Views on the Nation's Commitment to the Development of Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Technology

EMD-77-56: Published: Aug 2, 1977. Publicly Released: Aug 2, 1977.

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GAO's views on the U.S. commitment to the development of the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) technology were solicited, specifically as to whether the President's decision to abandon the Clinch River Breeder Reactor (CRBR) project meant abandonment of the whole LMFBR program.

The abandonment of the CRBR, coupled with the major cutbacks in breeder research and development, will not enhance this Nation's understanding of the various nuclear alternatives. Termination would drastically alter emphasis on LMFBR development, and restarting the program later might be so costly and difficult as to outweigh the benefits. Estimates by the Energy Research and Development Administration for stopping in mid-1977 and resuming 4 months later range from $346 million to $1.3 billion, with a schedule delay from 2 to 5-plus years. The most logical course is to pursue the program as a research and development effort, with a final decision as to full implementation being made some 7 to 10 years away. By its action, the administration hopes to control nuclear proliferation, but given foreign development efforts, the decision will have little impact. Moreover, this Nation's future ability to influence safety and other features of breeders worldwide may be diluted. The relative proliferation potential of alternative nuclear systems is currently being studied.

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