Back to the future: small modular reactors, nuclear fantasies, and symbolic convergence

Sovacool, Benjamin K and Ramana, M V (2015) Back to the future: small modular reactors, nuclear fantasies, and symbolic convergence. Science, Technology & Human Values, 40 (1). pp. 96-125. ISSN 0162-2439

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In this article, we argue that scientists and technologists associated with the nuclear industry are building support for small modular reactors (SMRs) by advancing five rhetorical visions imbued with elements of fantasy that cater to various social expectations. The five visions are as follows: a vision of risk-free energy would eliminate catastrophic accidents and meltdowns. A vision of indigenous self-energization would see SMRs empowering remote communities and developing economies. A vision of water security would see SMR-powered desalination plants satisfying the world’s water needs. A vision of environmental nirvana would see SMRs providing waste-free and carbon-free electricity to preserve the earth’s biosphere. A vision of space exploration would see SMRs assisting in the colonization of the moon, Mars, and possibly other worlds. These visions help create a symbolic convergence among promoters, serving to attract political and financial support, and erasing previous nuclear failures from public discourse. Moreover, underlying these visions is a technological utopian ideal world where SMRs would generate plentiful energy of multiple kinds (electricity and heat), offering the necessary means for a life of comfort for all people by meeting various needs (lighting, temperature control, drinking water, and provision of scarce minerals) and without any environmental externalities or cause for concern about accidents.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Depositing User: Benjamin Sovacool
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2016 09:16
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2016 09:16
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