The Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor:

Options for Deciding Future Pace and Direction

EMD-82-79: Published: Jul 12, 1982. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1982.

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GAO was requested to assess its past positions regarding the Clinch River Breeder Reactor (CRBR).

The Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) is a potential means of providing this country with a long-term energy source. Both the LMFBR program and the CRBR continue to be controversial. There has been a continual erosion in the Government's estimates of anticipated growth of nuclear power. This situation is primarily due to low electric power demand growth rates, the utility industry's generally poor financial condition, and the capital-intensive nature of nuclear power. The outlook for nuclear power is unlikely to improve until conditions change and these problems are solved. However, there is much uncertainty inherent in projecting trends such as electricity and nuclear power growth far into the future. The LMFBR is still a research and development program, not a commercially deployable energy technology. Based on the Department of Energy's (DOE) latest projections, uranium supplies appear adequate to fuel conventional reactors well past the year 2020. GAO continues to believe that a CRBR-type demonstration project is a necessary step in developing the breeder option. Congress has three fundamental options available to it: continuing, restructuring, or terminating the LMFBR program. GAO believes that the uncertainty of projecting far into the future argues against the termination option and that the prudent choices are continuing the program along the lines proposed by DOE or restructuring the program with clearly defined objectives.

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