Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation,
Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies

No 186: Why did the Breed Reactor Fail? - Swedish and international nuclear development in a cold war context

Maja Fjaestad
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Maja Fjaestad: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, Postal: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This article discusses the visions about nuclear breeder reactors, plans set out in the aftermath of World War II. This seemed like the ideal solution for future energy, and even small countries, as Sweden, launched breeder reactor programs. The breeder reactor never reached industrial development, interestingly; however, different countries cancelled their breeder project at different times. In this article, in addition to discussing why breeder reactors failed generally, I also suggest possible explanations for the differences in when the reactors failed, particularly between Europe and the United States. Though the breeder reactor never fulfilled its promises, it is an interesting example about the complex mechanisms behind technological development. It tells us a story about a technological failure that is not simple, but must be understood in a social, economical and political context.

Keywords: technology; technology development; institutions; innovation; innovation failure

JEL-codes: N70; O14; O32; O38

11 pages, August 26, 2009

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