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Christos Dimoulis

Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 1 of 8 January 18, 2009

NuclearIFRs:Neg

1. ECONOMICS:
1.1. IFRs don’t decrease proliferation/economically unfriendly
1.2. More expensive to recycle using LWRs
1.3. Costs very uncompetitive
1.4. Major challenges, economically unfriendly

2. FUEL RECYCLING:
2.1. IFRs don’t eliminate used fuel
2.2. Fuel recycling process plagued with problems...wouldn’t solve anyway

3. PROLIFERATiON:
3.1. Increase proliferation

4. SAFETY CONCERNS
4.1. Rare successfulness: dangerous
4.2. Fast breeders failed in other countries
4.3. Other problems with IFRs
4.4. Many Safety concerns
4.5. Sodium leaks prevalent in sodium reactors
4.6. USA Fermi 1 (sodium cooled reactor) meltdown in 1970
4.7. UK Fast reactor breakdown = radioactive material on beaches
4.8. UK Fast reactor enriched uranium stolen
4.9. 2 French fast reactors experienced safety failures; shut down
4.10. Japanese reactor blew shortly after creation

1. ECONOMICS:

1.1. IFRs dont decrease proliferation/economically unfriendly


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

The IFR—a pool-type, liquid-sodium-cooled fast-neutron5 reactor plus an ambitious new


nuclear fuel cycle—was abandoned in 1994,6 and General Electricʼs S-PRISM design in ~2003,
due to both proliferation concerns and dismal economics. Federal funding for fast breeder
reactors7 halted in 1983, but in the past few years, enthusiasts got renewed Bush Administration
support by portraying IFRs as a solution to proliferation and nuclear waste. Itʼs neither.
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 2 of 8 January 18, 2009

1.2. More expensive to recycle using LWRs


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

Fast reactors were first offered as a way to make more plutonium to augment and ultimately
replace scarce uranium. Now that uranium and enrichment are known to get cheaper while
reprocessing, cleanup, and nonproliferation get costlier—destroying the economic rationale—
IFRs have been rebranded as a way to destroy the plutonium (and similar transuranic elements)
in long-lived radioactive waste. Two or three redesigned IFRs could in principle fission the
plutonium produced by each four LWRs without making more net plutonium. However, most
LWRs will have retired before even one commercial-size IFR could be built; LWRs wonʼt be
replaced with more LWRs because theyʼre grossly uncompetitive; and IFRs with their fuel cycle
would cost even more and probably be less reliable. Itʼs feasible today to “burn” plutonium in
LWRs, but this isnʼt done much because itʼs very costly, makes each kg of spent fuel 7× hotter,
enhances risks, and makes certain transuranic isotopes that complicate operation. IFRs could do
the same thing with similar or greater problems, offering no advantage over LWRs in
proliferation resistance, cost, or environment.

1.3. Costs very uncompetitive


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In addition to R&D, the National Academy of Sciences estimates that the capital costs of fast
neutron reactors would be significantly higher than those for comparable light water reactors.20
Fuel fabrication costs are also estimated to be greater for fast reactors, ranging from six
21 to twelve times that of conventional light water reactors. A commercial scale reprocessing
facility of the size needed in the United States could cost as much as $30 billion to build.22 Fast
reactors would also not eliminate the cost of a repository for the waste, so there would be that
expense as well.

1.4. Major challenges, economically unfriendly


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

IFRsʼ reprocessing plant, lately rebranded a “recycling center,” would be built at or near the
reactors, coupling them so neither works without the other. Its novel technology, replacing
solvents and aqueous chemistry with high-temperature pyrometallurgy and electrorefining,
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 3 of 8 January 18, 2009

would incur different but major challenges, greater technical risks and repair problems, and
speculative but probably worse economics. (Argonne National Laboratory, the worldʼs experts
on it, contracted to pyroprocess spent fuel from EBR-II—a small IFR-like test reactor shut down
in 1994—by 2035, at a cost DOE estimated in 2006 at ~50× todayʼs cost of fresh LWR fuel.)

2. FUEL RECYCLING:

2.1. IFRs don’t eliminate used fuel


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

IFRs are often claimed to “burn up nuclear waste” and make its “time of concern...less than 500
years” rather than 10,000–100,000 years or more. Thatʼs wrong: most of the radioactivity comes
from fission products, including very long-lived isotopes like iodine-129 and technetium-99, and
their mix is broadly similar in any nuclear fuel cycle. IFRsʼ wastes may contain less transuranics,
but at prohibitive cost and with worse occupational exposures, routine releases, accident and
terrorism risks, proliferation, and disposal needs for intermediate- and low-level wastes. Itʼs
simply a dishonest fantasy to claim, as a Wall Street Journal op-ed just did,8 that such
hypothetical and uneconomic ways to recover energy or other value from spent LWR fuel mean
“There is no such thing as nuclear waste.” Of course, the nuclear industry wishes this were true.

