Entrapment in large technology systems: institutional commitment and power relations

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212 Citations (Scopus)


Large technology systems cannot be developed without social commitments, usually including legal (especially in the form of contracts), organisational (involving producers, users and financiers) and political (involving various actors associated with the state) commitments. Without such commitments, there can be no innovation and no investment, given the high risks that are entailed. However, embedded commitments can create inertia, causing inferior technologies and technology paths to survive long after they should have been abandoned. This form of technological lock-in may be reinforced when there are close relations between producers and states which prevent markets and democratic processes from operating effectively. These phenomena are illustrated through study of the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) - a nuclear reprocessing plant in the UK. The lesson for technology policy is that much more attention needs to be given to the maintenance of reversibility and adaptability in infrastructural development. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-846
Number of pages14
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2000


  • nuclear
  • technology policy
  • technology systems
  • lock-in
  • institutional commitments


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