University of Sussex
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The rise and fall of the fast breeder reactor technology in the UK: between engineering “dreams” and economic “realities”?

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posted on 2023-06-08, 20:25 authored by Markku Lehtonen, Jenny Lieu
This report explores the evolution of the fast breeder nuclear reactor programmes in the UK, from the period of great promises and expectations in the 1950s and 1960s towards their progressive abandonment in the 1980s and 1990s. The project, of which this report is an element, aims thereby to draw lessons relevant for the current “nuclear renaissance” and medium-term planning on the future of nuclear power. Given that the fast breeder programmes were closely interlinked with the general evolution of nuclear power in the UK, this report includes a fairly detailed historical description of this more general ‘nuclear context’. This primarily chronological description of the evolution of the UK fast breeder programmes provides a basis for a comparison between the evolution of the British and French fast breeder reactor programmes. A central question in such a comparison concerns the lateness of the abandonment of the fast breeder programme in France, as compared to most other countries developing this technology. The cross-country comparison will explore the relative influence of the contextual and historical conditions within which the nuclear technologies have evolved in France and the UK on the one hand, and the ‘universal’ factors common to the evolution of socio-technical systems in general on the other. This exploratory research was based on documentary analysis and eleven interviews of experts involved in, or with knowledge of, the UK fast breeder reactor (FBR) programmes.




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University of Sussex, SPRU



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Falmer, Brighton

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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications


University of Sussex

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