Alternative Technologies: Development and Acceptance
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Alternative technologies progress through a generally similar set of stages, described below, as they move from development to acceptance. However, each is unique. For example, some technologies may by-pass certain stages or pass through several stages simultaneously. Conversely, the development of others may loop through certain stages multiple times as the project participants seek the optimum solution. The differing challenges faced by several technologies are described in case studies of alternative technologies projects.
Technology Development and Utilization Stages
Assessment and Proof of Concept
The product of this stage is a technology with enough technical and market potential to attract support for further development. During this stage, project participants conduct basic studies on the types of technologies with the potential to replace the radiation sources in a particular device. Where possible, they also establish overall life-cycle design criteria to reduce the technology's environmental impact.
The product of this stage is a one-of-a-kind technology that shows enough technical and economic promise to attract support for a full-scale demonstration. During this stage, the technology moves from bench-scale (small laboratory demonstrations) to pilot-scale testing. Frequently, a number of false starts and pilot-scale tests are needed to find a technology that will work under approximately real-world conditions.
Demonstration at Pilot - or Full-Scale and Verification of Performance at a Commercial Scale
The final results of this stage may be used to seek financial backing or even to market directly to customers. During this stage, developers design and conduct tests under a variety of conditions on full-scale versions of the one-of-a-kind technology. These tests are designed to identify its range of performance, potential applications, and its weaknesses; to optimize its operational parameters; and determine its costs. Often substantial redesign and debugging are required to achieve an optimized, robust technology.
Commercial-ready technologies are tested according to stakeholder requirements and EPA's quality assurance procedures. The results of these tests are reported to the public. Independent organizations conduct the tests on competing technologies to compare their environmental and operational performance. Successful results are used for direct marketing to customers.
Commercialization by the Private Sector
During this state, private sector manufacturers prepare for, finance, and implement full-scale production and marketing activities. The technology moves from one-or few-of-a-kind to a reliably produced and replicable technology. This often includes developing business plans, entering into partnerships, securing working capital, arranging for manufacturing facilities, and developing channels for distribution.
Diffusion and Utilization by Industry
Diffusion involves implementing a full scale marketing plan for a product or technology to stakeholders. It includes contacting appropriate government agencies. Government can assist during this stage through a broad array of tools such as Web sites, targeted conferences, list-servs, and targeted information for state and local authorities.
Utilization involves encouraging the adoption and/or purchase of a new, fully-developed, and proven technology. Encouragement can take the form of disseminating information about the product to appropriate industries, acting as “first users,” and by removing regulatory barriers to its implementation.
Utilization Information and Outreach
During this stage, project staff provide information and education on available alternatives to industries that might adopt it. They also send out information on proper disposal of unwanted radioactive sealed sources.
At this stage, the product is in use. Project staff track its performance to identify any potential improvements in both its performance and environmental impact. They set up criteria for measuring its performance and evaluate its life-cycle for sustainability and product stewardship. Areas considered for improvement include energy efficiency; the potential to use safer, more benign raw products for production; and potential to increase recycling of its components.