Generation IV reactors raise many hopes and expectations, in terms of optimised use of resources, reduced wastes, better safety factors. They are still on the drawing-board today, but may replace, somewhere in the future, Generation III reactors (the EPRs) considered as more efficient than today’s PWRs (pressurised water). Physicist Dr Daniel Heuer is currently studying one of the 6 concepts pre-selected in 2008 by the yearly Generation IV International Forum (that set the priority orientations), viz., the concept of molten salt reactors (MSRs) associated with the thorium cycle. What exactly are the advantages of this new technology? Will MSRs earn their place in nuclear power production?
In October 2012, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) will be welcoming its first students. How does one develop a world-leading center of excellence in the lush jungles of a subtropical island? This is a story of political will – but also of strategic intelligence. A Japanese story… which has consisted in not doing things the Japanese way.
The U.S. Senate just passed a bill reforming the patent system, without appeasing controversies that for the past ten years have been agitating academic circles as well as the Silicon Valley. Patents are generally considered to fuel innovation. But do they?
The global electricity sector is facing three major challenges: the security of supply to keep up with ever-mounting demand, the fight against climate change, and the global trend toward massive urbanization. Electricity will play a key role through low-emitting energy-generation technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These technologies already exist. Success will depend on how public policies are used to encourage innovation.
All nuclear countries are faced with the thorny question of how to handle waste. France has made the decision to bury the most radioactive waste 500 meters underground in a 150 million year old layer of clay 130 meters thick, at Bure in the heart of the Lorraine countryside. According to the timeline, a law will be passed in 2016 to authorize construction. Marie-Claude Dupuis, CEO of Andra (French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency) and Chairperson of the Radioactive Waste Management Committee of the OECD discusses the project.
Looking for balance between science and technology in modern research, we can observe it is the latter in the ascendant. Research is being dictated by the availability of technological resources but in the past, the reverse was true. Projects began by a review of the available data from which a scientific hypothesis was constructed, and finally a search for the best technological tools would begin. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi has suggested that in the rush to embrace technology, researchers may be missing the chance to learn from what worked so well in the past.
How are we to obtain the measure of the distance between basic research and the essential technologies of the modern age? Are we in the process of building the bridge that will unite the two domains or is the gulf between them growing wider by the day? Reconciling the interested parties in any definitive way remains difficult as each side can furnish multiple examples to support their perspective on the matter.
The last few decades have witnessed an extraordinary development in the sciences and techniques of risk control and crisis management. However, there is a gnawing doubt: what if our points of reference, our capabilities, are no longer good enough?
Crises are times when statistics are used to portray the seriousness of the situation. They are also moments of heated debate where the state's role in regulating and steering the economy is questioned. Each major crisis is witness to the emergence of new ways of quantifying the social order, implying new models of action, variables, and systems of observation.