DOI link for Technological utopianism
Technological utopianism book
In this chapter, I posit that many scientists and engineers are fervent in their advocacy of the concept of small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs. The focus on SMRs follows in the coattails of the much-heralded notion of a renaissance in nuclear power, punctuated by the accidents at Fukushima. After summarizing recent literature on the topic of utopianism and fantasy, the chapter identifies five distinct rhetorical visions of SMRs—risk-free energy, self-energization, water security, environmental nirvana, and space exploration—found within the technical and scientific literature, with potentially profound implications for SMR advocates, the future of nuclear power, the practice of science, and energy policymaking. Understanding the dynamics constraining or accelerating nuclear power reactors, as well as the epistemological assumptions underpinning the expansion of the industry, is essential to properly weighing its costs, benefits, and future role. Also, my chapter traces the influence that fantasies have on the practice of science, in this case the scientific design of reactors and their related components. For the moment, SMRs are almost entirely a rhetorical construction. The rhetorical experiences and fantasies associated with SMRs therefore have relevance for all those concerned about technology choice, innovation, commercialization, and the use of fantasies in influencing policy decisions.