Fast Flux Test Facility: A Reactor in Search of a Mission

Aug. 30, 2000

Fast Flux Test Facility: A Reactor in Search of a Mission

Proposal to Reopen Reactor is Reckless

SEATTLE, Wash. ? In testimony before the Department of Energy (DOE) today, Public Citizen urged the department to abandon its plans to reopen the controversial Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) ? the most contaminated nuclear site in the western world.

The DOE?s rationale for reopening the facility is to create radioactive materials for food irradiation, to make plutonium and to conduct research. “Claims by the DOE that we need to produce radioactive material to irradiate food are absolutely false,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Using irradiation to make our food supply safe is like using a chain saw to cut butter ? it?s excessive and unnecessary. Cleaning up filthy factory farming and slaughtering practices will provide American families with safe, wholesome food.”

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. It was considered unprofitable to keep open solely for research purposes, and commercially viable uses for it could not be identified. Decommissioning the plant would cost about $70 million, while restarting it would cost more than $284 million with an additional $100 million per year to operate at full power.

“The DOE is creating a new taxpayer boondoggle,” Hauter said. “Instead of concentrating on cleaning up the environmental nightmare at Hanford, it is trying to restart the reactor to create more radioactive material. It is nothing but a welfare program for the nuclear establishment.”

The FFTF is a 400-megawatt, sodium-cooled “fast breeder” reactor, which is more dangerous than standard reactors because it is particularly susceptible to power instability. The United States, France and Japan have experienced alarming accidents with this type of reactor.

“The FFTF is an inherently dangerous reactor that could pose major health and safety problems for the people of Washington and Oregon,” Hauter said. “The U.S experience with this type of ?fast breeder? reactor argues against restarting it.”