Nuclear Reactor Options To Reduce the Risk of Proliferation and To Succeed Current Light Water Reactor Technology

Gao ID: EMD-79-15 May 23, 1979

Nearly all commercial nuclear reactors in the United States are light water reactors. Until recently, the "heir apparent" to the light water reactor was the liquid metal fast breeder reactor. Primarily because of proliferation concerns, the liquid metal fast breeder reactor program has been deemphasized.

None of the technical alterations to current nuclear power systems proposed is proliferation-proof. In addition, none of the technical methods has been developed beyond the experimental stage. An evaluation of advanced nuclear fission technologies should not be restricted solely to proliferation concerns. Consideration should also be given to other evaluation factors such as resource utilization, licensability, environmental acceptability, cost and commercialization schedule, safeguardability, and economics. Candidate technologies vary greatly in their state of development and in their desirability under each of the criteria. No one technology was clearly superior to all other systems. Nuclear fission research and development, with the objective of developing a technology superior to that used in current generation light water reactors is an important part of the Nation's energy program. Most of the technologies being explored will take many years to develop to the point of commercialization and all will be expensive. There is no proliferation-proof reactor technology, nor is there any technology which is clearly superior when compared in terms of evaluation factors.


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