Analysis of Alternative Approaches to Completing the DOE Water-Cooled Breeder Program

RCED-83-87: Published: Mar 25, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided: (1) an evaluation of the advisability of delaying, reducing, or discontinuing the fuel evaluation phase of the water-cooled breeder program; (2) an examination of the reasonableness of staffing levels planned for the removal of nuclear fuel from the Shippingport Atomic Power Station; and (3) an evaluation of the extent of industry interest in the fuel evaluation results.

In a prior report, GAO recommended that the Department of Energy (DOE) discontinue operating the water-cooled breeder and begin the end-of-life effort. GAO felt that DOE and the nuclear industry could use the information gathered on water-cooled breeder attributes to compare the concept with other advanced nuclear technologies. This comparison would permit more judicious funding decisions, given the limited availability of both Federal and private funds for energy projects. On October 1, 1982, Shippingport Station discontinued power production and began the end-of-life effort. GAO found that the DOE planned end-of-life effort is a cost-effective way of completing the the water-cooled breeder program when compared with other alternatives which would either increase the cost of completing the program or not provide all of the necessary information to prove that breeding actually occurred. In addition, GAO found that personnel levels for defueling the Shippingport Atomic Power Station did not appear out of line when compared with the staff levels for similar activities at commercial nuclear powerplants. Finally, representatives from 13 of the 14 nuclear industry groups and utilities contacted by GAO showed an interest in the results of the core evaluation and believed that the effort should continue.

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