The House Science and Technology Committee voted 25 to 14 yesterday to continue funding for the controversial Clinch River breeder reactor, which President Carter wants to kill.
The panel authorized $172.5 million for Clinch River, a test reactor that would "breed" more nuclear fuel than it would consume. The amendment, offered by Rep. Marilyn L. Lloyd (D-Tenn.), in whose district the breeder would be built, also contains $35 million to pay for a 30-month study of alternative breeder technologies proposed earlier by the administration.
Carter has been trying to kill the Clinch River project since April of last year when he announced his nuclear nonproliferation policy. The Clinch River breeder would produce plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons.
The committee vote was another in a series of breeder defeats for Carter, who met Monday with committee members, including breeder opponents headed by Rep. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), and urged the House to stop the project. In adopting the Lloyd proposal to keep the program alive, the panel turned aside an administration-backed compromise offered by Rep. Walter Flowers (D-Ala.) that would have completed design and testing but then would have brought the Energy Department's role in the project to an end.
Today the House Appropriations Committee will take up appropriations proposals for the Clinch River breeder and, according to Rep. Mike McCormack (D-Wash.), is expected to vote in favor of a matching appropriation.
McCormack, a nuclear supporter, said after the session yesterday, "It's time now for the administration to recognize the Congress is not going to roll over and play dead on the breeder."
Along with other supporters, however, McCormack says that Carter can effectively stop Clinch River as he did last year by halting the licensing process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - but the House vote will force the administration to build a larger breeder facility and have it on line by 1990.
Members of the science and technology panel, chaired by Rep. Olin E. Teague (D.-Tex.), said the key to passage of the Lloyd amendment was that 11 of 13 Republicans on the committee voted for it.
During hearings yesterday and Tuesday, Flowers and his supporters argued that Congress is at an impasse with Carter who cast his first veto in November to knock out a breeder authorization, and that the so-called compromise amendment they had negotiated with Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger Jr. was the best alternative.
Clinch River has remained alive despite the veto because Congress enacted an $80 million supplemented appropriations bill that Carter was unable to veto.