Comments on the Administration's White Paper:

"Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project--An End to the Impasse"

EMD-79-89: Published: Jul 10, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 10, 1979.

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On May 11, 1979, the administration issued a White Paper supporting the need to terminate the Clinch River Breeder Reactor for economic and technical reasons. GAO was asked to respond to a number of questions regarding the White Paper.

The White Paper's presentation of a number of key issues and facts could have been more balanced and informative. In particular, adjustments to key assumptions regarding uranium availability and the capital cost ratio between breeder reactor and light water reactors would materially affect the basic conclusions reached in the paper. While the assumptions made for nuclear growth rates span ranges currently regarded as plausible, assumptions made for the other variables range from doubtful to highly questionable. The bias of the paper was such as to lean towards conclusions that support the administration's previously stated position that there was enough time for the United States to delay breeder development. Significant trends in data show a steadily continuing rise in uranium requirements, contrasted to a relative leveling out of production capability, which would suggest a gap that could grow to significant size in the beginning of the next century. However, the possible shortfall would not result from limited resources but rather because of the rate at which known uranium in the ground can be mined and prepared for use. Thus, because the White Paper considered only uranium resources and not mining and millingcapacity, the estimated shortfall in uranium production does not have a direct bearing on the Paper's treatment of the question of breeder timing.

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