Proposal to Reopen Fast-Flux Reactor is Dangerous

Oct. 27, 1999

Proposal to Reopen Fast-Flux Reactor is Dangerous

Facility to Create Radioactive Materials for Food Irradiation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Public Citizen today called upon the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to abandon its plans to reopen the controversial Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF), a 400-megawatt sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. Hauter expressed Public Citizen?s concern with the proposal while testifying Wednesday before a DOE panel.

The DOE wants to reopen the facility to create radioactive materials that will be used to irradiate food, to make plutonium and conduct research.

“The DOE is creating a new taxpayer boondoggle. 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,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical?Mass Energy Project.?

The FFTF was built in 1980 to serve as a fuel and material irradiation test facility but was closed in 1993. It was considered unprofitable to keep it open solely for research purposes, and commercially viable uses for it could not be identified.

The FFTF is a “fast breeder” reactor, which is more dangerous than standard reactors because it is particularly susceptible to power instability. The U.S., France and Japan have experienced alarming accidents with this type of reactor.

“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.”

In 1993, a review showed that restarting the Hanford reactor would not be profitable. Decommissioning the plant would cost approximately $70 million, while restarting it would cost more than $284 million and an additional $100 million per year to operate at full power.

Further, DOE?s reason for reopening the plant ? to irradiate food ? is inherently a bad idea.

“The DOE claims we need to produce radioactive material to irradiate food,” Hauter said. “But that is absolutely false. Not only does the American public not want irradiated food, but major players in the meat industry have announced that they will not use the food irradiation technology that utilizes radioactive materials.”