Fouth quarter of 2001
End of US Plutonium Breeder Reactor Program: FFTF Shut Down
WISE-Paris, 21 December 2001
US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham issued the final decision on
19 December 2001 to permanently shut down the 20 year old, 400 MWth
sodium-cooled, Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF). The FFTF had been on
stand-by since former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary attempted to shut
it down in 1992. This decision put a term to the US 50 year old plutonium
production program, and the hopes of Republican Congressman Doc Hastings
to restart the facility for the purpose of isotope production. It would
have cost some US $ 2 billion to refurbish the reactor, which has already
cost $ 400 million to keep on stand-by, according to Tom Clements, executive
director of the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI).
There was some discussion over the possibility that Germany sends the
core of the Kalkar SNR-300 fast breeder reactor (which never started
up) to the FFTF, but Germany will finally have to deal in the country
with the 1.5 t of plutonium containing core. The fourth and last shipment
of Kalkar plutonium fuel arrived from Dounreay in Scotland to the Hanau
storage facility in Germany on 10 December 2001, after it had been sent
to Dounreay in 1990 for reprocessing operations that never took place.
The FFTF closure is a new step toward the end of
the breeder programs worldwide, as only Russia (BN-600), India (Kalpakkam)
and Japan (Monju) still deal with fast breeder reactors, despite a number
of sodium leaks and fires.