Nuclear power generation as an innovation

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Dec 08, 2016

Nuclear power generation is viewed very differently in different countries with a surprising lack of consensus on its overall benefit.

As an innovation is adopted and matures, more is learned about its advantages, and disadvantages. Over time, a consensus tends to be reached about its overall benefit, based on the nature and extent of the advantages and, often more importantly, about the disadvantages.

In nuclear power, this does not seem to have happened.

There are 479 nuclear power plants operating in 31 countries, according to: Nuclear power by country 

Yet, as some countries are banning nuclear power, or shutting down existing power stations, other countries are building new ones. From an innovation perspectve, this is quite surprising after many decades of experience of this capability.

Nuclear power generation is an outstanding innovation which offers the potential of large amounts of electrical power from very small amounts of fuel. It also requires no fossil fuels, so generates no carbon emissions. These advantages have proved to be correct, (and nuclear powered ships, especially submarines, also benefit from those capabilities).

It also, at one time, seemed to offer potentially low cost, but that has not proved to be true. And that is just for nuclear fission, the nuclear fusion opportunities are proving more difficult to realise.

The effects in different countries have been very different.

Switzerland voted recently, by a narrow margin not to set a strict time table for closure of its nuclear power plants.

At the same time, the UK is going ahead with building Hinkley Point C, (30 miles from where I live), its first nuclear power plant for decades , the 'C' indicates that this is the third nuclear power plant at this location.

France generates over 75% of its electrical power using nuclear plant.

Meanwhile, several countries have no nuclear power plants and some have banned them.

Discussion

Let's discuss what we can learn from the innovation that is nuclear power generation especially the surprising (or is it?!) lack of consensus on its benefits, during #innochat on Twitter on December 8th, 2016, starting at 12noon Eastern time

Notes

Let's leave aside the relationship that nuclear power generation has with nuclear weapons. They are linked technically and, to some extent, politically, but from an innovation perspective, it is largely independent from adoption of electrical power generation.

There have, of course, also been accidents in relatively recently in Japan, and longer ago in Russia:

Watch The Astonishing Footage Of Chernobyl’s Giant Radiation Shield Move Into Place

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