A study commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation has concluded that the United States should join with Japan and Great Britain to continue development of the plutonium breeder reactor that President Carter wants to abandon.
The study says that the United States should strive to play a major role in international breeder technology, should not turn its back on a plutonium breeder and should turn to a partnership with Japan and Great Britain because the three countries have broad breeder experience that could be shared at minimal costs to one another.
"We worked on this study without concern for the administration policy on the breeder," said John E. Gray of International Energy Associates, which did the study for the Rockefeller Foundation. "What we're recommending is an improvement on that policy."
Carter has deferred indefinitely U.S. plans to produce plotonium for civilian use. He did this by cutting off funds to build a demonstration breeder at Clinch River, Tenn., and by not proposing to spend federal funds to complete construction of a plutonium extraction plant begun by private industry at Barnwell, S.C.
Carter has said that unchecked plutonium production greatly increases the risks of the spread of nuclear weapons and wants the United States to serve as an example to the rest of the world.
The Rockefeller Foundation study concludes that so many other countries are going ahead with plutonium breeder projects that the United States should participate in that development as the best way to try to control the spread of plutonium around the world. The study says the best place for plutonium is in the breeder, where it can be burned up instead of accumulated.
"If you think through the consequences (of a breederies economy) the result is the accumulation of large amounts of plutonium spread around the world," mason Willrich, director for international relations at the Rockefeller Foundation, said at a news briefing yesterday. "A breeder is designed to consume that plutonium."
The study made no direction references to Clinch River or Barnwell, concentrating on the prospects for broader partnerships with other countries. The study recommended that the United States partnership with Japan and "possibly" Great Britain to continue plutonium breeder development.
Pointing out that Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands are all committed to partnerships with each other, the study suggests Japan and Great Britain as breeder partners because they are not committed.
All three countries have done substantial breeder research. Great Britain is considering the construction of its own breeder, and Japan has begun construction of a breeder that will produce plutonium and 350,000 kilowatts of electricity.
"The U.S. and Japan could possibly use the Japanese breeder as the first demonstration plant," Gray. "They could then jump to bigger plants in the U.S., plants generating between 600,000 and 700,000 kilowatts."
While the study said that proliferation proof breeders that do not produce plutonium be explored, it came down on the side of the plutonium breeder because almost all technological experience is with the plutonium breeder.
"It is the only system," Gray said, "that can be ready for use by the end of this century."