This was definitely a big part, but there's a lot that goes into it. Things like enrichment plants. The proportions of 235 vs 238 is substantially different in a bomb vs power plant. This is how we can tell what the Iranians are doing. So using big uranium plants is an excuse to make a lot of 235 and 239Pu.
But just because the past was focused on war efforts, doesn't mean the future needs to be. Many technologies transition from the military to public sectors. And I'm happy to see that talk about nuclear in the news more often, because I think this is the way to open up the discussion. Unfortunately, more people currently oppose nuclear. And one of the most harmful things I see is that there is this idea that the tech isn't green. Because we don't have a battle of green vs nuke vs fossil fuels. It is really green vs fossil.
People will oppose/support whatever they are told to as a general rule.
if facts mattered, we would never of had a majority of people supporting the dropping of white phosphorus on the kids of Iraq (at the time)
It wasnt that long ago people were being told wind and solar "would never be green" due to the manufacturing costs.
But none of that changes the basic question. how would you balance the over design v speed trade off. Especially when every change to the initial design adds a few mill $'s to the bill.
I would argue that this prevents total human progress though. But we won't get into that because it is a huge discussion.
Again, I'm only in a related field, so take my answers with a grain of salt (pun intended). I also don't have the answers to regulations. That is an extremely complicated topic. But I can bring up problems that I'm aware of.
I also don't know how to speed up the bureaucracy. I'm a scientist, not a politician. We have some reactors in the US that were built in <5 years. This is true in other countries too. <5 year construction time is reasonable to me. Just not 10. When you're operating for 25 years that is too large of a percentage. My simple answer would be "look at what has been effective in the past and emulate it. Improve upon it." But I think there is little drive to do this given the public opinion. And I think it would take a large study to figure this out, though I'm sure someone has but I'm not aware of it.
The most important thing I think that needs to be changed is that there needs to be a smoother path from research reactors to commercial reactors. I know a major problem is that no one will insure new reactors. There is this idea that if it hasn't been done commercially then it is unproven. I'm sure part of this is fear and part is bureaucracy. Unfortunately we always have to take a leap at some point. We can't just wait for China to build reactors and say "Oh, well it works there, so it is proven." China wouldn't be building them if they weren't confident in the designs.
I am also in favor of smaller reactors. Many of these newer generation reactors can be created quite small. Their outputs are lower than the large reactors, but you gain a significant level of safety. This is on top of the benefits from new generation reactors (less waste, significantly higher efficiency, and passive meltdown mitigation solutions). I think a way to encourage the use of smaller reactors is to reduce the max pay for cleanup in event of disaster. Currently plant owners must cover the first $12b (which is significantly more expensive than the average cleanup cost in the US). If you have smaller reactors they literally cannot contaminate as much.
> NYT article
Here we're running into the problem where things are cheaper when they are mass produced. When you don't build reactors for quite some time you have to reinvent processes. Now I will also say that the AP1000 is a gen III+ reactor (and has passive protection), but the Watts-Bar is gen II. Also remember that the first gen III was built in 1985 (commissioned in 1980). We've been slow to implement new technology in this field. The average of tech is around 20 years since invention to mass production, we're nowhere near that. This may be just personal frustration because I work in an area where two industries are extremely slow to implement progressive designs, space and nuclear.
Why I, and many others, think nuclear is essential for the future (you can find a lot about this in the most recent Paris talks): It is the only significant energy source that can provide constant power (and a lot of it). Wind and solar do not operate continuously, and are highly dependent upon environmental conditions. Hydro and geothermal also don't have these limitations. We currently don't have the battery storage technology to utilize a power system based upon only wind, solar, hydro, and geo thermal. Adding nuclear to this suite of technologies helps fill that gap, while being extremely environmentally friendly. The waste isn't nearly the problem that the public thinks it is, mainly because there isn't much total waste.