Sunday, August 21, 2005

Open-Source Reactor (Good Idea #1)

Progressive types and ecologically-minded people seem to be embracing Atomic power (perhaps as a lesser evil than the Greenhouse Effect).

Wired magazine ran an article called Nuclear Now! How clean, green atomic energy can stop global warming.

James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia Hypothesis, also argues that Nuclear power is the only green solution.

Of course, objections to nuclear power include:

1. They're very complex, and thus hard to make fail-safe or (idiot-proof)

2. A failure or a terrorist attack could cause another Chernobyl event.

3. How do you transport and dispose of the waste?

As to waste disposal, seabed or re-use seem much more attractive than the Yucca Mountain project chosen by the Bush administration. (But seabed burial may violate international treaties.)

Managing Complexity: Open-Source?

Nuclear reactors are presently designed by private corporations using proprietary technology, the way Microsoft develops the Windows operating system.

The current meme in software engineering is the open-source model: Linux is purported to be more reliable and robust because thousands of people are hacking it.

So why not an open-source reactor design?

If a few thousand volunteer programmers, working in their spare time, scattered all over the world, can write a world-class operating system in five or ten years, why can't a bunch of engineers and physicists design a better reactor?

Things I don't know:

What is the document for making a big engineering project? (What is the engineering analog of CVS?)

Nuclear power plants are complex, but are they more complex than an operating system? I doubt it.


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