Fouth quarter of 2001

Final End of US Plutonium Breeder Reactor Program: FFTF Shut Down

WISE-Paris, 21 December 2001

[Posted 21/12/2001]

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.

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