By Admiral Hyman Rickover*, 1953-06-05, Published on web by N. Touran, Updated 2022-08-23, Reading time: 4 minutes
*This is a reproduction of Rickover’s famous ‘paper reactor’ memo. The original was published in The Journal of Reactor Science and Technology, Volume 3, No. 3 (which is classified) and reproduced many times, e.g. in Congressional testimony.
Important decisions relative to the future development of atomic power must frequently be made by people who do not necessarily have an intimate knowledge of the technical aspects of reactors. These people are, nonetheless, interested in what a reactor plant will do, how much it will cost, how long it will take to build, and how long and how well it will operate. When they attempt to learn these things, they become aware of confusion existing in the reactor business. There appears to be unresolved conflict on almost every issue that arises.
I believe that this confusion stems from failure to distinguish between the academic and the practical. These apparent conflicts can usually be explained only when the various aspects of the issue are resolved into their academic and practical components. To aid in this resolution, it is possible to define in a general way those characteristics which distinguish the one from the other.