2.2. Fuel recycling process plagued with problems...wouldn’t solve anyway


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

Although possible in theory, the selective conversion of long-lived waste into shorter-lived
material – a process also known as transmutation – is in practice plagued by difficulties. For
example, plutonium-actinide fuel causes problems in operating reactors. Other important
technical issues have also not been resolved, such as low rates of conversion,15 conflicting
conversions, unproven fuel fabrication systems, and dangers to workers making the fuel.16 The
proposed systems would also leave fission products in the waste, including the long-lived and
highly dangerous radionuclides technicium-99 and iodine-129, and the shorter-lived but high
heat generating strontium- 90 and cesium-137. Even if these problems were addressed, however,
and the technology fully developed and operated optimally and economically, fast-neutron
reactors would not eliminate the need for a repository. The fundamental danger of the waste
would remain, and it would still be hazardous for a very long time—1,000 to 10,000 years.

3. PROLIFERATION:
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 4 of 8 January 18, 2009

3.1. Increase proliferation


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

Reprocessing of any kind makes waste management more difficult and complex, increases the
volume and diversity of waste streams, increases by several- to manyfold the cost of nuclear
fueling, and separates bomb-usable material that canʼt be adequately measured or protected.
Mainly for this last reason, all Presidents since Gerald Ford in 1976 (except G.W. Bush in 2006–
08) discouraged it. An IFR/ pyroprocessing system would give any country immediate access to
over a thousand bombsʼ worth of plutonium to fuel it, facilities to recover that plutonium, and
experts to separate and fabricate it into bomb cores—hardly a path to a safer world.

4. SAFETY CONCERNS

4.1. Rare successfulness: dangerous


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

IFRs might in principle offer some safety advantages over todayʼs light-water reactors, but create
different safety concerns, including the sodium coolantʼs chemical reactivity and radioactivity.
Over the past half-century, the worldʼs leading nuclear technologists have built about three dozen
sodium-cooled fast reactors, 11 of them Naval. Of the 22 whose histories are mostly reported,
over half had sodium leaks, four suffered fuel damage (including two partial meltdowns), several
others had serious accidents, most were prematurely closed, and only six succeeded. Admiral
Rickover canceled sodium- cooled propulsion for USS Seawolf in 1956 as “expensive to build,
complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions,
and difficult and time-consuming to repair.” Little has changed. As Dr. Tom Cochran of NRDC
notes, fast reactor programs were tried in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USSR,
and the US and Soviet Navies. All failed. After a half-century and tens of billions of dollars, the
world has one operational commercial-sized fast reactor (Russiaʼs BN600) out of 438
commercial power reactors, and itʼs not fueled with plutonium.

4.2. Fast breeders failed in other countries


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 5 of 8 January 18, 2009

IFRs might in principle offer some safety advantages over todayʼs light-water reactors, but create
different safety concerns, including the sodium coolantʼs chemical reactivity and radioactivity.
Over the past half-century, the worldʼs leading nuclear technologists have built about three dozen
sodium-cooled fast reactors, 11 of them Naval. Of the 22 whose histories are mostly reported,
over half had sodium leaks, four suffered fuel damage (including two partial meltdowns), several
others had serious accidents, most were prematurely closed, and only six succeeded. Admiral
Rickover canceled sodium- cooled propulsion for USS Seawolf in 1956 as “expensive to build,
complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions,
and difficult and time-consuming to repair.” Little has changed. As Dr. Tom Cochran of NRDC
notes, fast reactor programs were tried in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USSR,
and the US and Soviet Navies. All failed. After a half-century and tens of billions of dollars, the
world has one operational commercial-sized fast reactor (Russiaʼs BN600) out of 438
commercial power reactors, and itʼs not fueled with plutonium.

4.3. Other problems with IFRs


Amory B. Lovins, (Amory Lovins, a student of nuclear issues since the 1960s,
is Chairman and Chief Scientist of RMI.) "New" Nuclear Reactors, Same Old
Story, Spring 2009,
www.rmi.org/Content/Files/RMI_Solutions_Journal_Spring_2009.pdf

Every new type of reactor in history has been costlier, slower, and harder than projected. IFRsʼ
low pressure, different safety profile, high temperature, and potentially higher thermal efficiency
(if its helium turbines didnʼt misbehave as they have in all previous reactor projects) come with
countervailing disadvantages and costs that advocates assume away, contrary to all experience.

