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The US Energy Department’s renewed promotion of plutonium-fueled reactors. 

Plutonium programs in East Asia and Idaho will challenge the Biden administration, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Frank N. von Hippel | April 12, 2021  ”’…………. The US Energy Department’s renewed promotion of plutonium-fueled reactors. The US plutonium breeder reactor development program was ended by Congress in 1983. A decade later, the Clinton Administration shut down the Idaho National Laboratory’s Experimental Breeder Reactor II for lack of mission. At the time, I was working in the White House and supported that decision.

The nuclear-energy divisions at the Energy Department’s Argonne and Idaho National Laboratories refused to give up, however. They continued to produce articles promoting sodium-cooled reactors and laboratory studies on “pyroprocessing,” a small-scale technology used to separate plutonium from the fuel of the Experimental Breeder Reactor II .

During the Trump administration, this low-level effort broke out. With the Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy headed by a former Idaho National Lab staffer and help from Idaho’s two Senators, the Energy Department and Congress were persuaded to approve the first steps toward construction at the Idaho National Laboratory of a larger version of the decommissioned Experimental Breeder Reactor II.

 The new reactor, misleadingly labeled the “Versatile Test Reactor,” would be built by Bechtel with design support by GE-Hitachi and Bill Gates’ Terrapower. The Energy Department awarded contracts to the Battelle Energy Alliance and to university nuclear-engineering departments in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Oregon to develop proposals for how to use the Versatile Test Reactor.

The current estimated cost of the Versatile Test Reactor is $2.6-5.8 billion, and it is to be fueled with plutonium. The Idaho National Laboratory’s hope is to convince Congress to commit to funding its construction in 2021.

The Energy Department also committed $80 million to co-fund the construction of a 345-megawatt-electric (MWe) “Natrium” (Latin for sodium) demonstration liquid-sodium-cooled power reactor proposed by GE-Hitachi and Terrapower which it hopes Congress would increase to $1.6 billion. It also committed $25 million each to Advanced Reactor Concepts and General Atomics to design small sodium-cooled reactors. And it has subsidized Oklo, a $25-million startup company financed by the Koch family, to construct a 1.5 MWe “microreactor” on the Idaho National Laboratory’s site to demonstrate an extravagantly costly power source for remote regions.

In all these reactors, the chain reaction would be sustained by fast neutrons unlike the slow neutrons that sustain the chain reactions in water-cooled reactors. The Energy Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy has justified the need for the Versatile Test Reactor by the fast-neutron reactors whose construction it is supporting. In this way, it has “bootstraping” the Versatile Test Reactor by creating a need for it that would not otherwise exist.

This program also is undermining US nonproliferation policy..………..

April 13, 2021 - Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, reprocessing, USA

1 Comment »

  1. It’s a tragedy. The combination of unburned hydrocarbons in soil and pyrophoric industrial waste like plutonium and uranium are causing wildfires. Each atom cesium-137 or plutonium-239 brakes billions of DNA linkages in the human body. Resulting in cancer birth defects, autoimmune disease. Plutonium reactors are the most unstable, excepting sodium-cooled reactors. Many reactors in the United States are a very unstable. America keeps Sabre rattling I’m building reactors plutonium bombs.
    America is building icbm’s. America is putting bombs in space. America’s building hypersonic nuclear weapons. America as building tactical nuclear weapons.. the only out come from these things is nuclear war and further nuclear pollution. We are now radio sapiens. Have been since 1935. A word to describe how crazy this is. Plutonium is the most pyrophoric substances known to man. There was a 90000 acre wildfire at the Idaho. National laboratory m2018. Thousands of tons of plutonium in nuclear waste their. Wen up in smoke. Health bars are prevalent in the United States now. There are bushfires in super tropical areas like Nepal. I wish people would pay attention.

    Comment by Anonymous | April 13, 2021 | Reply

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