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Too cheap to meter describes a concept in which a commodity is so inexpensive that it is more cost-effective and less bureaucratic to simply provide it for a flat fee or even free and make a profit from associated services.

Although sometimes attributed to Walter Marshall, a pioneer of nuclear power in the United Kingdom,[1] the phrase was coined by Lewis Strauss, then Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, who in a speech to the National Association of Science Writers said:

"Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter... It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age." [2]

It is often (understandably but erroneously) assumed that Strauss' prediction was a reference to conventional uranium fission nuclear reactors. Indeed, only ten days prior to his “Too Cheap To Meter” speech, Strauss was present for the groundbreaking of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station where he predicted that, "industry would have electrical power from atomic furnaces in five to fifteen years." However, Strauss was actually referring to hydrogen fusion power and Project Sherwood, which was conducting research on developing practical fusion power plants. [3] [4]

References

  1. ^ Nuclear doubts gnaw deeper - BBC News, Thursday, 15 June, 2000
  2. ^ "This Day in Quotes: SEPTEMBER 16 - Too cheap to meter: the great nuclear quote debate". This day in quotes. 2009. http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2009/09/too-cheap-to-meter-nuclear-quote-debate.html. Retrieved 2009-12-13.  
  3. ^ Pfau, Richard (1984) No Sacrifice Too Great: The Life of Lewis L. Strauss‎ University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, p. 187, ISBN-13 978-0813910383
  4. ^ David Bodansky. Nuclear Energy: Principles, Practices, and Prospects. pp. 32. http://books.google.com/books?id=qBqbr8uV9c8C&pg=PA32&ots=X_NiY853vH&dq=strauss+son+cheap+meter&sig=NJRVHP66IqtX80mgp38UfttAIPc. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
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