A California-based correspondent shared the following vignette to a private email list early this morning.
An aside — had dinner with a Stanford biz prof teaching entrepreneurship. His 15 Chinese students were at the table too (big table). A few spoke English. One is international marketing head for China Nuclear Power Engineering Company — largest nuclear plant builder in their country. He said clearly that they plan to dominate the nuclear power market worldwide, just with present technology.
That triggered a response from me that forms the basis for the following thoughts. I’ve refined the rant a little; it still needs some additional work.
There is a key point in your vignette about the Chinese business students that needs emphasis:
plan to dominate the nuclear power market worldwide, just with present technology
From a practical business point of view, nuclear advocates have been a major obstacle to any effort to make near term gains in market share. Instead of refining the technology that we know and making it more and more competitive with an evolutionary approach, nuclear advocates squabble among themselves about the Next Big Thing.
Fossil fuel marketers love that idea. They have often encouraged it. Look at the history of the “fast breeder reactor” which captured essentially all government support in 1963. It also captured the attention of thousands of exceptionally bright people. That distraction lasted for the better part of three decades, during which many other battles were lost because of sharp-elbowed debates about the merits of that Next Big Thing.
Just when the fast reactor folks thought they had answered all of the questions and were ready to perhaps start capturing some actual sales, the ball was snatched away when the IFR project was halted in 1993.
Look at the squabbling that has been going on for the past six to eight years about the suggestion that all of nuclear’s problems could be solved by adopting the radically different LFTR or some other variant of molten salt. Even the most ardent supporters acknowledge that their concepts need at least a decade’s worth of development before being truly ready to begin building in any significant numbers. After the design work is completed, it will take a decade or more to get the supply chain into place.
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