President Carter's freeze on plutonium development could cost this country tremendous energy resources while handing the lead in this technology to the Soviet Union and other foreign countries, the chairman of the Westinghouse Electric Corp. said today.
Speaking at the company's annual stockholder's meeting here, Robert E. Kirby generally praised the Carter energy program, but singled out for sharp criticism the President's decision to defer indefinitely construction of the fast breeder demonstration project at Clinch River, Tenn., which would generate plutonium - an atomic bomb component.
Westinghouse is the "leading reactor supplier" for the project, according to a company spokesman. He said a few hundred employees would be affected by its halt.
In his energy message to Congress last week, Carter said "there is no need to enter the plutonium age" with projects like the one at Clinch River. He recommended instead the construction of more light water reactors like those already in common use, but under stricker supervision.
Kirby said there would be two serious adverse results from a halt to fast breeder development. He said the halt would deny the United States assurance of abundant, reliable and affordable electricity in the rest of this century.
"Second," he said, "it will in effect remove the United States from any voice in the development of international controls of this important new technology. Even if the United States does not proceed with the development of the fast breeder reactor, other nations are going ahead.