Fission Power: An Evolutionary Strategy

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  26 Jan 1979:
Vol. 203, Issue 4378, pp. 330-337
DOI: 10.1126/science.203.4378.330


Motivated by concerns about the difficulty of safeguarding the large flows of plutonium in a breeder reactor fuel cycle, we explore the resource and economic implications of a strategy in which there is no nuclear weapons-usable material in fresh reactor fuel. The strategy involves the deployment of already developed types of advanced converter reactors which, unlike the breeder, can be operated effectively on proliferation-resistant once-through fuel cycles. Advanced converter reactors could be much more uranium-efficient on once-through fuel cycles than current systems and therefore could compete economically with breeders up to very high uranium prices. If necessary, the uranium requirements of an advanced converter reactor system could be reduced much further with the recycling of isotopically denatured uranium, but any commitment to a closed fuel cycle would be unnecessary for many decades.