's reactors have evolved from early military designs, such as that of the SL-1, a US army experimental reactor which underwent a deadly steam explosion and meltdown in 1961. Others are based on the one that provided a compact power source for Hyman Rickover's US navy nuclear submarine propulsion programme, or reactors that made plutonium for warheads.
One legacy of the cold war origins of nuclear power has been public distrust. Even though nuclear energy generation has killed far fewer people than many other energy sources (see "Fossil fuels are far deadlier than nuclear power"), it remains the most feared of all power generation technologies.

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