Item – Thèses Canada

Numéro d'OCLC
Slater, Ian J.(Ian James),1969-
The bungling giant :Atomic Energy Canada Limited and next-generation nuclear technology, 1980-1994.
Ph. D. -- University of Toronto, 2003
Ottawa :National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada,[2004]
5 microfiches.
Includes bibliographical references.
From 1980-1994 Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL), the Crown Corporation responsible for the development of nuclear technology in Canada, ventured into the market for small-scale, decentralized power systems with the Slowpoke Energy System (SES), a 10MW nuclear reactor for space heating in urban and remote areas. The SES was designed to be "passively" or "inherently" safe, such that even the most catastrophic failure of the system would not result in a serious accident (e.g. a meltdown or an explosion). This Canadian initiative, a beneficiary of the National Energy Program, was the first and by far the most successful attempt at a passively safe, decentralized nuclear power system anywhere in the world. Part one uses archival documentation and interviews with project leaders to reconstruct the history of the SES. The standard explanations for the failure of the project, cheap oil, public resistance to the technology, and lack of commercial expertise, are rejected. Part two presents an alternative explanation for the failure of AECL to commercialize the SES. In short, technological momentum towards large-scale nuclear designs led to structural restrictions for the SES project. These restrictions manifested themselves internally to the company (e.g., marginalization of the SES) and externally to the company (e.g., licensing). In part three, the historical lessons of the SES are used to refine one of the central tenets of Popper's political philosophy, "piecemeal social engineering." Popper's presentation of the idea is lacking in detail; the analysis of the SES provides some empirical grounding for the concept. I argue that the institutions surrounding traditional nuclear power represent a form utopian social engineering, leading to consequences such as the suspension of civil liberties to guarantee security of the technology. The SES project was an example of a move from the utopian social engineering of large-scale centralized nuclear technology to the piecemeal social engineering of small-scale, safer and simpler decentralized nuclear heating.