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The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor: An obituary

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor: An obituary

Thomas, Steve (2011) The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor: An obituary. Energy Policy, 39 (5). pp. 2431-2440. ISSN 0301-4215 (doi:

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The High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor (HTGR) has exerted a peculiar attraction over nuclear engineers. Despite many unsuccessful attempts over half a century to develop it as a commercial power reactor, there is still a strong belief amongst many nuclear advocates that a highly successful HTGR technology will emerge. The most recent attempt to commercialize an HTGR design, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), was abandoned in 2010 after 12 years of effort and the expenditure of a large amount of South African public money. This article reviews this latest attempt to commercialize an HTGR design and attempts to identify which issues have led to its failure and what lessons can be learnt from this experience. It concludes that any further attempts to develop HTGRs using Pebble Bed technology should only be undertaken if there is a clear understanding of why earlier attempts have failed and a high level of confidence that earlier problems have been overcome. It argues that the PBMR project has exposed serious weaknesses in accountability mechanisms for the expenditure of South African public money.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Published in print: May 2011. [2] Published as: Energy Policy, (2011), Vol. 39, (5), pp. 2431–2440.
Uncontrolled Keywords: nuclear power, pebble bed modular reactor, South Africa
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:12

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