2015. Sovacool and Ramana. "Back to the Future: Small Modular Reactors, Nuclear Fantasies, and Symbolic Convergence"


ARTICLE ABSTRACT: 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.


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Contributed date

May 26, 2018 - 10:14pm

Critical Commentary

In this 2015 article, Sovacool and Ramana engage nuclear scientists and technologists to explore the elements of fantasy embedded in their endorsements of small modular reactors.