4.4. Many Safety concerns


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

Because fast neutron reactors use higher speed neutrons than conventional reactors, they are
more difficult to control, and more prone to complete loss of control and “prompt criticality”
accidents.12 They also typically operate at a higher temperature than light water reactors, which
raises concerns about the thermal properties of the reactor materials and the reactivity of various
coolants, such as sodium.13 These factors have led to complexities in their design and operation,
including the need for new alloy materials and stringent requirements to keep air and moisture
out of the coolant loops. Even while promoting fast-neutron reactors, the DOE admits that there
are significant remaining technological problems and unknowns involved in their design and
operation.14
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 6 of 8 January 18, 2009

4.5. Sodium leaks prevalent in sodium reactors


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In the former Soviet Union, BN-350, a 130 MWe reactor generated electricity and desalinated
water from 1972 until 1999. In October 1973, the BN-350 experienced a major sodium-water
reaction in a steam generator.10 Its successor, the BN-600, a sodium-cooled reactor generating
600 MWe, began operation in 1980 near Beloyarsk, Russia, and is still operating, though there
have been problems with sodium leaks and the failure of the steam generator. Over 27 significant
sodium leaks have been documented at the BN-600 reactor since its opening.11

4.6. USA Fermi 1 (sodium cooled reactor) meltdown in 1970


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In the United States, a 94 megawatt-electric (MWe) sodium-cooled reactor called Fermi 1


operated from 1963 to 1972, but suffered from serious problems, including a partial nuclear
meltdown in October 1966,2 and a sodium explosion in 1970. The reactor was denied a new
license and closed in 1972. A second reactor, the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF), a 400 MWt
liquid sodium cooled reactor, was operated in the United States from 1982 through 1992. FFTF
was a built as a companion to the proposed Clinch River breeder reactor, which was partially
built, but canceled by Congress in 1983 because of its exorbitant cost. FFTF was put on standby
in 1992, and after years of public opposition to its restart, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
finally shut it down in December 2001.

4.7. UK Fast reactor breakdown = radioactive material on beaches


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In the UK, a 250 MWe liquid sodium cooled Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) operated at Dounreay,
Scotland from1974 through 1994. PFR suffered cracking of primary system components as a
result of cyclic thermal stresses.3 In 1977, there was an explosion in a waste shaft on the site.4
Radioactive material has been found on the shore near Dounreay since that time. In 1998, it was
revealed that 170 kilograms of enriched uranium – enough to build a dozen nuclear bombs – was
missing from Dounreay. Soon after, the entire facility was closed.
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 7 of 8 January 18, 2009

4.8. UK Fast reactor enriched uranium stolen


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In the UK, a 250 MWe liquid sodium cooled Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) operated at Dounreay,
Scotland from1974 through 1994. PFR suffered cracking of primary system components as a
result of cyclic thermal stresses.3 In 1977, there was an explosion in a waste shaft on the site.4
Radioactive material has been found on the shore near Dounreay since that time. In 1998, it was
revealed that 170 kilograms of enriched uranium – enough to build a dozen nuclear bombs – was
missing from Dounreay. Soon after, the entire facility was closed.

4.9. 2 French fast reactors experienced safety failures; shut down


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In France, there have been two larger-scale fast neutron reactors built. The first was the Phènix
(233 MWe), which came online in 1973 and still operates. The Phènix had problems with
unexplained reactivity fluctuations while the reactor was operating at full power. These sudden
drops in reactivity raised safety concerns and the reactor was shut down for several years starting
in 1990.6 The reactor was eventually restarted, but it is slated to be permanently shut-down in
2009.7 The second large-scale French fast-neutron reactor was the Superphénix (1,200 MWe),
which began operating in 1986, but was closed in 1997 as a result of continuing sodium leaks
and cracks in the reactor vessel. Because of its ongoing problems, the Superphénix only operated
for the equivalent of 278 days of full power, possibly consuming more energy by the time it was
dismantled than it produced throughout its years in operation.

4.10. Japanese reactor blew shortly after creation


Public Citizen.com, (Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy
organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress,
the executive branch and the courts.) “Fast Reactors”,
www.citizen.org/documents/FastReactors.pdf

In Japan, the 280 MWe Monju reactor began generating electricity in 1994. The reactor was shut
down following a massive sodium leak and fire in December 1995, only eight months after
startup. The accident was particularly controversial, because the video of the event was edited
and concealed from the press and government agency investigating the accident. Reporting of the
accident to the local government was also slow, and a deputy director of the government power
Christos Dimoulis
Eveready
NuclearIFRsNegCD
page 8 of 8 January 18, 2009

corporation operating Monju committed suicide a month later. The reactor has not reopened
following the incident. In September 1999, two workers were killed, 63 people were injured, and
another 300,000 were forced to stay indoors after an accident in the fuel fabrication facility for a
much smaller test fast reactor, the experimental Joyo reactor, near Tokaimura, Japan.9 The small
130 MWt reactor has operated for research since 1978.