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By Chauncey Starr

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Mature nuclear and coal plants with scrubbers are now operating with unplanned forced shutdown rates of 15% and 18% respectively. Aggressive development programs are underway at E P R I to decrease these percentages substantially, perhaps to less than 10%. It should be possible to design solarthermal systems with low forced outage rates such as 10%. Nevertheless, a number of design points could probably benefit by special attention. The high operating temperatures of the referenced solar thermal systems and the temperature cycles arising from the need for a daily startup of the plant could present a formidable problem.

Democratic governments are more likely to use a mix of both scales; the US congressional decision to spend extensively for cancer research is probably a result of a personal value system. The choice of a cost system will, in some cases, determine whether an option with a high probability of a few fatalities is preferable to an option with a lower probability of a greater number of fatalities. While there are compelling arguments for both systems, the choice can only be made by a reading of the societal preference.

5. Use of Risk Data A decision-maker is frequently called upon to compare different types of risk (and more generally, different types of social cost) resulting from the various options under consideration. At one end of the spectrum is the social cost function that follows expected societal value rather closely. This approach is taken by the US Public Health Service in decisions regarding their budget allocations. In this case, the goal is to minimize disability days, because the social cost is assumed directly proportional to the total number of days of disability.

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