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Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Aug 10, 2021

The function of the Versatile Test Reactor is to support fast reactor development activities . Fast reactors use high energy neutrons as opposed to the current generation thermal reactors that use neutrons that have been slowed down. 

The promise of fast reactors is to create more fuel than they use. However, as a group, fast reactors have a large number of technical, safety, economic, operational, and maintenance problems.

Fast reactor types require reprocessing of nuclear fuel and that is extremely expensive - the reprocessing facilities cost tens and tens of billions of dollars. From an economic standpoint, fast reactors are not remotely competitive.

In the case of the VTR, the technology is based on using sodium as a coolant. The technical, operational and maintenance issues associated with this type of reactor are legion. Every single commercial attempt to deploy the technology has been a complete and utter economic catastrophe. A fundamental major physical problem is sodium catches fire when exposed to air and reacts violently with water. A very poor choice for a nuclear reactor, as history has demonstrated on many occasions.

Admiral Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy, more-or-less characterized deploying sodium fast reactors as a major blunder.

Being the "world-leader" of a fundamentally flawed technology is of doubtful value. Taxpayer money should be spent on something that is actually useful to the nation, as opposed to a boondoggle to line the DOE's pockets.

 

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