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Citizen Activist Victory! Fast Flux Test Reactor Closed Permanently

Dec. 20, 2001

Citizen Activist Victory!
Fast Flux Test Reactor Closed Permanently

Statement of Wenonah Hauter
Director, Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program

We applaud the U.S. Department of Energy?s (DOE) long-overdue announcement that the Fast Flux Test Nuclear Reactor (FFTR), in eastern Washington, will be shut down permanently. This is very good news for the people of the Northwest who live near the reactor, located at the most contaminated nuclear site in the world. “Fast breeder” reactors such as the FFTF, are unstable and dangerous and have experienced at least two meltdowns in the United States.

The FFTF was built at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington in 1980 to serve as a fuel and material irradiation test facility but was closed in 1993. The DOE spent more than $40 million a year to keep the reactor maintained for restart. The facility could be used for making tritium for nuclear weapons. However, it was considered unprofitable to keep open solely for research purposes, and commercially viable uses for it could not be identified.

Large-scale opposition to reopening the FFTR led to a November 2000 decision by Bill Richardson, energy secretary during the Clinton administration, to permanently shut the reactor and honor a 1995 agreement to begin cleaning up. Spencer Abraham, the Bush administration?s energy secretary, reversed the decision. But criticism from both citizen activists and members of Congress has resulted in a favorable decision.

Once again we have witnessed the impact that citizens can have. Not only were thousands of activists in the Northwest advocating the shutdown of this dangerous boondoggle, but around the country citizens took action. We hope DOE can now put its energy toward preventing acts of terrorism and cleaning up the deadly contamination, which is threatening the Columbia River.

The successful resolution of this five-year battle is due to citizen activism in the Northwest, which involved thousands of concerned citizens. Citizen activists in other regions of the nation also were active in advocating the shutdown of this unstable and dangerous fast-breeder reactor.