Renewable Matter # 5 / August

Eggs and Mines

by Federico Pedrocchi

The thousand-year old history of innovative technologies produced by us humans follows a constant path. It is what in film jargon is called “first is good”, which means that when the first scene is well shot you can move to the second one. The first scene is done and that’s it. It is not exactly like that for all technologies, but it works for a good number of them – an important one. 

At the end of the Second World War, the US Navy thought about building a nuclear reactor for submarines. Westinghouse immediately constructed a model for civilian use, and over the following decades it was the only one used, even though in the mid-fifties the first projects of fail safe reactors had already appeared, those that today are defined as fourth generation reactors. They are much more secure – despite the slags disposal, obviously. No regrets for a lost nuclear energy system; what we are talking about here is the innovation mechanism which, for a set of economic and political reasons, can freeze a solution and ignore its many potential evolutions.

 

The science of materials is generating strong pressure towards big changes of direction. One of the most recent ones seems destined to generate a conflict between calcium mines and eggs. Ivan Cornejo, a Chilean researcher who lives in the United States, has studied the environmental damages produced by calcium mines, for example in Asia, and has worked on a potential alternative: extracting...

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