Nuclear Reactors: Generation to Generation


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Stephen M. Goldberg and Robert Rosner
Global Nuclear Future

The devastating earthquake, tsunami, and consequent multi-reactor damage in Japan will have a significant impact on the future use of nuclear energy, the nuclear industry, and the global nuclear order. The full impact will not be known for some time. Data about the incident unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactors were still being compiled when this paper went to press.

To make wise choices about the future of nuclear power, we need improved knowledge of the safety, safeguards, and security features of both existing and new nuclear energy plants. Understanding the potential advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy is critical for those stakeholders and decision-makers facing national energy challenges. This publication provides an overview of the evolution of nuclear reactor technology and discusses six important factors in the development and deployment of new reactors.

For over five decades, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has played an integral role in nonproliferation studies, beginning with a special issue of Daedalus on “Arms Control” published in 1960 and continuing with studies conducted by the Academy’s Committee on International Security Studies (CISS). More recently, the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative—under the guidance of CISS—is examining the safety, security, and nonproliferation implications of the global spread of nuclear energy. The GNF Initiative is promoting innovative scholarship, fostering creative behind-the-scenes interactions with international leaders and stakeholders, examining issues critical to a safer and more secure nuclear future, and developing pragmatic recommendations for managing the emerging nuclear order. The GNF Initiative is supported in part by grants from The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Academy is grateful to these supporters and to the principal investigators of the Global Nuclear Future Initiative—Steven E. Miller, Scott D. Sagan, Robert Rosner, and Stephen M. Goldberg—along with Thomas Isaacs, Carl Rau, and the expert members of the project’s advisory committee—Richard A. Meserve and Albert Carnesale—for contributing their time, experience, and expertise to the work of the Initiative.

Leslie Berlowitz
President and William T. Golden Chair
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

March 2011